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Psychological Recovery from Amputation

The Amputee Coalition recognises six phases of psychological recovery outlined in the table below. 

These phases of recovery are influenced factors such as your overall health, amount of social support and how the amputation affects daily living tasks.

These phases are like the grieving process in that individuals will experience the phases in different ways and for different time periods.

A variety of resources exist to help successful recovery from amputation.

  • Peer visitation
  • Amputee support groups
  • Online support groups 
  • Individual or group counselling with a social worker or psychologist
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Supportive family and friends

You must remember that there is no correct way to react to an amputation and reaching the point of acceptance takes courage and determination. Do not give up on your recovery: seek help from others, understand that most people who ‘try to help’ are well intentioned and stay involved in your recovery.

The Six Phases of Amputation Recovery

  1. ENDURING:  Surviving amputation surgery and the pain that follows Hanging on; focusing on present to get through the pain; blocking out distress about future: it is a conscious choice not to deal with the full meaning of loss and self­ protection.
  2. SUFFERING: Questioning:  Why me?  How will I …….. ?  Intense feeling about the loss: fear, denial, anger, depression, vulnerability and confusion; return to the Enduring stage, emotional anguish about the loss of self adds to the pain.
  3. RECKONING: Becoming aware of the new reality.  Coming to terms with the extent of the loss; accepting what is left after the loss; implications of the loss for future; minimising own losses in comparison to others’ losses.
  4. RECONCILING: Putting the loss in perspective.  Awareness of one’s strengths and uniqueness; more assertive; taking control of one’s life; self­management of illness and recovery; changed body image; need for intimacy.
  5. NORMALISING: Reordering priorities.  Bringing balance to one’s life; establishing and maintaining new routines; doing the things that matter; allowing priorities other than the loss to dominate; advocating for self.
  6. THRIVING: Living life to the fullest.  Being more than before; trusting self and others; confidence; being a role model to others; this level of recovery is not attained by everyone.