U of O
The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Phases of Family Grief /Recovery After a Child Experiences a Brain Injury

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After a child has sustained a brain injury, families tend to progress through general phases of grief and adaption. When working with families, it is important to remember that they are typically in some phase of grief and adaption. Every family has a different and unique experience. Each family does not necessarily experience all the phases. The general phases are described below.

Shock is how many have characterized the initial period after they receive the news of their child’s brain injury. During this time the family is focused on the survival of their child (student). 

Disbelief regarding the effects of the injury is a time when families and schools tend to believe that with enough effort the student can overcome what has happened. This time can be mixed with euphoria as a student makes rapid physical recovery. For students with a mild or closed brain injury, a refusal of support services may occur.  

Sorrow is how many families describe what they feel next. This can be combined with feelings of anger as families begin to realize that their student is changed permanently. 

Adaptation occurs gradually overtime and often after the family has re-organized around the new needs of the student.


Working with Families After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Working with families after TBI can be challenging, but is an important aspect of students' success.