• 68°

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.

Crime

Blotter: Two charged after call about package

Crime

Salisbury Police investigating two shootings

Crime

Chase involving Kernersville man ends in woods behind Carson High School

News Main

North Rowan girls end season with playoff loss to Murphy

Education

Rowan-Salisbury EC department plunges in place after raising $1,300 for Special Olympics

Nation/World

Tiger Woods injured in car crash, has surgery on legs

Local

Local stakeholders set goals, direction to tackle city’s housing issues

Education

RSS board talks future of Henderson Independent School

Coronavirus

One new COVID-19 death, 23 new positives reported Tuesday

Local

Concord to create fallen officer memorial featuring Rowan native Shuping

Crime

20-year-old man faces rape charges

Crime

Blotter: Man charged after shooting gun during argument

Local

UPDATE: Missing Salisbury man found

Education

RSS board votes to use upset bid process on Faith property

Local

Committee to soon accept artist applications for ‘Paint the Pavement’ project

BREAKING NEWS

RSS board votes to send elementary students to in-person classes four days per week

Coronavirus

County to administer nearly 1,700 vaccines this week

News

Political Notebook: Rep. Howard named ‘hospitality champion’ by North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association

Crime

Blotter: Gunshot fired into home on North Oakhurst Drive

Local

Teenager reported missing in Salisbury

Local

‘Everybody needs an Aunt Libby:’ Family celebrates 100th birthday of Rockwell doctor Elizabeth Lombard

Ask Us

Ask Us: Why is Rowan EMS no longer transporting some patients outside of county?

Crime

Blotter: Feb. 21

Nation/World

FAA orders United to inspect Boeing 777s after emergency