When Caleb was 18 years old, his life changed forever.
No, he didn’t invent the next big social media platform, and no, he didn’t meet the love of his life. He wasn’t even accepted into college—this life change wasn’t exactly a good thing.
He was in a car accident.
And not just any car accident. A large delivery truck, being driven too fast by a sleep-deprived driver, crashed into his drivers-side door in an intersection. The last thing Caleb remembered was trying to slam on the breaks.
When he woke up, he realized things wouldn’t be the same. He couldn’t feel his legs, he didn’t feel right, and when he looked into his parents’ eyes, he saw despair, not hope.
Over time, Caleb and his family worked with a lawyer to reach a substantial settlement—after all, decades in a wheel chair is an astronomical expense. Not to mention the compensation for hardship and the lack of a normal life.
Certainly, one should find a car accident lawyer in Philadelphia to work with, but the real hardship wasn’t monetary—it was realizing that he had to go on. Caleb ultimately found hope, and so can other victims. How can you, or someone else involved in a horrible accident, find peace and meaning when your life has been turned upside down?
Acknowledgement is Power
One of the biggest temptations is to live in denial. Many victims go to sleep thinking that when they wake up, everything will be ok—things will be normal. That’s no way to live.
The only way forward is to embrace the change and confront it head-on. As is the case with so many of our demons (hasn’t the #MeToo movement taught us a thing or two about the positive power of confrontation?), acknowledging the problem, staring it in the eyes, and charging forward is the best option.
Don’t pretend like the physical changes will go away—they won’t. Just admit that they are here to stay, and that you are no less for them. In fact, you can be even better than before.
Don’t Be Afraid to Laugh – or Cry
A gentleman I knew who had to deal with a traumatic personal injury once told me a story. His wife pushed his wheelchair to the restaurant they wanted to visit; it didn’t have a handicap ramp. He had a mental lapse and said, “Hey no worries, I’ll just use the stairs.”
Then he remembered that he couldn’t walk. It seems impossible to make that kind of mistake, but that’s what he told me—and I believe him.
What did he do in the face of such a reminder? He laughed. He and his wife laughed, because they decided years earlier that laughter would be the best reaction. He didn’t want to feel sorry for himself!
The same man also told me that it’s ok to cry about hardship. Hiding the tears wouldn’t help him, and it wasn’t fair to hide his emotions from the people he loved. So in the early years, when he had no other outlet, he would cry. And his relationships with his wife and family are better for it.
Don’t Use Your Injury as an Excuse
Some victims can descend into self-pity and despair—while we can hardly blame them for that, a negative frame of mind doesn’t do any good.
Those attitudes only reinforce the lies that you might be telling yourself. “I’m worthless now,” or “I’m only getting in everyone’s way,” or “I’ll never be happy again.” Those are not true, and they are the exact opposite of truth.
I’ve met handicapped individuals who are happier post-injury than they ever were before! It stems from making goals and sticking to them.
Simply realize that professional goals, relationship goals, and life goals can still be accomplished—they may just need to be amended slightly.
But through it all, hold yourself accountable to others, to goals, and to ideals just like you did before. Before long, you’ll realize that your life is just as meaningful as it was before.