Friends are an important part of a social life. Your relationships with them will change after a brain injury, particularly if you are experiencing physical, cognitive or behavioural challenges. You may notice that visits from friends don’t happen as often, or don’t feel as natural as they did before the injury. Your friends may not fully understand what you’re going through or how to act around you.
This happens a lot, and while it doesn’t feel good, it’s a challenging situation for all of you and it will take some work on both parts for your friendships to adjust and evolve.
Tips for maintaining friendships after brain injury
- Be patient
This is an adjustment for you, but it’s also an adjustment for your friends. They will need some time to get used to the changes in their relationship with you.
- Be honest and communicative
Tell your friends what you need when you are together. This could mean hanging out at home rather than a coffee shop, slower conversation, or help understanding social cues. Your friends won’t always know what you need, so the more open and honest you are with them, the more they will be able to adapt and be the friend you need
- Find alternative ways to keep in touch
If your friends live far away or you are unable to see them as frequently as you would like, keep in touch using email, texting, phone calls, video messaging, or even handwritten letters
Relationships you make after your injury may be different than relationships you had before your injury. Intimate partners may take on a more active caregiver role. They may not necessarily have an attachment to old routines or responsibilities, which allows you to build new ones together.
Friend relationships may stem from support groups, new jobs, new neighbours, or other places where you meet people in your daily life. While it may feel awkward to talk about your brain injury with new friends, don’t be afraid to discuss it with them when you’re ready to take that step.
While it can be difficult to form new relationships after a brain injury, it happens every day. It can happen for you if you open yourself up to the possibility. That means be open and friendly with others, and most importantly ask people to spend time with you! You can ask them for coffee, for a walk, for a phone call: whatever you would like to do, people will respond if they know you’re looking to continue building a relationship.