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Coping with Limb Loss Takes Time and Open Communication

Posted by Bryan Potok, CPO on

No matter the circumstance and how much time was given to prepare, losing a limb is a life-changing experience. While you most acutely feel the loss, it is also difficult for your closest family members and friends to accept and adjust to the loss.

 It takes time and open communication to cope with limb loss.

However, more often than not, having ample time to consider amputation surgery can influence how well you and your family cope with it. One thing that can help you manage an amputation better is talking to your family, prosthetist, caregiver, or another amputee about amputation surgery. We understand this is not applicable to those who have experienced an amputation under traumatic conditions. 

If you've dealt with a traumatic emergency amputation with little time to prepare, wrapping your head around your new reality may be even more difficult. The same can also be true for your family and friends.

Whatever your situation is—whether you were able to prepare or not at all—the outcome is the same: you have to figure out how you can best deal with your new reality.

No one can tell how long it takes for a person to heal, rebuild, and regain independence. More often than not, a person's age, physical and emotional health, and available support systems are crucial factors that determine how long it will take for an amputee to heal and rebuild. 

Anatomically speaking, it can take upwards of five years to fully accept and acclimate to your new normal. 

Support and communication

A support system can compose of family members and friends, and they would do well to seek information that can help them cope with a loved one's limb loss. It will take them some time to accept their loved one's new reality—especially parents—but when they do, they can better appreciate their loved one's uniqueness.

Family members and friends need to be able to step back when necessary so their loved one can develop independence. Knowing when to help and when to step back is crucial for any person's limb loss journey-to-recovery.

Reach out

To help the process of acceptance, family members can meet with other families who have loved ones with limb loss or limb differences. This way, family members can see that their problems are not limited to a few and, most importantly, they are not alone. They can see how other families have coped with limb loss and worked with others to find solutions to common problems.

Dealing with the stress after an amputation may put a strain on even the strongest of families. Families need a coping mechanism and open communication.

More often than not, family and friends want to help, but they aren't always sure how to go about it. Maintaining an open dialogue will make it easier for all parties to find out what is needed in certain situations. It will also enable everyone to share how their emotions are running, thus being patient with each other will come more easily.

Open communication or simply sharing how you feel and what you need with your family can help you find a way to deal with problems and overcome them. This can bind a family together.

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  • I was 19 years old in a really bad auto accident (1965). Four days later I was to be drafted during Viet Nam. I had a friend that was instrumental in my recovery. He would NEVER say… “what do you need from the store” He would say…“Get up, we are going to the store, you can push the cart”. He was outwardly really supportive but NOT sympathetic. I learned a lot of things in our adventures, life avoiding sunburn while sailing on a small flat boat (took several days for leg to be comfortable. Spending ALL DAY on a new leg at Indy time trials, could NOT get the leg on for 3 days (swelling) and my therapist said "I told you 4 hours per day during first limb break in. Later in life learned NOT to leave a limb in sunlight in the summer while you swim (was too hot). Anyway at 73 years old I am still doing things I enjoy, like bowling twice a week (180ish avg) coaching bowling, mostly to youth bowlers (I am Bronze Level certified) and traveling and dinners out with my lovely wife Jo. Am I handicapped? By definition, yes, in practically more of a inconvenience. This reality was not over night. I had to fail at something several times before I added to me “Not a good idea” list. Can’t run a marathon, but never did before. So life goes on. You can sit in a chair in a pity party attitude, waiting to die and it will last seemingly for ever. You can get up, try/do things, enjoy life and time flies by. It is all up to YOU. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Live Life.

    Tom on

  • We grieve the loss of our leg. We also can be bewildered and overwhelmed by the changes in our life in general. Depression and tiredness of limb also occur. I found that simple leg lifts both of natural leg and remaining limb (In my case the thigh) can be done lying down on the sofa or my bed. The action helps me feel better physically and mentally. It’s 3 years since my amputation but there are still “bad” moments during the day. Keep pushing your self to overcome the negative thoughts and attitudes. You can do it! Blessings. Cynthia Cartaya

    Cynthia Cartaya on

  • I found the message saying it takes time to adjust to losing a leg helpful because 5 years + is probably more realistic than easy platitudes . Like divorce I reckon 5 years + so thanks for the realism !

    michael cruse on

  • There are several Facebook groups that have helped me.

    Greita J Gibbs on

  • Over a year ago when I first lost my left leg below the knee. I have good days and some bad but more bad. At times I get depressed because my legs get tired a lot both of them. I sit on the side of my bed. Wondering why me filling so lost.

    Osie on

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