Finding a New Way to Say “I Love You” With Aphasia

Just as aphasia only affects communication––not intelligence, aphasia doesn’t change a person’s capacity to give and receive love. People with aphasia still feel intense love, even when they sometimes can’t express it. Sometimes loving someone with aphasia means listening very carefully with your heart instead of your ears. Sometimes people with aphasia need to find new ways to express affection.

When Words Are Your Love Langauge

While saying or hearing, “I love you” is a simple way to know how someone feels, words aren’t the only “love language.” Dr. Gary Chapman writes about how there are five main love languages or ways to express how you feel.

The first language is sometimes a barrier for people with aphasia: words of affirmation. Saying, “I love you,” giving praise, or expressing how much the person means to you through words is sometimes beyond a person’s abilities at the moment. This is especially difficult when “words of affirmation” has been the person’s primary love language.

But many of the other love languages do not require words at all.

Discovering a New Love Langauge

Dr. Chapman points out that there are four other love languages beyond words, and one of these may be a new way for someone struggling with language to express their feelings.

Acts of service are the actions we take to show love. All the little (and big!) things we do for other people that we do out of love fall into this category. Remembering someone’s favourite dish and cooking it, showing up at events, and making things for your loved ones are all acts of service.

Giving and receiving gifts is another way people show love. Those little items that you give someone “just because” are special because they show your attention to their happiness, and receiving someone else’s attention feels wonderful.

Quality time is another way to show love, and it’s also tied to attention. When we set aside all other tasks and give the person our undivided attention, we’re showing them that we love them and they’re important in our world. Lastly, affection is another way to express love: holding hands, kissing, or just sitting close to one another and touching the person’s arm from time to time are all ways to saying, “I love you” without words.

Aphasia requires a change––temporary or permanent––in communication. Sometimes we need to find new ways to say, “I love you.”

What are some ways that YOU show love?

Image: Tyler Nix via Unsplash



  • Elaine
    February 14, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Our 30 yr old daughter developed aphasia as the result of brain tumor growth. As she lost her ability to verbalize, she started to do a slow blink in response to my saying “I love you”. Our slow blinks became our very special silent expression of love.

  • Sherry Smith
    March 11, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Remember: ” the eyes are the soul”? We found the eyes are key! Facial expressions speak volumes. The unaffected hand and arm and touches, rubs, pats, stroking, petting, etc., can also convey opposite feelings as well. For example: Finger pointing, finger shaking, hand gestures, head gestures, stomping unaffected foot, communication efforts made with passion, are often very effective and successful communication techniques indeed! ( It took years of daily effort to obtain a degree of success at this. 23 years ago, there were little to no advances, in this area, as there are today). The struggle is REAL!

  • Anonymous
    February 23, 2020 at 9:57 am

    How can my brother find love with aphasia he is 45

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