Navigating New Emotions after Stroke (Part 5)

Navigating New Emotions after Stroke (Part 5)

This is part 5 of our Ultimate Guide to Life after a Stroke series.

The sudden onset of new emotions after stroke can be startling, and often overlooked. Many simply brush the ’emotion issue’ aside because they think it will pass with time – but new emotions should never be ignored.

Some pass with time, but others need to be looked at and given attention before they can dissolve.

5 Stages of Grief

Stroke recovery means dealing with loss and, as a coping mechanism, many stroke survivors will go through the 5 stages of grief.

The first stage is denial, where you adjust to what previously seemed impossible. For many, this stage is often fleeting. For others, it takes time to come to terms with what happened.

Then comes the anger. You’ll be frustrated with the new obstacles and lack of understanding. See the section below for more information on how to deal with anger.

Once the anger has passed, then you’ll start bargaining. Bargaining usually occurs between you and a higher power through if/then statements. For example, “If I do all my rehab exercises this week, then please let me get better.”

Bargaining is a sign of hope because it means that you’re ready to do something, but you’re also placing control outside of yourself. Take back your control by realizing that as long as you’re putting in disciplined effort, you will achieve a higher recovery.

The fourth stage of grief, that can occur at any point in the grieving process, is depression. During these times, it’s important to stay socially connected, get plenty of rest, and understand what’s really causing your depression.

Once you’ve moved through these phases, you’ll be able to find acceptance. Acceptance of your emotions will lead to self-acceptance and ultimately acceptance with this new life situation. It’s important to note that acceptance does not mean living passively.

You can still accept yourself and achieve a momentous higher recovery!

Depression and Anxiety

Depression is, unfortunately, the most common emotional post stroke side effect; one that 33% of all stroke survivors will deal with.

We’ve identified 10 causes of post stroke depression. They range from something as simple as poor nutrition and posture to more complex problems like lack of control and low self-esteem.

While post stroke depression is sometimes the result of brain damage, it’s more often the result of sudden life changes. Understanding yourself and navigating these changes is the best way to alleviate depression and find lasting happiness.

Anger and Frustration

Anger, like depression, has many different triggers. You could be angry with the variables of your recovery, with friends and family, or you could even be angry with yourself.

Anger is an important emotion so work through because it doesn’t serve anyone.

It just causes you emotional distress and upsets those around you.

The best way out of anger is to figure out why you’re angry in the first place. Once you’ve identified the cause of your anger, start to make space in your life for yourself to fully feel these emotions, and let them pass.

Realize that you’re a survivor who is worthy of good health and happiness – and the only person who can give that to you is you.

Don’t let your anger run you. Face it, realize that it’s not serving anyone, and let it go.

Fear and Self-Doubt

Fear is the most universal emotion that holds us back and makes us doubt ourselves.

Fear makes you want to give up when you stop seeing improvement. Fear makes you believe in the plateau. Fear makes you doubt that you won’t make a full recovery. Fear makes you want to give up. But you can’t let your fear control you.

You are the driving force of your recovery, and you need to barrel through it with all the love, strength, and confidence you have.

Self-confidence is not a lack of fear, but a mastery of fear.

One great way to build your confidence is to research stroke recovery to that point where you feel like an expert. With tons of information under your belt, you’ll know exactly what’s going on and what to do next, and it will put you at peace.

There’s confidence in competence.

Fear won’t stand a chance.

(You can also use the visualization technique we discuss in Part 7 to learn how to manipulate your brain to overcome fear.)

What emotions bubbled up during your recovery?

How did you cope?

Share your advice with our community in the comments section below!

Up next is Part 6: Optimizing Your Mindset

Earlier posts in this Life after Stroke series:

  1. Healing the Brain and the Pain
  2. Revealing the Truth
  3. Understanding What to Expect
  4. Establishing Your Game Plan


  • Tamara Pots

    Fear and anger bother me the most, but shame is also a big one. I feel like such an ugly invalid. I used to be hot in high heels. This shame also motivates me, to get back to pretty again. Problem is that most of the time I’m living in the future, fantasising about how wonderful my life is going to be and how fabulous I’m going to look.

    • Flint Rehab

      Hey Tamara, thanks for opening up. I bet shame is a very difficult emotion to deal with. Have you ever checked out the Zen Habits blog? There’s a post that deals with shame perfectly. You can find it at
      It’s a more holistic approach to dealing with shame… i.e. more hippie stuff 🙂 I hope you like it!

      • Tamara Pots

        You remember me as the hippie in training! 🙂 Thanks for the link. I saw a video on You Tube this morning in which someone said: You’re tense when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. But you’re relaxed when you’re being your true self. This whole recovery process raises a lot of philosophical questions for me, like: Who am I really and what do I want out of life? I’m currently seeing a psychologist who uses schema therapy by Jeffrey Young. It’s about dysfunctional patterns I’ve created in my life, which I used to cope with low self esteem, but that don’t work anymore.

        • Flint Rehab

          Of course I remember you 🙂 I love that you were on YouTube watching self-help videos (it sounds like). I do the same thing! I feel like they really help us answer those philosophical questions. I hope the schema therapy works well for you – I researched it and it looks very promising.