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Physical Injuries and Emotional Suffering

Physical injuries are painful, crippling and affect many areas in our lives. When we suffer from physical injuries our close friends and families can be compassionate and help with everyday routines such as getting groceries and helping around the house. Our loved ones can be attuned to our needs and dedicate time to support us in the areas we need help. With injuries, people may be dealing with multiple doctors appointments, insurance claims, physiotherapy appointments and hospital visits. These additional tasks can be time consuming and put a hindrance in our lives. It is common knowledge that physical injuries are painful but how do physical injuries impact us emotionally? Can we grieve our physical injuries? There is a lot of information on the physical impact of injuries on the body but there is little information about how it impacts us emotionally.

Injury in the Workplace: Injuries in the workplace are very common especially with trades and jobs that involve physical labor. Depending on the injury, some people may have to take short-term disability, long-term disability or a leave of absence. There is a significant amount of loss that can be experienced when these unexpected events occur. Not only do people experience physical limitations but the emotional impact can be hindering. If time off work is necessary for healing this would also likely result in financial loss. These changes impact our freedom and feeling financially stressed can become emotionally paralyzing. Further, some work cultures foster healthy relationships and a supportive environment. For some the workplace could be a place of support, friendship and connection. To be separated from work cultures can also leave us feeling alone and isolated. Additionally, some people’s jobs may be part of their identity, therefore being separated from something they love can be distressing. If any of you have struggled with injuries in the workplace and grieved the loss of your freedom or mobility, you are not alone in your suffering.

Sports Injury: Playing sports benefits people for many reasons other than physical activity. Sports foster a sense of community, friendship, passion and love for the game. Sport injuries are extremely common in hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball. Injuries such as knee tears, broken bones or torn ligaments can prevent individuals from playing for months and up to years. These types of injuries are not often considered a grieving experience, however the overwhelming emotions can be piercing. For some, these activities help with stress relief, improved sleep and ultimately is a form of self care. Not being able to return to the sport or indulge in your regular patterns of self care can be emotionally distressing. If you have grown up playing a sport it can also be recognized as a piece of your identity. For some who have dedicated years to the game and being forced into retirement can be a huge loss. It may feel as though a piece of you was stripped away and routines you were familiar with are no longer apart of your life.

Body Changes with Age: As we age it is an inevitable transition that our bodies will change and impact our strength and mobility. Changes with our body as a result of aging can be an emotionally distressing process. People may experience a loss of independence and self-reliance because the activities they used to engage in are no longer possible. Loss of friendship and relationships can also occur if the activities you participated in included socialization. In addition some people may feel the burden of needing to reach out to others for assistance and support. Loss of mobility can also leave people experiencing isolation and may feel like they are trapped in their own body. Grieving the loss of freedom, loss of youth and loss of mobility can be heart wrenching and distressing. 

Permanent Body Changes: Unexpected and grueling accidents can result in paralysis and other permanent body changes. These unexpected and drastic life changes can be a difficult realization and an emotionally challenging journey.  Not only are people trying to learn basic functions again but may also be grieving the life they once had. Finding a new normal can be an optimistic yet disheartening transition. People may experience conflicting emotions such as being grateful to be alive but also feeling sad to say goodbye to their previous life. It is important to be empathetic and compassionate towards people who have experienced such substantial injuries. We tend to ask how people are doing in their physical healing but sometimes miss asking how they are doing in their emotional healing journey. 

Physical illness is hard on the body but also impacts our emotions and overall mental health. It can be challenging to work through physical healing and also being attuned to your emotional suffering. If you have someone in your life who is experiencing physical limitations, be gentle, compassionate and patient. Sometimes just being a listening ear is the best form of emotional support. If you are experiencing physical limitations, we see you and recognize your grief and sadness. Dedicate time to listen to your emotional and physical body and focus on what you need for nurturance and care. 

At The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre we have a compassionate and dedicated team of therapists and grief specialists that offer a variety of interventions and programs to support you through your grief. Our expertise in grief and loss encourages us to support you through whatever emotional pain or circumstances you are enduring. We offer a safe and supportive environment for you to explore your emotions and share openly and honestly. If you are currently struggling with a loss due to physical injury or otherwise, please reach out to us at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca. We are here to help.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Founder and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

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