Journey of Limb Loss and Mental Health

Written by Christine Hill

Amputations are often classified as traumatic vs. non-traumatic. Traumatic referring to amputations as a result of an accident or injury while non-traumatic refers to amputations commonly associated with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease.

Regardless of the cause of amputation though, is it really ever trauma free?

Amputation is a major medical event and a huge life change. It effects not only the individuals’ physical body but also has the potential to cause emotional, mental, spiritual, vocational, and social changes as well.

When we think of trauma we tend to think of some horrific event however, Dr. Gabor Mate, a renowned speaker and author sought for his expertise in topics including addiction, stress, and childhood development, defines trauma “not as what happens to you, but what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you (”

Many healthcare professionals focus on the physical body, yet miss the mental, emotional, and spiritual healing that are so intimately intertwined. When it comes to limb loss we often educate the healthcare providers we are working with that there is often a psychological component as well. Many use the Kubler-Ross Model that outlines 5 stages of emotions one experiences when processing grief.

Kubler-Ross Model


Loss is not just physical and the journey may look straightforward and simple on an infograph, but like we have all experienced, the process of healing is neither straightforward nor simple.

Even though it hurts or may be uncomfortable, it is okay to have dark days and dark moments as long as we don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in those moments.

I was recently reminded of the lotus flower. Finding itself in the darkness and the muck, the lotus flower beings to take small steps to reach upwards with no knowledge or guarantee of what it will find or what will happen. But it keeps going and eventually finds its way out of the darkness. A single petal will begin to open up to celebrate discovery of the light. Along your journey be sure to remember to celebrate the wins regardless of how big or small.

Everyone’s journey is their own and everyone has their own unique and powerful story to tell. Give yourself patience and grace through the journey and don’t do yourself the disservice of comparing your journey to others. Everybody is going to respond to limb loss differently and one way is not more correct than another. Even in the dark days . . .

You are worthy.

You are whole.

You are important.

You are enough.

and You are seen.