Broken Brain, Broken Families

By Frances McGuckin

Did your brain injury rip your family into shreds? Being post-injury of 17 years, I still reel from the effects of how my car accident and subsequent traumatic brain injury tore our family apart. Today is no better than 17 years ago. I have lost my daughter, my little princess who could not understand what happened to her loving mom after the accident.

The more survivors with whom I have spoken, the more people I realize are suffering the same fate. We are the walking wounded, the invisibly injured that few care to understand.

Our families want us to be the same person. Without visible injuries, they expect us to be that same person and rarely understand the complexities of these injuries. Our pain from these broken family relationships far outweighs that of our injury itself and the resulting life-altering changes.

I read about families torn apart on various brain injury support sites and groups; my heart breaks when I read of survivors reaching out to others for that magic answer as they share their confusion and pain. Thank goodness we have these various groups to support each other.

Our family life was no bed of roses. My ex-husband was bipolar, aggressive, pot-smoking, almost-alcoholic, and suffered from depression and anger issues. Thus, as an overly protective mom, I mistakenly did my best to be both parents to my daughter.

He left a year before my accident. With a divorce looming, it was all a recipe for disaster. I also had a 95-year-old mom living with me and was responsible for her, two acres and assorted dogs, cats, horse and pony.

Before the accident, I was spring boarding onto a global career as a flourishing speaker and author. In 2005, in a split second, when the other driver hit me, all was lost, a lifetime of work over, and a daughter lost. At that time, she was too young to understand the dynamics of a serious brain injury. Coupled with the influence of a toxic father, I stood by helplessly as our relationship became strained. Over the years, no matter how I reached out, the damage seemed irreparable.

Then, a year ago, along came my grandson. A beautiful child, yet I am now kept at arm’s length from him. Yes, he has a right to know his grandma, but the times I see him are only at occasional joint family occasions. At age 72, I have little time on this earth to enjoy him. Now my daughter recently decided that she didn’t want to try to reconnect.

There comes a point in our lives when enough is enough. Dealing with the ongoing residuals of our brain injuries is bad enough, but dealing with family pain seems even more difficult. It erodes our self esteem; we feel like we have failed as parents and want to fix it.

What have I learned through all of this? That there are some things we cannot fix. I cannot fix my broken daughter; she has to fix herself. I learned that we must grieve the death of a relationship and experience all the stages of grief and anger to final acceptance. We need to forgive to help with our healing and know that we are not at fault.

Reach out and surround yourself with the positive people who know what a beautiful person you are and who understand your injury and situation. Find positive ways to get though each hour of each day, If you can, volunteer or pursue a hobby that you love. I volunteer, took up water colour painting (thanks to FVBIA) and also a horse-riding class.

I also discovered this wonderful site for parents who are rejected by their adult children. is a mine of information. Sheri McGregor has written two great books and surveyed over 50,000 people. She also has a Facebook site with over 17,000 followers.

So don’t feel alone in your rejection. Sheri cites that parental rejection is at epidemic proportions. We are not alone in our sadness. Be strong, be resolute, be done with the crying and embrace all those around you who love you for the special person that you are.