As the wife of a stroke survivor I've found I have a reaction inside my gut every time I hear of someone having a stroke... actually I am both the wife of a survivor AND the daughter of a woman who died several months after having a massive stroke. The word STROKE itself makes me feel a sharp pain as I dig my fingernails into my palms.

According to WebMD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) describes many people who experience or witness severe trauma (such as the death or illness of a loved one) and who relive the ordeal through memories, flashbacks and nightmare; they develop problems dealing with others, expressing themselves, and may have symptoms that keep them from functioning in a "normal" life.

For people who experience a traumatic event these reactions are normal, but most people outgrow them in time. People who don't outgrow these crippling reactions, who are diagnosed with PTSD, often need help to find ways to cope. "Treatment for PTSD may involve psychotherapy (a type of counseling), medication, or both."

It is normal for painful reminders to cause flashbacks even when your life has otherwise gone on. So today as I scrolled through my computer and saw the announcements of a celebrity death due to a massive stroke (Luke Perry, age 52) I couldn't help but flashback to the night a doctor walked into the hospital ER and told me that my husband had suffered a stroke and "the next 48-hours (would) be critical".

After that momentary fist-clenching after today's news about Mr. Perry, I went on to thank G-d (my personal beliefs) for allowing my husband to come home after the first few months and continue on his road to "recovery" — although we don't expect a TOTAL recovery, he finds ways to cope and function each day. I am certainly one of the lucky ones.

If someone dear to you suffers a stroke, no matter how seemingly minor or severe, it will affect you in ways you never anticipated. Even after my own mom died from complications brought on by the stroke, I wasn't truly prepared for the visceral reaction I had when my husband had his stroke.

Although we can never fully prepare someone else to walk this road I think it is kindest to say to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the tears and even the mourning for the life that once was. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you find your reactions are keeping you from living your life or being there for those who depend on you. One of the things fellow caretakers and I who have gone through this situation agree is that it is NOT ONLY the stroke victim who is going through this, we ALL are affected.

Here are a few helpful articles if you are the caregiver or family member of a stroke survivor:

  1. 15 Things Caregivers Should Know After a Loved One Has Had a Stroke 

  2. How to Cope After a Loved One's Stroke 

  3. How to Handle Memories of Trauma 

RIP Luke Perry, sincere condolences to his family & friends.

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