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As Valentine’s Day Approaches, Consider What You Love About Yourself

Despite the life changes that come with a spinal cord injury, people living a “new normal” may find some old and new things to love about themselves.

By Jill Koval, Ph.D.
Director, Psychological Services, Shepherd Center Inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program

As we approach Valentine’s Day, people are usually thinking about the presence or absence of someone special in their lives. For some, feelings of loneliness, loss and disappointment can become overwhelming on this occasion. Having a spinal cord injury, or other life-changing injury or illness, can make these feelings even more painful – especially if a person already feels isolated or alone.

Experiencing a catastrophic injury and the inevitable life changes it brings requires learning about a “new normal.” While being overwhelmed by these enormous changes, it can be easy to forget there are some things that remain the same. It can be helpful to ponder your answers to these questions:

  • What did you love about yourself before your spinal cord injury? Remember that who you are is not the same as what you are physically able to do.
  • What would help you to love yourself more now?
  • What did you like about yourself before the injury? What do you like about yourself that is still the same?
  • Is your health being affected by how you feel about yourself now?
  • How would you have described yourself to another person before the injury and now?
  • What did you love to do before? What can you still do, even if it means doing it differently?
  • Is the way you feel about yourself and your life affecting the way you interact with your family and friends?

To learn more about how others deal with the physical, emotional and life changes related to living with a spinal cord injury, or other injury, the following resources may be helpful:

  • Do a search by injury type or illness on this site – – to find inspirational stories shared by former patients who have made a comeback.
  • – This website includes short videos and information from the perspective of people with spinal cord injuries and their loved ones.
  • – This website has many different resources, including links to other sites, for people with spinal cord injury.

For more information on psychological services available at Shepherd Center, you may call 404-350-7553.

JILL KOVAL, Ph.D., is the director of psychological services in the Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Program at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She has worked at Shepherd Center since 1989. Dr. Koval has a doctorate in psyhcology from George Washington University. You may reach her at

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.