Living life with an artificial limb requires not only physical adjustments, but psychological adjustments as well. Much like the death of a loved one, it can be mentally challenging to deal with the emotional, physical and spiritual pain that can accompany the loss of a limb.
The normal stages of grief include:
- Denial. "I can't believe this happened to me."
- Anger. "Why did this have to happen to me?"
- Bargaining. "I promise I'll manage my diabetes better." "Maybe I need another opinion."
- Depression. "I'd be better off dead." "I don't want to live this way."
- Acceptance. "I'll deal with reality. I have one leg, and life will go on."
Grieving isn't a formula; most patients volley back and forth between the stages as they mentally and physically adjust. Sadly, some patients never do move on to acceptance and struggle with bitterness infecting their lives for decades.
It's a Family Affair
Having the support of family members and friends is imperative. Patients frequently worry about being able to protect and provide for their spouse and children. Common frustrations include:
- How will I be intimate with my spouse now that I have a prosthetic?
- How will I work?
- How will I do the things I used to do?
Like most things in life, the family communication dynamics play an integral role in adjusting to the reality of the situation. A skilled counselor is paramount for both the patient and family members to come to terms with the loss.
Physical therapy will be the obvious primary goal after surgery. It can takes months to adjust to a custom prosthetic device. Swelling and pain can mean a hard road ahead as the body adjusts and learns to compensate for the physical loss. Talk to a prosthetics company like Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic for tips about how to make adjusting easier.
In addition to the required physical therapy, patients are strongly encouraged to stay busy and keep focused. It does no good to sit around depressed as life is going on all around you. It won't be easy for family and friends, but they need to resist the urge to enable codependency. Getting back to work and hobbies as soon as possible will build physical and emotional strength, and will provide increasing confidence as hurdles are overcome.
It's normal for an amputee to struggle with the way their changed body looks. It can take considerable time for physical healing, but it can take even more time for emotional healing. Many patients struggle with the image they see when they look in the mirror, and can't imagine showing it to their loved ones.
Knowing the issues that frequently come up when facing life with a prosthetic device can make it easier to cope with the psychological aspects of losing a limb.