Life Changes: Living with a Loved One Suffering from an mTBI

By Roger Foisy on December 11th, 2013


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) does not only affect those who suffer the injury. That said, of course the person who is injured will be extremely impacted by the injury; however, it is important to realize that the lives of their close friends and family will also be changed.

If you are a loved one of someone who is suffering from an mTBI, you will likely go through difficulties as you struggle to accept the injury, your new situation, and the new person who has replaced the person you knew before the injury.

Common Emotional Reponses

There is a range of emotions that you may go through as you cope after someone you love has sustained a brain injury.

Often, denial of the injury’s severity is the first response, particularly because brain injuries are “invisible” injuries. This can be detrimental in coping with the injury and helping your loved one get the support they need.

Helplessness and sadness are other common reactions. You will want to help your loved one and see them return to the person they were before the injury, but sometimes this is not possible. As you realize life will not be the same, you may mourn the changes brought about by the mTBI.

Other emotions that loved ones often experience are frustration and anger, leading to guilt. Dealing with someone with a brain injury requires an abundance of patience, and it can be hard to keep a level head – especially because as you are helping your loved one, you are also trying to re-define your own life. You may be frustrated or angry with the injured person’s inability to control their behavioural, emotional, or physical changes. These emotions can turn into guilt as you regret your angry feelings or short-tempered reactions.

All of these emotions are normal, although they can differ from person to person. It is important to acknowledge your feelings as a normal response to these (sometimes drastic) life changes.

Helpful Tips for Supporting a Loved One with an mTBI

As friends, family, and partners help their loved ones through the recovery process, it can help to have some practical suggestions to approach the situation with.


  • Educate yourself about mTBI and the medical reasons behind your loved one’s challenges; this can be accomplished by asking your loved one’s neurologist or doctor for insight, using online resources, or reading an informational book about mTBI.
  • Learn the stages of recovery to better understand what your loved one is going through.

Daily Living

  • Help your loved one set realistic goals and strategies for reaching them; then, help track progress and be sure to celebrate accomplishments.
  • Use your loved one’s name and make sure you have their attention before telling them something important, to increase the chances that they will receive your message.
  • Structure the day and develop a routine; use external cues, such as alarms, as reminders to keep your loved one on track.
  • Separate activities into smaller tasks that are more easily completed.
  • Realize that you may have to take on more of the regular chores than you did before the injury.

The New Person

  • Make an effort to get to know the new person and avoid comparisons to the person they were before the brain injury.
  • Ask the injured person about their emotions and legitimize their responses through acceptance.
  • Rather than focusing on what has been lost, focus on talents and skills your loved one still possesses.


  • Discover services for aiding people with mTBI in home, workplace, and community; you do not have to do this alone.
  • Find others in similar situations through support groups.
  • Consider counseling by a professional who specializes in mTBI, especially if you and your loved one are experiencing emotional or martial problems as a result of the injury.
  • Be sure to take time for yourself and continue to pursue activities that you enjoy.

Above all, you must be patient with the injured person. Remember that they are often not able to control their behaviour or express themselves fully. It may not be easy, but eventually you will be able to settle into a “new normal” with your loved one.

A good resource for those suffering from mTBI and their loved ones is the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA). They provide information and guidance for people living with brain injuries in Ontario.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury at another party’s fault, you can seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to help ease the financial burden. Contact us for immediate support and a free consultation.

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