Living in Denial? Far From It!

Neurology Now
September/October 2007
Volume 3(5)
p 11–12
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What a grand celebration of life Mr. Richard Cohen is! Thank you for sharing his inspirational story in your July/August 2007 article “Living in Denial.” Mr. Cohen is a shining example of a person who deeply understands his capacity and how to push it wherever possible.

However, refusing to live within the apparent limits of one's condition is not, in any sense of the term, living in denial. I understand the headline was written to grab attention—it did mine. And I don't believe you implied there was anything self-destructive in Mr Cohen's attitude; the article itself does an excellent job portraying his perseverance and vivacity.

But someone could easily read the headline and never make it to the article, let alone understand the subtle distinction between refusing to accept limits (healthy) versus denying that loss has occurred (unhealthy). As a Catholic deacon serving the brain-injured community, I work with many people who refuse—in an unhealthy way—to accept the limits of their disability, to the detriment of themselves and their families.

As Dr. Brey's editorial points out, there is a tremendous need for people with loss of function to grieve those losses. In my experience, the five stages of grief which Dr. Brey introduces often leave people stuck at the acceptance stage. Dr. Kubler-Ross developed these stages for people who are dying. But for people whose losses are not terminal, or even immediately terminal, they often reach the acceptance stage and enter depression because they are at a loss how to proceed.

I invite you to consider the additional two stages of grief that I have added.

6. Integration: How is life different? The same? Who am I now? OK, fine, I accept my loss, but what does it mean for me and my daily life?

7. Co-Creation: I'm ready to contribute now. What are my passions and how can I harness them as I strive to contribute to my family, my friends, my community, my world?


Patrick Jones

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