• 55°

Couples dealing with brain trauma face challenges

Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly remain prominent public persons despite having suffered a traumatic change in their private lives.
She continues to be a member of Congress from Arizona and he is a retired astronaut. It was a year ago that a gunman at a Tucson supermarket killed six people, wounded 12 others, and left Giffords with a severe brain injury.
Kelly recently acknowledged to The New York Times that “we’ve had new realities to live with — the reality and pain of letting go of the past.”
The reality is that their marriage is no longer the same but must be rebuilt.
Sarah Wheaton, writing in the Times, notes that “doctors frequently warn uninjured spouses that the marriage may well be over, that the personality changes that can result from brain injury may do irreparable harm to the relationship.”
However, such challenged marriages often get a new lease on life. A 2007 study revealed that only 17 percent of such couples divorce after one spouse suffers a brain injury. The typical failure rate of marriages without such a tragedy can be as high as 50 percent.
That revelation has motivated psychologists at Virginia Commonwealth University to develop marriage counseling techniques aimed specifically at couples with a brain-injured spouse.
Dr. Jeffery S. Kreutzer told The Times that “while people may technically be married, the quality of their relationship has been seriously diminished. Two or three years later they want a whole lot more than simply to be alive.”
Unlike traditional marriage counseling, the challenge is not to restore the original relationship, but to teach uninjured spouses to build a new relationship with a profoundly changed person, and to help injured spouses to acknowledge that they are now changed persons.
Marriage, like religion, rests on faith and fidelity. From his early 60s my father suffered from progressive dementia. In common parlance, he became a “different person” and accepted the changes as they came. So did my mother. They made an effort to communicate better and to focus on the present and future rather than dwell on nostalgia for the past.
Couples in such marriages typically lose friends shocked by the changes. Loneliness enters the marriage. Kreutzer says that guilt can become the constant companion of both spouses. The uninjured spouse can feel guilty because of the constant burden of being a caregiver for so little reward.
Meanwhile, in many cases, the injured partner, unable to hold down a job, feels guilty for being unable to provide financial and emotional support.
Recently, Gabrielle Giffords and her husband jointly addressed a vigil in Tucson that honored her fellow victims. Holding hands, the spouses recited the Pledge of Allegiance — something they share along with their original marriage vows “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
David Yount writes about marriage and can be reached at dyount31@verizon.net.

Comments

Comments closed.

Nation/World

Clinton recovering from infection 

Crime

Teen charged in shooting at Mount Tabor High School held without bond

Nation/World

Marine officer receives reprimand for Afghanistan criticism

Elections

Beasley top fundraiser in third quarter for Senate race

Farm & Garden

Nearly 1-ton pumpkin sets record at state fair

High School

High school football: Loeblein throws record six TD passes for Falcons; Cavs, Hornets romp

Nation/World

UK lawmaker stabbed to death in terrorist act

Crime

Cooleemee man arrested after trading gunfire with Davie County investigators in Rowan

Elections

Salisbury council candidates list crime reduction, hiring a new city manager among city’s top priorities

Crime

Blotter: Man charged with trio of vehicle break-ins

Coronavirus

Catawba College will require COVID-19 vaccinations in 2022

Local

City selects Sada Stewart Troutman as new Downtown Salisbury Inc. director

Local

Rowan Republicans’ Lincoln-Reagan Dinner brings conservatives together for night of speeches, awards

High School

Photos: South Rowan volleyball team’s Senior Night, Falcons’ unblemished SPC season

Coronavirus

Four new COVID-19 deaths make 433 in Rowan since start of pandemic

Nation/World

Bill Clinton in hospital for non-COVID-related infection

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

FDA panel endorses lower-dose Moderna COVID shot for booster

High School

High school volleyball: West edges South for unbeaten SPC season

Nation/World

Full pension restored for FBI official fired under Trump

News

Former Gov. Perdue leading standardized testing board

Elections

Salisbury mayoral candidates Alexander, Heggins talk leadership style during Chamber of Commerce forum

Local

Photos: Rowan deputy’s funeral procession passes through downtown Salisbury

Crime

24-year-old man jailed for kidnapping, rape charges