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Help with Frustration & Anger at Husband with Brain Damage

27 Dec

Question:

Which of your CD's might be appropriate for my new massotherapy client? She is in her early 70’s, very intelligent and talented and is dealing with the anger, fear, and grief of being the caregiver to her historian husband of 45 years, who has brain damage from an accident he suffered 3 years ago.

He has worked to recover a good deal of function, but he can no longer communicate with her on his former level, which she finds so frustrating.  She sorely misses her best friend.  Some days are ok and others present her with shocking surprises such as finding him trying to read the ingredients of a can upside down. She has received little help from her family.

She is presenting now with gastrointestinal upset and some dermatological symptoms as well.  She is responding to massage, acupuncture and biofeedback, but she needs to gently go deeper.

Thank you so much for your help.

Joan

Answer:

Joan,

I think perhaps she's going to have to do some serious adjusting of her expectations if she wants to stop being angry.  Is it clear what his prognosis is at this stage?  Will he be regaining more of his ability to communicate, or does it look like this is as good as it gets?  

If this is as good as he's going to get, it sounds like she hasn't really accepted the nature of his condition and the enormity of this change.  She's lost the husband she knew and now has to deal with this other guy.  If she were not in intermittent denial, she'd be feeling sadness, grief and loss, instead of exasperation and anger.   

If it looks like he can continue to regain function, then some self-awareness about her dependency on him and her difficulty in having to deal with this situation on her own might be helpful for her.  Either way, she could use counseling to help her gain some patience and focus on what's going on inside of her instead of what her husband is or is not able to do.  

That said, she’s in a very tough situation, with or without counseling, and she can use all the support she can get.  Just having friends stating the obvious - acknowledging her for doing her best under trying circumstances – and doing the right thing – can be something. Sometimes that’s the most day-to-day sustaining thing: to know she’s doing the right thing, taking good care of her much diminished best friend of 45 years.

If she was in one of those couple relationships that was so close that she got distant from some of her older friends or relatives, she may want to reach out to them now.  She can’t replace him, but old connections from way back can at least begin to compete with the importance of that relationship and be a help to her now – that is, if those relationships didn’t become too frayed over the years.

She could also try some guided imagery to give herself some peace, balance and equanimity.  Maybe Relaxation & Wellness; or Anger & Forgiveness; or Healing Trauma.  She might prefer Relieve Stress, which has a walking meditation on it.  Either way, she should probably just start with one and see if she responds well to it.

Respite care, if she can arrange it, would also be a help.  She probably could use more time away from him where she can focus on herself.  

And a mantra she could say to herself (with a deep breath) when his diminished capacity starts getting to her, like "This is not his fault", would be useful, too.

Best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award