Shattered Narratives and the Search for Meaning: The Experiences of Parents Whose Child Sustains Traumatic Brain Injury
Williams, Graham Ross
This study looked in detail at the parental experience of having a child sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI); beginning with the child sustaining the injury, through the acute and chronic stages of rehabilitation, to the child’s return home. Mother and father dyads were interviewed in their own homes using a semi-structured interview schedule. A narrative analysis highlighted important findings through the identification and construction of several plots and subplots within parent narratives. These include that parents themselves appear to undergo trauma as a consequence of their child sustaining TBI; that parents made - and wanted to make - a major contribution throughout their child’s rehabilitation, and that all parents went - and are continuing to go - through a number of transitions in this process. Given that fathers have historically been neglected from research into child health issues, the finding here that mothers and fathers made a substantial contribution throughout the rehabilitation process is timely and important. For most parents, this event led to profound and long-lasting changes in their lives and life stories where their previous, hitherto narratives were ‘shattered’. On the child’s return home, these changes appear neither recognised nor supported by services. There seemed little if anything in service provision and coordination to meet the needs of children and parents, which resulted in parents continually fighting for services. Clinical implications are discussed as well as directions for future research.