THE STAGES OF GRIEF
Amputation is a life changing event but not a life ending event. You will be able to get back to your normal life, but you may need to change the way you do things. Losing a part of your body requires both physical and emotional adjustments. While some people experience relief from stress and pain of trying to save the limb, it is very common to feel a range of emotions after an amputation.
Many people experience depression very similar to a loss of a family member or close friend, so it is very common for an amputee to go through stages of grief:
• Denial—Thoughts of “this can’t be happening”
• Anger—The anger couleasyd be at yourself or at a specific person or group, or generalized anger.
• Bargaining—Thoughts of “make this situation go away and I promise I will….”
• Depression—Some experience an emptiness or numbness, withdraw from family and friends, or do not want to participate in therapy, work or other activities.
• Acceptance—Occurs when you accept the loss, have worked the physical and emotional pain and have adjusted life as an amputee and is moving on with life.
Moving through stages of grief is not a easy process and you are not necessarily going to move through these stages in order. In fact, some people may skip entire stages. It is even possible to bounce back and forth between stages.
GROWING AND MOVING FORWARD
Not only can you move past grief, there is growing evidence that many individuals who have gone through a limb amputation experience psychological growth. You are a warrior and have likely overcome many obstacles throughout your life, emerging a little stronger each time. This new chapter in your life is no exception. Examples of psychological growth following an amputation can include:
• Greater resolve in pursuing personal goals
• Stronger relationships with loved ones
• Resilience and psychological adjustment beyond previous levels
• Improved coping abilities
• A more positive attitude towards life
WHEN WILL I BE ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD?
Much like everyone experiences grief differently, there is no set amount of time that the feelings will last. For some, it will take weeks or months for the grief to subside. Others may take years. The duration will depend on many factors including past experiences, culture, personality, and physical and psycho-logical health prior to the injury. The time it takes to grieve is not an indicator of strength. Taking longer to come to terms with your amputation than someone else does not mean they are stronger than you.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRIEF AND DEPRESSION?
It is normal to have feelings of sadness, anger, or depressed mood after the loss of a limb, but there is a difference between grieving and clinical depression. Individuals who are grieving can still experience positive emotions such as peace and happiness. As the grieving process continues, there will be longer periods of positive emotions between the negative feelings. On the other hand, those who are suffering from depression have a difficult time feeling positive emotions at all. 6 Symptoms of major depression not explained by grief may include:
• Constant thoughts of being worthless or hopeless
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies
• Intense guilt over things done or not done at the time of the injury
• Difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or over-sleeping frequently
• Extreme weight loss
Amputation is an enormous loss and learning to adjust is a process that takes time, so be gentle with yourself. Try not to isolate yourself or withdraw from people; use your experiences to build new memories and start new traditions to reach your goals. Sure, there will be adjustments along the road to success, but it is still your path. Who you are has not changed. Always remember, you are much more than your physical experience.