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5 Ways to Cope with a Catastrophic Injury

Life after a catastrophic injury such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI) can be challenging. Suddenly, your life may look very different, even as the life of everyone else you know goes on as normal. This can seem extremely unfair, and it’s not easy to allow yourself and your life to go in a different direction than you had planned — especially when your injuries weren’t your fault.

Coping with life after a catastrophic injury often requires some help, especially during the holidays or other major life events. Each person experiences life differently after their injury, and how they adjust depends on their immediate environment, support system, healthcare plan, and attitude.

To help you navigate the holidays, new-year activities, or any other life events that can prove trying in the wake of a catastrophic injury, we would like to offer some strategies for coping with injury-related changes in your lifestyle, health, and personal circumstances.

Make a Plan

It can be very helpful to plan ahead as to how you would like an upcoming event or outing to unfold. If you have a trip or party coming in the near future, explain to your group what kinds of help and accommodations you may need. This will often include concerns that most people won’t necessarily think of, like accommodations for using the restroom, eating, and accessing and moving around a gathering space. Often, the people around you will be eager to help and will be grateful if you let them assist you — they may simply need a little guidance as to how they can do so in a practical manner.

Prioritize Your Routines

In everyday life, we have routines and rituals that keep us balanced, productive, and happy. These routines are often especially important for catastrophic injury victims, who may need to incorporate regular physical therapy and exercise into their daily activities to maintain their recovery. During holidays and other busy times of life like graduations, weddings, births, and deaths, those routines and rituals can go to the wayside, throwing off your sense of equilibrium and your progress in your recovery.

If you are unable to keep up with regular physical or occupational therapies or other routines, ask your primary care doctor or physical therapist whether there are different and similarly effective routines that might prove more convenient for the time being. These might include prayer or meditation, yoga or light stretching, moderate exercise, or utilizing your support system to help guide you through the change in your routine.

Make New Traditions

If the traditions from holidays and trips in the past do not fit into life with a catastrophic injury, consider adjusting them or creating new ones. Here are a few examples:

  • If your family has a tradition of walking around the neighborhood and looking at Christmas decorations, consider asking whether they’d be willing to take a driving tour instead. You and your family may be able to see some stimulating new sights by exploring a different, more distant area and seeing what it has to offer.
  • If you used to volunteer in a way that was physically demanding (for example, by serving food at a soup kitchen), don’t give up your valuable contributions to the community. There are always other opportunities that don’t require as much physical activity. For example, you could help create greeting cards with personalized messages for underprivileged families, chronically ill people, or nursing home residents.
  • Consider changing a big celebration meal to fit into the time of day when you feel the most prepared to socialize, eat, and enjoy yourself (it’s normal for catastrophic injury victims to consistently experience symptoms or complications more intensely at certain times of day, which can make it possible to plan around them). Ask your family to make allowances for food that agrees with and supports your current physical condition.

Encourage your family members to think outside the box along with you and suggest new traditions you can create and enjoy as a family. When others feel as if they have input in creating these new traditions, they’ll be that much more likely to embrace them along with you.

Pace Yourself

If you’re the type of person who was accustomed to being on the go all the time, it can be very difficult to adjust to a slower pace of life after a catastrophic injury. If you find yourself not able to do the things you used to do, try and be understanding toward yourself and let your body and mind adjust to the situation or task at hand. If you feel overwhelmed by the bustle around you, take some time to yourself and take a break so you can feel rejuvenated and ready to participate in the activities. You’ll enjoy the time you do spend with your friends and loved ones more if you listen to what your body is telling you and go with the flow.

Be Patient While You Figure Out What Works

Figuring out what works best for you and your family in your new situation is a process of necessary trial and error. As your life and surroundings change, remember that you can always adjust your traditions and routines to fit what works best for you. Just remember to be patient with yourself and the people around you, and be sure to communicate openly and honestly whenever possible. You’ll often find that talking about the issues you’re facing with the people in your support group can make them more manageable, and you’ll be able to work together to find solutions. You may even create memorable new traditions for the future in the process.

Contact Perry Charnoff PLLC If You’ve Been Injured

Catastrophic injuries affect everyone differently, and we know that adjusting to life after your injury can be challenging. Even though you can do your best to manage the emotional and physical aspects of your recovery, you may find you still need help with the financial burden created by your injury, and that’s why Perry Charnoff is here.

At Perry Charnoff, we support and fight for the victims of negligence to help them find justice and compensation for their injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered from a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s negligence, please give the attorneys at Perry Charnoff a call at (703) 291-6650 to schedule a free consultation. You can also fill out our CONVENIENT ONLINE CONTACT FORM and we’ll follow up to get in touch with you. Statutes of limitation do apply to personal injury cases, so please don’t delay — get in touch with our legal team today.


Coping with a catastrophic injury during the holidays. (2015, December 15). Paradigm Outcomes. Retrieved from