I don’t know about all of you, but this recent Independence Day we celebrated on July 4th had greater significance for me than previous ones. I guess there are a variety of reasons for that. But, a few stand out more than others.  For starters, I have recently become acquainted with a gentleman who masterfully expresses the history of the American flag and regularly pays honor and tribute to those who are presently or have served in the military. Second, my wife and I had a chance to view an event in Wayzata featuring revolutionary soldiers perform in authentic military uniforms. It was both interesting and educational!

Both of these experiences make me appreciate the freedoms and independence we cherish in this country. However, those who are facing a debilitating illness or disability cannot enjoy the independence they once had. They are grieving over many losses they have sustained. Career, income and relationships are only a few. Dreams and goals have also been shattered. Many clients whom I have helped over the years relate that a main source of their pain is remembering their life of independence compared to their present state. Several questions arise as they contemplate their future. Some common ones are, “Will I ever work again? Will I be able to do the things I used to do? How much of my independence will I get back, if any? What will my future be like?”

These and other concerns emerge as one encounters the onset of a disability or chronic illness. Losing one’s independence can be just as traumatic. For instance, cognitive damage resulting in a traumatic brain injury can limit a person’s use of sound judgment, making good choices and restraint of emotional impulses that may affect the rest of his or her life. A serious physical impairment usually restricts one’s movements or results in the person being totally non-ambulatory.    

Despite the challenges an individual faces, there is hope. The prospect still remains that the future will not be the same prior to a life-altering event. However, there are certain areas where one can retain some degree of independence. Certain skills and tasks can be re-learned depending on the nature and degree of a medical condition. If a person is capable of partially regaining their former mental or physical capacities, some of their independence can be preserved. Many abilities they once mastered may be compromised, but can be attained in varying degrees. Each step towards regaining independence is another personal victory!