New Amputees Need These Coping Strategies for Limb Loss

New Amputees Need These Coping Strategies for Limb Loss

Recognize Your Feelings


After the trauma of a limb loss, the last thing you want to do is face your feelings. However, the sooner you stop ignoring your emotions, the sooner you can acknowledge them. Processing them means freeing yourself from emotions tied to the past so that you can live in the present. If you find that this is too hard to do on your own, you should consider seeing a trained professional or amputee coach.


A positive attitude can help you through the challenges of rehabilitation. Remember, the grieving process is a life event and not a mental illness. Still, it can become a major depression, or worse, and you may be misdiagnosed as a manic depressive. Emotional anguish will not kill you, but the anticipating pain makes make it hard to experience. What you've been through has been difficult. There's no one right way to feel after an amputation. You may feel like your emotions are all over the place – roller coaster-like highs and lows. Whatever your feelings are, they're valid. Express and address them, don't hide them. Those feelings will become less intense with time, and you will feel them less frequently, especially if you find new meaning and purpose to your life.


Don't Hold in Negative Feelings - Express Them


There are many different ways you can express these feelings. However, writing down your anger and frustration in a journal helps immensely. 

Find another medium that feels more like their intensity if you don't feel that words do enough to convey your negative feelings. For some, it may be spending time at a shooting range. Intense physical exercise may be another so long as your doctor approves. Finally, try painting, sculpture or some other medium that allows the release of your anger in a safe way. 


You don't have to be a skilled artist. All that matters is that you have the opportunity to deal with these emotions. You must not continue to keep them inside. Instead, use them as your muse to help you keep trying to find methods of self-expression that allow you to vent your negative feelings. Emotions that can become negative are hate, anger, jealousy, and sadness. Yet, in the proper context, these feelings are entirely natural. Negative emotions can dampen our enthusiasm for life, depending on how long we let them affect us and how we choose to express them.


Let your loved ones know that you're looking for a place to talk honestly about your grief. You are not looking for someone to cheer you up or get your mind off your negative feelings. It's likely that the people closest to you, too, are feeling some grief related to your loss. Sharing your grief with the people closest to you can help strengthen those relationships during such a tough time. Amputation is considered on the same level as losing a loved one.


Focus on the Journey and Not the Destination


One way to tell if you have found an excellent physical therapist is when he says that it's the journey toward recovery, not just the destination, that counts. If he doesn't bring it up, you can always ask him. If you focus only on the difference between where you are and where you eventually want to be, you will get discouraged. Look instead at the progress you have made and how much better you're doing than yesterday, last week, or last month. Don't let your impatience turn into discouragement. Instead, recognize your desire to be completely recovered. You can't rush your rehabilitation. It takes time. When you focus on the journey and not the destination, you can see that slow progress is better than self-pity.


Like physical rehabilitation, grief is a process and should not be a single event. You can't rush yourself through the process of coping with a life-altering loss. Grieving the loss of a limb – and all that limb represents to you – takes different amounts of time for other people. You may think that you're over the grief one day, but realize the next day that you're still struggling with denial, anger, or depressed feelings. There will be ups and downs, but remembering that each day is just one part of a more significant journey can help you weather those ups and downs.


Talk to an Amputee


Though you might feel alone in dealing with limb loss, you're one of 185,000 people per year who undergo an amputation. In addition, there are over two million limb loss survivors in the United States alone. They can be inspirational for future amputees. Sometimes simply knowing that other people have successfully dealt with this tragedy and have moved on is encouraging. You can draw hope from their successful adaptation. Even venting the frustrations, you feel due to the amputation to someone there and knowing what you're going through can help. The experience can be uplifting.

Many amputees find some comfort by participating in limb loss support groups. In these settings, you can share problems, suggestions, and successes with fellow amputees. In addition, you can commiserate with and inspire each other. If you cannot make it to a real-world support group meeting, you can even look for virtual support groups on Facebook and other social media platforms.


Find a Purpose That Gives Your Life Meaning



 New Amputees Need These Coping Strategies for Limb Loss

New Amputees Need These Coping Strategies for Limb Loss

After you have survived a near-death experience, the only thing that ensures a successful physical and psychological recovery is finding new meaning and purpose in your life. The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research reported that some amputees look for spiritual meaning or "higher purpose," which explains why they had to endure this disability. Others aren't looking for an explanation or rationalization but rather a way to feel useful, get involved, or build relationships as part of the adjustment to their new lives.

New Amputees Need These Coping Strategies for Limb Loss

What kind of purpose should you look for? There's no single right answer. For some amputees, it's a cause related to limb loss, like raising awareness for vascular diseases or support for services for limb loss survivors. But your purpose doesn't have to have anything to do with amputation. Anything that gives you a reason to work toward recovery, a boost to your confidence and self-esteem, and a sense of motivation or belonging can be a positive addition to your life after limb loss.

Carla’s story: Finding a new purpose after limb loss

How-to: New Amputee Practical Tips for Coping with Limb Loss From Our Social Worker

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