The Silver Lining

January 20, 2012 was the day that everything changed. My boyfriend was going to a job interview for a line cook position at an Italian restaurant, and we were supposed to hang out afterwards. But we didn’t get the chance because his car swerved off of the road and hit a tree. He was rushed into the ICU with a traumatic brain injury and spent a month in a coma.

The memory of seeing him after he woke up, his big smile when I entered the room, the way he impatiently patted the spot next to him on the bed as if to say, “Well come on,” the way he kissed and held me…it was like he was trying to make up for the month when he couldn’t. As time went on, C grew stronger. He could walk on his own, could tie his own shoes (it had been an area of frustration for awhile), could recount the past (all but his accident). Soon enough he was at home learning to readjust. But anyone who has had a loved one survive traumatic brain injury knows that leaving the hospital is just the beginning, because an injury to the brain changes you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As he’s recovered, C and I have had to communicate more than before, we’ve had to relearn all our previous relationship boundaries (adjusting them as such), and we both have had to learn to love the new him. (It’s a little harder sometimes for C.) Sometimes the world seems too small and sometimes it seems too big, but C and I have more confidence in ourselves and our relationship than ever.

Some members of my family have said that they worry that this has all been so stressful on me. I can almost hear the “Things would be easier if you were single” tone in their voice. In a way they are right. It would be easier, but I wouldn’t be nearly as happy. A lot of the time you have to pick the harder road to get the better pay off. The funny thing is that leaving never popped into my head. It was never an option, not because I felt I had no choice, but because I had already chosen. I am already committed, and no matter where this relationship goes, I love C irrevocably.

He is now driving (so exciting!) and playing music. We play video games, eat cheeseburgers, cry, laugh, hug, and kiss. (I think the fact we laugh is most important.) I have noticed that he has learned to enjoy life more. Recently he’s started stretching and letting out a loud scream. The other day, finally, after making me jump for the thousandth time, I told him, “I don’t think I remember you doing that before the accident.” He did a short quick nod and said, “I actually can tell you the reason for that. After the accident I realized how great it felt to stretch. To right everything that’s wrong in your body.” He started to fumble a bit when trying to explain how that related to screaming, but I understood the gist of it. C was learning how to enjoy the small things. So even if that means screaming really close to me, and at random intervals I can’t help but smile and kiss his cheek.

So my advice? To appreciate the small things, like C is learning to do, and to always, always appreciate the silver lining, to hold onto the good things while having to go through the tough things, and to know that the best love stories don’t end with happily ever after but something more like work in progress.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • You two are amazing. Sounds like you are both wonderful and strong. Screaming is awesome, we never scream enough.
    Or stretch.

    I have two really really ignorant questions, in the spirit of today’s post about not glossing over who we are for who we want to be I will ask.
    1. Does your family seriously have that tone? I mean…(expletive) seriously???? That kind of makes me mad.
    2. Im embarrassed to ask this but are the video games helping with his recovery? I know there is so much that is *bad* about playing video games but I’d imagine if he had any complications with dexterity or any portion of the brain that video games stimulate…it might be a useful tool? Heck I’d take it!

    I am very happy that he is doing well and wish you both the best!

    • Sunny

      I actually can relate with the family tone thing. I “stood by my man” during a tough (non-medical) situation. My family definitely worried about me, (and I could tell that they would have been relieved if we decided to break up) but like the post-er, I couldn’t imagine not sticking by him. Everytime I thought about not sticking with him, I just felt upset!

      For me, I think the family tone thing was just because they were concerned about me. They did rally around us, even though they were initially concerned, with the exception of one family member who basically said she thought I should leave him (I think this was said from a place of love, but it was pretty damaging to our relationship). And now that tone is no more.

      PS, I really loved this posting! A big fat YES to appreciating the silver lining, even when things aren’t how you thought they would be.

      • Ohhhh!! Ok, I get it. Thanks Sunny! That makes sense.

    • It must be incredibly hard for family members who love you- I’m sure they’re just worried about you and in their own way are trying to reach out and make sure you are ok.

      It sounds like you’re doing well. Silver linings are incredibly important. I hope I never have a similar experience (I’m the fiancee who insists that he promise to drive safe when he goes to work in the morning) but if times do get rough, I hope I can react the way you did. Sending love your way!

    • Alexandra

      So, I know this wasn’t really the point, but what precisely is so *bad* about video games? I keep reading that statement and I truly can’t help but feel very insulted by it on behalf of myself and all of my adult friends. I know there’s a large amount of “Video games make people violent/lazy/what have you”, but I didn’t think most people gave that quite so much stock that it had to be empathized just how bad they were, especially for an adult, not-so-impressionable audience.

      • Emily

        To be fair, there is a general perception that video games are a lot like junk food, i.e. not that great for you. Regardless of the merits of that perception, I don’t think that comment was meant as a moral judgment about gamers.

      • Caroline

        I don’t know that that was how Blaire meant it, but yes, a lot of people do really believe video games are about as bad for you as eating McDonalds 3 meals a day. Which is crazy. As a gamer, I know they teach you problem solving skills, fine motor skills, and are just plain fun. But there are a lot of people really do seem to thing that playing video games will either turn you into a murderer, or someone who chooses to live in their parents basement and not work (as an immature choice. Not saying that one can’t make the decision that intergenerational living is the right (or only) choice for your family, but I’m talking the stereotype of the 40 year old “man boy” who lives at home and his mom cooks him dinner and he games all day and night and has neither social life nor job).

        • Aubry

          This bugs me too! These same people often sit watching TV or a similar sedentary activity for hours on end and consider them very different things. Obviously I could be doing something active (I do quite a bit of activity for the record), or reading/crafting (i also do these things) but darn it I like gaming and I don’t see anything wrong with it as a hobby.

      • Me too! I love video games. They are a great way to bond with my guy and they are the thing that most helps me to relax.

      • Oh I didn’t mean it like that at all, Alexandra!
        I notice that, especially now, gaming requires a lot of quick-learning, associations and strategy. That’s actually why I was asking.
        I’m not so sure gaming should have the rep that it has now. These people tell really intricate, wild stories that we are not allowed to tell in real life anymore. I think we crave it. I know I do!

        Perhaps ” would have been more appropriate than * in my original response. Sorry about that, didn’t mean to derail the post.

        • Alexandra

          Oh, that does change the meaning of the statement! I tend to read * as emphasis (or bold) and ” as air quotes. Internet communication gets complicated sometimes, I guess. I just read the statement and looked around my household of 4 adults who spent Sunday playing pokemon (and other games) and all I could think was “This is bad now?”

          Anyways, all good now, sorry to derail myself!

    • Heather L

      There’s actually a lot of data suggesting that gaming helps with multitasking, decision-making skills, spacial reasoning and hand-eye coordination.

      What exactly is ‘bad’ about playing video games?

  • NTB

    This was beautiful to read. May God bless you both. I pray that he continues to heal and that you have a happy and healthy life together. xo

  • 39bride

    Beautifully, beautifully said. Fortunately, my partner and I haven’t had to deal with kinds of things two of you are (though extended family problems and a recent job loss are hitting us at the moment). But I totally understand what you mean about enjoying the little things–our relationship has been all over that almost since the beginning, because we met and married on the older side of things after never before having met someone we wanted to get super serious about. So, recognizing how much we went through alone and how immensely blessed we are to have finally found each other, nothing is taken for granted.

    That way of looking at things has made it easier to deal with or even overlook the irritating things; with all those good little things so often at the forefront of our minds, our list of reasons to be joyful and grateful is a mile long.

  • “Bring this idea home” indeed. Crying, crying, crying. And plan to stretch and scream as soon as I get home (to do so now would undoubtedly alarm my coworkers).

  • I love this! thanks for sharing your Good :)

  • That is such a beautiful story and exactly what I needed in this moment…I need to find my silver lining in every moment again (which will definitely take up more time in my day, but is totally worth it in the long run!) 8 years ago my love was jumped and hurt really bad… two reconstructive surgeries later he pushed me out of his life because for some reason he couldn’t look at me with out being consumed by the memories/un-resolved issues from the tragedy. No worries though, we just needed to take a few years to grow up and figure it all out and by All I mean how much we love each other and want to be snuggle buddies for ever and ever!!!

    Thank you for sharing!

  • What does “happily ever after” mean really? I mean, nobody is happy all the time. It’s because we have ups and downs that we know what an up really is.

    I much like your “work in progress” idea better. It is progression. And it is work. And that’s what makes it awesome!

    • Justine

      I”m not sure what “happily ever after” really means, but there’s a quote in the bathroom at work that I think applies here – “I’m not happy, I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all, a cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them.”

      Personally, I aim to be cheerful and for my fiance and I to always be a work in progress, for the better. :)

      • Katie

        That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.” -Michel de Montaigne

        I work to be cheerful in my daily life not because I have no worries, fears, or frustrations, but because in the end most of the stuff I’m worried about isn’t important. I have my and my partner’s health, we can support ourselves, and most importantly, we have each other. That’s all that matters.

        And is post was just LOVELY.

  • marbella

    Anyone else stretch and scream at the end? ;) This was lovely, and really interesting, thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I were talking recently about the difficulties one might face in a relationship where someone suffered a brain injury. I don’t imagine that there is a lot of help for couples going through this. I hope you both have support from outside parties, and wish you the best of luck with your journey together.

  • Shiri

    I have so much I want to say in response to this beautiful piece. As someone who spent a year and a half recovering from a mild traumatic brain injury, and wrote my wedding undergrad post about the way it effected my relationship/family/wedding, this really hit home for me. The way you talk about him is beautiful; the way you talk about speaking to him about his injury and the changes you’ve seen in him is exceptional.

    Thank you for seeing the good, thank you for writing about this good. I needed to hear it for myself, in my own relationship, with the things I know stick around from my accident. I needed to hear it to feel that I know deep down how incredibly lucky I was and that’s its still ok to hate it sometimes. And to know that you don’t begrudge your boyfriend what happened to him, so I can keep trusting that when my husband tells me he doesn’t, either, he really doesn’t. The good.

    About your family’s tone – he’s your family too, and you’re his. Clearly.

  • Sid

    De-lurking just to tell you how much I admire you both and appreciate this post. My father started suffering from a mysterious illness a few years ago that presented something like a brain injury and it was so hard for all of us. But watching my mother and father readjust and continue caring for each other was one of the most moving things I’ve ever experienced. It’s scary knowing how much a person can be changed in an instant and heartening to be reminded that things can still be okay – and even great – afterward.

  • Brieanna

    I should explain about my family more, I don’t think they mean anything by giving me that tone. They love C but they worry about me which is understandable. Thank you for all of your kind words and support.

    And shiri I am ESPECIALLY glad you’ve read this and it has helped you in your relationship. TBI is HARD but I’m so glad you’ve done so well since your brain injury.

  • “The funny thing is that leaving never popped into my head. It was never an option, not because I felt I had no choice, but because I had already chosen.”

    There haven’t been many times when someone has suggested to me that I would be better single, but every time someone has this is exactly what goes through my head. Life is hard, and sometimes the hard stuff is going to come about because my husband is in my life whether it’s a death in the family, job situations, making sacrifices or whatever. But I chose him.

  • Jessica

    I love this: “the best love stories don’t end with happily ever after but something more like work in progress.” So true, and very well said.

  • This is beautiful. And you know what, stretching IS awesome!

  • Colorado Laurel

    I know everyone has already said this, but I don’t think it can be said enough. This post is beautiful and thank you.

  • Zoe

    Thank you for this beautiful post. My Dad suffered from TBI after a car accident when he was in college and the effects have been with him since. His patience and grace in coping with it are lessons that last me a lifetime and I am so excited for him to walk me down the aisle this summer.

    One of the things that really helped him cope with TBI has been meditation. He finds that learning to be still and present with what is helps him to move forward from all the “what ifs” and “I wish things were differents” that come with such a life altering trauma. He has now started a class called Gold Mind Meditation Project in Portland, OR where he teaches meditation to TBI survivors. He has a blog at where he discusses meditation for TBI. If any of you are in the Portland, OR area and interested in this sort of thing, please feel free to be in touch with me.

    My Mom has also started a support group for family and loved ones of TBI survivors.

    TBI changes people in unexpected ways. While I never knew my Dad before his brain injury, I know him to be the most thoughtful, kind man with it. Brieanna, thank you for sharing this. There is very little awareness and understanding around TBI, and ever story helps.

  • Funny how illness, unexpected tough, life-changing situations make you aware, make you appreciate the small things. Make you notice how that’s where joy is at.
    Brieanna, thanks for this, I wish you and C a happy life together, and I hope all the best for his recovery (I know it is not easy, I can relate through a rather different situation, but my husband’s grandma had a microbleeding in the brain and her life changed completely after that).
    But you will make it together.

  • Holly

    My dad was 36 when he had a massive stroke that struck 3 parts of his brain. I was only in 6th grade at the time. I lived through it as their kid, but I also watched my parents change because of it. My parents used to sock away money for “later,” and after the hospital bills were paid we went on nice vacations and started enjoying life more. My mom was at the hospital every day making sure the staff would take care of him. The doctors asked my mom if my dad was mentally handicap before, or suggested she just put him in a nursing home. It was hard watching a very capable, fit man turn into someone who needed to be cared for overnight. Often my siblings and I would finish our homework at the hospital and then play Boggle (the doctors said it was good for dad’s brain). I did notice that my dad’s personality is a bit different than it was before. His sense of humor even changed. I never actually asked my parents how or even if it changed their marriage.

    The point is people can be rude at the most inopportune times. Those doctors should have been more caring and companionate for my dad’s condition – similar to your family. Games can be good for the brain because they exercise different parts; I don’t think it matters if it’s video games or if its board games. I’m not sure this made us closer as a family, but we realize that everything could be gone and we are thankful for what we have.

  • Kelly

    “It was never an option, not because I felt I had no choice, but because I had already chosen. I am already committed, and no matter where this relationship goes, I love C irrevocably.”
    I love this line. So applicable to SO many situations. It’s amazing that you’ve been able to see and focus on the good of the whole situation.

  • Class of 1980


  • Becky

    Thank you, a million times over, for this post. I suffered a traumatic brain injury a year ago, and it has changed so much about my life. I was forced to withdraw from my PhD program in order to recover, and am still undergoing rehab and therapy to relearn how to read, write, and do simple, everyday tasks. I, too, feel like I have to learn the “new” me. My wonderful fiance proposed just a month after my initial injury and a year later he still gets questions and prodding concern as to whether he really wants to stay involved with someone in “my condition.” Reading your loving, positive, touching words has given me so much hope and the sense that someone understands what I’m going through for the first time in a year. I wish you and C all the best!

    • Elly

      I am also recovering recent from traumatic brain injury, and it’s inspiring to hear how other couples are healing from these experiences – especially on the very bad days when the remnants of the injury make you want to scream and the recovery feels isolating, even from the people you love most. My husband has been there every step and the past year has given me so much appreciation for the little moments we have together, right down to things as banal as grocery shopping or commuting to work.

      Also, games both on and offline really do help with recovery. A bunch are specifically recommended by doctors to help with areas of the brain that have been affected.

  • Licorice is an herbal supplement prepared from the root of the licorice plant, or Glycyrrhiza glabra. Unfortunately, licorice supplements may induce severe or potentially life-threatening side effects. An alternate form of licorice, called deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, may be used in place of traditional licorice and typically does not cause severe side effects. You can take deglycyrrhizinated licorice as a liquid or chewable extract up to three times daily, depending upon your doctor’s recommendations. Talk with your health care professional if you have any concerns regarding the proper use of deglycyrrhizinated licorice. foakleys