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Boston Bombing Aftermath: Fear, Empathy, Anger

Mending the Minds of the Injured continued...

"The person has to acknowledge the loss," says Sheehan.

They have to progress from ''this is horrible" to the difficult recognition that the limb, for example, is not coming back.

This can be tough, especially for those accustomed to high levels of activity.

Creating a vision of their new life is the next crucial step, Sheehan says. "They have to let go of their old self and embrace their new self," he says.

For many, that is difficult to imagine, he knows. "It's hard to let go of something if you can't see what's ahead of you," he says.

To help them envision their lives going forward, Sheehan's rehabilitation team introduces patients to peer counselors, available nationwide, who have been through the same process. The peers focus on what ''getting back their life'' means to each patient, and they serve as a kind of buddy.

"For an 83-year-old woman, it may mean going back to her own house," Sheehan says. "For a 17-year-old, it's about being able to go to the prom and college."

His professional expertise as a rehab specialist is important, he knows. "But the most important piece here is about the peer-to-peer interaction."  

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