Discussion Guide for

Learning by Accident:
A Caregiver’s True Story of Fear, Family, and Hope
By Rosemary Rawlins

  1. Describe the Rawlins’ family dynamic and how it changes after Hugh’s accident.
  2. Near the end of the book, Rosemary defines her role in the family vs. Hugh’s role. What are the roles in your own family and how does it impact the family as a unit? (Read from page 291)
  3. What did you know about traumatic brain injury before reading this book?
    • Did anything come as a surprise?
  4. Discuss Mary and Anna’s different reactions to the same family experience.
  5. Ambiguous loss happens when there is physical presence and psychological absence—the person you care about is psychologically absent—that is, emotionally or cognitively missing.  Ambiguous loss occurs when a loved one is still with you but radically changed from TBI, Alzheimer’s disease, and/or other dementias, depression, addiction, or other chronic mental or physical illnesses.
    • Who in this story suffered with ambiguous loss?
    • How did he or she cope with it?
  6. What symptom of brain injury did you find most quirky?
  7. Do you think Hugh should have given up bike riding and other dangerous sports? Why does he continue?
  8. Why does Mary say, “I miss being afraid of Daddy?”
    • What do you think she means?
  9. Did you find any personal insights or connections to your own life in this story?
  10. What do you think Rosemary learned over the time period that takes place in this book? Why does she say that fear is more debilitating than any illness or injury?