Adjusting to Life After an Injury

Injuries, even if they can be treated, can often be life-changing in one way or another. Here are some of the things you should know to help when adjusting to life after an injury to you or to your loved ones. 

The initial reaction

Everyone’s initial reaction to an injury is as different as they are. For some, it may be a state of shock, for others, anger, and some people ride on the adrenaline and act as if nothing has happened at all.

However, as time progresses, injury survivors will start to experience a whole range of emotions as they learn to cope with the trauma. Studies have shown that people who experience an injury start to go through the five stages of grief, much like if they have suffered a bereavement.

Stages of grief after an injury

  1. Denial

You may first continue to treat your life as normal after your injury, almost as if the trauma you have suffered didn’t even happen at all. You might shrug off the help of others and consider yourself to still be capable of things that now might be difficult or impossible.

  1. Anger

Anger after an injury can be pointed at all manner of things. You could be angry at the place where it happened, such as a workplace or even a particular street, store, or part of your home. Additionally, that anger may be directed at yourself for not managing to keep yourself out of the situation. Sometimes the anger can be so great that even small, little things perhaps not even related to the incident can cause ire as your body and brain try to rationalise what has happened.

  1. Bargaining

The bargaining stage can also present itself as a kind of desperation, as you clutch at straws to try to regain a sense of normality that may not be possible. This can be seen in the form of personal challenges to yourself, or through arguments and pleas with family members and health professionals about your capabilities. 

  1. Depression/Low Mood

One of the most powerful stages of the emotional process after an injury is depression. Sometimes referred to as low mood, suffers can tend to fall into a spiral of negative thoughts, that can even affect their view and confidence about other things in their life. It’s really important once things potentially get to this point that the person has people around to support them and lend an ear.

  1. Acceptance

The final stage of the emotional journey is acceptance. This is where you come to terms with what has happened and start to see clarity in your situation and ways to move forward. The acceptance may come with a tinge of sadness for some, but in the end, it shows the path to emotional healing. 

Starting to cope

The initial period after sustaining an injury can be tough, as often both your mind and your body are unaware of your current limits. As a result, it is well worth sitting down with your health professional to talk through what your current capabilities are both in and outside of the home. 

But, even with this advice you need to remember to take things one day at a time. Recovery is a long road and you may feel better or more pain-free one day, and then the complete opposite the next. 

One way to manage this is to be mindful of your window of tolerance. Rather than being static, this will fluctuate day to day. Some days your window of tolerance may be wider, and other days it might shrink. Remembering this and being flexible and forgiving to yourself if you are unable to do something or are struggling more than in previous days is an important step to bolster your physical recovery and mental resilience. 

The importance of rest and recovery

Injuries can be incredibly hard to deal with, especially for individuals who would usually lead very active lives. However, taking things easy and ensuring your body gets as much rest as possible is the best thing you can do in the long run. 

Carrying on or trying to do things your body is simply not ready to do yet could make the injury worse, or even lead to secondary injuries and stresses caused by the body trying to compensate.

Rather than letting your brain be the boss, let your body (and medical professionals) tell you when it is ready. It’s important to remember that everyone’s recovery journey is different, and some may be longer, and others shorter, than others. 

Something that can be a help during this time is to pick up a new sedentary hobby. This could be anything from learning about something you have always been interested in but never had the time to explore, to arts and crafts. This can provide a welcome distraction from the pain and also provide some well-deserved enjoyment and satisfaction in tough times.

This can also be paired with “relative” rest if it is safe to undertake, which involves participating in low-impact activities and exercise that don’t place additional strain on the injury.

Building a support network: professional and personal

Remember that in your personal injury journey, you are not alone, despite how things may initially feel. Even if it may feel alien at first, asking for help and leaning on those around you can really support you in your recovery both physically and mentally. They can look out for signs that you may be struggling, even when you may not realise it yourself.

However, there may be things that you do not wish to share with those close to you, or perhaps you feel that they don’t “get” how you are feeling right now. If this is the case, then reaching out to your doctor or a mental health service will help you feel heard and get any intervention you need. Additionally, there are plenty of support groups out there filled with people who have had similar experiences to help you to be able to share your difficulties with those who are in the same boat and learn some advice along the way. 

See the table below for some of the best mental health and support group services in Queensland.




Mental health access line

24-hour mental health triage service for Queensland

1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255)

Mensline Australia

Mental health and counselling services aimed at men

1300 78 99 78

Support Groups Queensland

A directory of all support groups operating in the state for a whole range of groups and issues

Finding a new normal one step at a time

Adjusting to life after an injury means finding a "new normal." It's tough at first, as you have to accept your limitations and change how you do things. Progress can be slow, but with patience and support, you’ll start to feel more in control, and each little success paves the way to further ones. 

Remember that pulling through after an injury is a process that shows how tough you are and teaches you to adapt and grow stronger no matter the challenge thrown your way.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury and want to know what legal aid and resources are available, our friendly and experienced team at Smith’s Lawyers is more than happy to help. Reach out and let us ease your legal aches and pains.

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