Mourning, Bereavement and the Grief-Work of Traumatic Brain Injured Patients: Theory and Practice

Author(s): Shaul Schreiber, Esther Klag

Background: Grief, as a universal human experience, follows certain stages as described in different (at times overlapping) models, by various researchers. However, the completion of certain emotional tasks and processes is required for grief to be resolved, allowing us to return to full living. The dynamics and expression of grief and mourning in the traumatic brain-injured patient present specific challenges for therapeutic intervention since the mourner may be impaired both cognitively and emotionally by the sequelae of their injury and is often unable to work-through their grief in a coherent and continuous process. In these cases, the therapist should take a very active role in the process, eliciting memories and emotions, and then integrating them together with the patient’s associations and post-injury experiences, and grief reactions to the current loss. Moreover, when the loss occurs during, or after a rehabilitation program, the therapist’s memories of anecdotes previously recounted by the patient may be elicited and offered by the therapist, and incorporated into the present treatment.

Procedure: A case will be presented illustrating the complexity of the mourning process in a traumatic brain injured patient.

Conclusion: While keeping in mind the general reccomendations for the grief-work with traumatic brain injured persons, there is a clear need to “tailor” an individual approache for each and every single patient.

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