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Coping with Loss

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Coping with Loss

(For those who are about to experience or who have recently experienced an amputation)

You may have recently undergone amputation surgery, had a child born with a congenital limb difference, or just learnt that one or more of your limbs must be amputated. You survived the illness, infection or injury that threatened to take your life. But winning that battle meant losing a limb. At first, the victory may taste bitter-sweet as you face the emotional and physical challenges of rehabilitation. Reclaiming your old life may seem like an impossible goal when it takes so much time to re-learn basic life tasks, such as taking a shower or driving a car. How can you possibly think of bowling with your friends when a trip to the supermarket has become an obstacle course? Yet, living a full life requires being with friends and family, watching your child’s soccer game, or going to work. The things we do define and give purpose to life. Without meaningful activities and relationships, life loses vitality, spirits wilt, moods lower, and identities falter.

Amputeee Support

Coming to terms with limb loss and our changed feelings about ourselves – our altered self image – is not easily done. It is not uncommon for amputees to go through a depressed state after their operation. We grieve for our loss in many different ways and repressing this grief can cause emotional stress. This grieving is part of the healing process but you cannot really begin to make progress until you get out of this stage. Allowing yourself to indulge in self-pity and depression for too long will only delay your recovery and your renewed participation in everyday life. You may feel shocked, depressed, angry or frustrated. You have probably never given any thought as to how amputees cope with life, or been aware of the availability and efficiency of artificial limbs. So you may also be feeling anxious and uncertain about your future.

From the start, the focus of your rehabilitation should be on how much you can do, rather than on your limits. This “can do” attitude is important to help you achieve new limits and goals. As you learn how to use your artificial limb (prosthesis) and do things you may have thought you would never do again, take pride in each small milestone.

The journey to reclaiming your life is hard. No two amputees share the same experience, confront the same obstacles, or achieve the same level of ability. And yet you are not alone. Every amputee goes through a challenging, even gruelling, rehabilitation. You can expect to try, fail, and try again in the process of re-learning skills, discovering abilities and confronting limits. Many people will consider giving up. But keep in mind that the fight to reclaim your life is worth it. Be patient with the process. Be compassionate toward yourself. Be curious about your limits. Laugh at your failed attempts. Don’t compare your progress to someone else’s. But, most importantly, don’t give up! Amputees who continue to challenge themselves find new limits. They don’t just survive, they thrive.