Limb loss and grief

If you have lost a limb or will be getting an amputation soon, you will likely experience a wide range of emotions. For proper processing, it is important to recognise and understand the different stages of this grieving process.

Perhaps you feel insecure, lonely or sad, or maybe you were in so much pain that you’re relieved now you’ve had your amputation. Then again, you may be angry that this just had to happen to you. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s very normal. In fact, many people who lose a limb go through a grieving process. And even though no two people grieve in the same way, there are certain specific phases that (almost) everyone goes through. For proper processing, it is important to recognise and understand these different stages of the grieving process.

The five stages of the grieving process


1. Denial

In the denial phase, people consciously or subconsciously refuse to face the truth. It’s a natural way in which we try to protect ourselves. People who lose a limb because of an accident are particularly prone to denial, and this phase is less common in people undergoing a planned amputation.


2. Anger

Once it becomes clear that there is no escaping the truth, people may get angry. That’s why some people will tend to blame the doctor, their surroundings or God for what happened to them shortly after an amputation.


3. Taking up the fight

In this phase, people try to postpone what they know to be unavoidable by fighting or negotiating, either with their doctor, or even with a higher power (I promise to be a better person if only...).


4. Sadness and depression

In this phase, anger makes way for depression. This is probably the most difficult phase of the grieving process, but remember: it’s entirely normal to feel this way. Common symptoms of depression include getting too much or too little sleep, negative feelings about the future, feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of death. However, depression is certainly not a sign of weakness and should certainly not be seen that way. What’s more, depression can be treated, so be sure to ask for help from your doctor, nurse, family and friends.


5. Acceptance

No matter how much grief and pain you go through after losing a limb; there will come a day on which you find peace. That doesn't mean you'll never be sad or think about the amputation again. What it does mean, though, is that you can embark on the next chapter of your life.