The information written below comes from my own experience and no two people are alike. If this blog post reaches at least one person grieving the loss of an amputated limb it would make my journey that much more fulfilling.
Losing a limb not only affects us physically but also emotionally and psychologically. Limb loss can bring on some pretty deep emotions of grief, and often depression. It’s important that we remember these feelings are 100% normal.
Slow and steady wins the race…
Experiencing the loss of a limb can mean that completing tasks you once did with ease might take a couple more tries and just a little more practice. This sometimes causes frustration and a sense of hopelessness. Don’t let your limb loss limit you. Be patient with yourself. Learning something new never happens overnight. Remember to reward yourself for small and large victories.
Do not fear prosthetics are here!
Amputation can make you feel like you’re no longer a whole person. Not only are you now missing a limb, but you might also be missing everything that comes with it. Playing your favourite sport, running, dancing, building models or painting. You don’t have to feel hopeless due to amputation. Prosthetics have evolved leaps and bounds. They can assist you in regaining functions you’ve lost due to amputation. Talk to your prosthetist about your activities prior to your amputation, they can make great recommendations regarding which prosthetic might work best for you. You can find adaptive ways to achieve your goals and get back to your hobbies. Just because you can’t do it like you used to, doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all. You might even find new hobbies you didn’t know you were interested in!
Amputee Coalition of Toronto member Achille riding his motorcycle
I just don’t look the same…
We often hear the saying “looks aren’t everything”, it can feel the exact opposite when you’ve just lost a limb(s). Being self-conscious about your body becomes all too real for the majority, post amputation. Not only are you aware of your physical change, but it also becomes apparent to everyone one else. Most amputees take on two different or mixed approaches. The first is to try to hide their differences by wearing long sleeves or pants. The second is to be proud of your shiny new prosthetic by showing it off every chance you get. Regardless of how you feel it takes time to get comfortable with the new you because this is a big change.
Amputee Coalition of Toronto members show off their hardware at the Achilles 5K Run
Find an amputee support group near you
Reaching out to a fellow amputee can help by sharing experiences and asking questions. There are roughly 185,000 people per year who experience amputation. Simply knowing that someone else has been in your shoes can change your outlook dramatically. Joining an amputee support group also allows you to experience a sense of inclusion and camaraderie. Surrounding yourself with other amputees allows you to witness the struggles and successes of others. Building connections and friendships can be one of the most important parts of an amputee’s journey for your physical and mental recovery.
Amputee Coalition of Toronto’s 1st annual BBQ
Look to the future
For many amputees finding a purpose or cause to stand behind can ease their grief. No one knows the estimated timeframe for grieving the loss of a limb, but you can try to feel better by helping others. Think of a way to make your mark. Volunteering, becoming a peer support visitor or even explaining your amputation and prosthesis to curious children; may improve your mental health or possibly even your overall wellbeing. Many amputees also find learning an adaptive sport very rewarding, could even become a Paralympian!
In short, grieving the loss of an amputated limb is not that easy therefore it’s how you grieve that’s important. Make sure you’re taking care of your new limb, surround yourself with positivity and don’t give up.
You’re not alone, there is life after amputation our group is proof of that.
Jason lost his dominant hand in an industrial work accident on March 2017.
Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey. We’re in this together!