Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 4, 2013

Adapted in TC: Advice from others only goes so far

Dear Susan:

My grandson was injured in a car accident. He’s 18 and now a paraplegic. He was driving downstate with friends and they let their spring fever speeding get the best of them. Thankfully no one died in the crash.

I understand that my grandson has many challenges ahead of him. I’m wondering with all of your professional and personal experience, what advice would you give to him?


A concerned grandmother


Ten days ago, I observed the 37th anniversary of my stroke.

As anniversaries go, I had a very busy, long work day followed by a late brief dinner with my husband. That night, I actually dreamed what I would say to this woman and her grandson.

In my dream, I remembered when I was first paralyzed and my own grandmother wrote a similar letter to a young woman she’d read about who had used a wheelchair for many years. The woman wrote my grandmother and said that she didn’t have any advice for me. She wished me luck and said I’d have to figure out my life for myself.

Though my grandmother understood, she was disappointed by the response. I recall her asking me how she was going to help meet my tremendous needs when she lacked the expertise.

In my reply to this grandmother, I thought of what I could say to her that might be helpful and not overwhelming. I also took the stance that I might have only one chance to communicate with her. Additionally, I prefaced my discussion by saying that I didn’t have all of the answers, especially not all of the answers for her family. These were just some ideas. Use what fit, discard the rest.

I started by hearing her experience. I told her that she needed to find people, other than her grandson, that she could share her thoughts and feelings with. I reminded her that this had happened to her whole family — not just to her grandson. She’d go through her own grieving for what he’d lost, what she’d lost.

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