A New Life on Wheels... How to Cope With Your Loss, and Move On

Facing Disabilities

A person can become disabled through an unexpected illness, deteriorating medical condition, or in an accident. This sudden change will dramatically alter the life they once led. Everything will be different, even the sense of self. Losing control of bodily functions or dealing with limited mobility can cause depression and a severe feeling of grief. These are all normal emotions and they must be examined and dealt with in order to accept a new way of life. The truth of the matter is that things will be different but different doesn’t have to mean bad. Accepting the loss and meeting the challenges head on can ensure a positive and healthy outlook. A strong support network and organizations are there to help individuals adjust to their circumstances.

Dealing with Grief and Loss

Losing a part of yourself is a frightening and overwhelming experience. It is perfectly natural to feel a great deal of grief and anger in your experience. You are mourning the life you once had and you are forced to deal with new changes which can make you angry. These feelings will be intense and strong, allow yourself to feel them. These sorts of changes force people to change their self-image which isn’t easy. A support system is vital to healing; seek the help of a licensed counselor, doctor, or friends and family.

Every situation is different. But disability can bring on a variety of concerns for the future. Financial questions must be addressed: Will you receive disability? Can you continue working? Do you have medical care? Medical expenses? It is important that you discuss these important questions with your support system. There are organizations that will help you and your family make decisions about the future. As you look forward it is important that you set realistic goals for yourself. Focus on the things you can do and begin adjusting to your new life tools (walkers, wheelchairs, conversion vans, ramps). Understand your new limitations and work on ways to manage daily activities. An occupational therapist can help you adapt to your new situation which can provide you with a sense of independence and freedom.

Changes to Expect

Disabilities and handicaps require home and lifestyle accommodations. It is imperative that the home be safe and accessible. There are a few important home factors to consider when preparing for a newly disabled or handicap person.  

A wheelchair does not fit through a standard door size. Standard doors are usually 28 to 32 inches wide. A wheelchair and some walkers usually need at least 36 inches of space. Switching out door hinges for hinges designed for wheelchairs can give you an extra few inches. If you need more space talk to a licensed contractor. Switch out any standard door knobs for levers which will be easier for someone with limited hand mobility. Examine the home, if there are any steps or stairs it is crucial that you install ramps. Examine the flooring of your home. Thick carpet can be difficult for wheelchairs, consider changing out carpets for wood, laminate, or tile flooring.  

Disabled or handicap individuals will have an easier time showering if a walk-in shower is installed. If this is not financially possible, install a shower chair. It is also helpful if you replace all standard toilets with handicap toilets.

Depending upon the disability, the use of a mobility aid might be necessary. Walkers, canes, or wheelchairs will all help to improve mobility and function. Discuss with your doctor which aid is better for your particular situation.

Being disabled doesn’t mean you are confined to your home. You can still have the added freedom of driving. There are plenty of handicap accessible vans, all with equipment designed for you to drive. There are a plethora of options depending on your particular disability.

Moving Forward

Being disabled or handicapped is a difficult challenge for anyone. Talk to others, there are occupational therapists, counselors, doctors, friends, and family who will all help you to rediscover your life and happiness. Do not isolate yourself. Focus on adapting to new tools, whether it be mobility aids, a conversion van, and ramps. All of these accommodations will make your life easier. Make sure to take time to care for yourself emotionally. Focus on your spiritual, mental and physical health. Express your emotions to your support system and seek out the help of different organizations.

The following links can serve as resource guides for dealing with disability.

Adjusting to Disability – Information on how to cope emotionally when dealing with a disability.

Masters in Counseling – Top 100 counseling resources on the web

How to Deal with Paralysis – Information on dealing with paralysis and the loss of muscle power.

Financing An Accessible Home – How to retrofit a home to be accessible while staying within a budget.

Emotional Adjustment – How to adjust emotionally when having to use adaptive equipment.

The American Association of People with Disabilities – Support and information for people with disabilities.

Designing Accessible Communities – A nonprofit organization that promotes education about accessibility.

Disabilities – A website connecting the disabled community to opportunities and information.

Disability Resources – Resources on numerous topics including conferences, assistive technology, and more.

Disabled American Veterans – A nonprofit organization dedicated to building better lives for disabled veterans.

Independent Living – A website promoting the self-determination of people with disabilities.

The National Organization on Disabilities – Promotes the participation of Americans with disabilities in every aspect of life.

Through the Looking Glass – A nonprofit organization that offers training and services for families dealing with disabilities.

World Institute on Disability – An organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to social integration and increase employment.

National Dissemination Center – Information on disabilities in infants, toddlers, children, and youth.

The Impact of Childhood Disability (PDF)– Information for parents struggling with children suffering from disabilities.

Coping With Disability: A Challenge At All Ages – An article discussing how to cope with disabilities regardless of age.

Stigma of Disability – An article on understanding and coping with the stigma that comes along with disabilities.

Dealing With Disability – A day by day guide to dealing with a disability.