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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Which is Harder?

I love receiving emails and comments on my blog. I invest a lot of myself into each post, never knowing who my audience is going to be on any given day. I have learned early in this endeavor that I never know who I am going to reach or what information they are seeking.

Last week I received an interesting email. I was contacted by an author who is in the process of doing research for an upcoming book. This author is well-established and has published numerous action/adventure books. The fact that a "real author" was reading my words in an attempt to gain insight into the life of an amputee not only thrilled me, but validated my efforts.

This author's research was apparent when he started asking me questions. He posed an interesting question. He wanted to know which was harder: the adjustment to the physical limitations and changes caused by the amputation or the grief over the limb loss.

Obviously, the physical impact of the amputation is the most obvious adjustment. After my amputation I had to walk on a prosthetic, shower with one leg as well as a multitude of other basic daily living activities. For months it seemed that daily I encountered a new physical obstacle that I needed to conquer in order to complete seemingly mundane activities. Learning to live my life as an amputee was both laborious and exhausting.

In many ways, the psychological impact of my limb loss didn't present itself during the initial adjustment period. I think I was so focused on learning how to live as an amputee that I didn't have time to really think about my new situation. I had a lengthy list of skills that I needed to learn in order to regain function. I was focused on each goal. When a new skill was mastered, I knew that I was moving towards independence and I was able to take pride in my accomplishment.

It wasn't until after I learned how to live as an amputee that the reality of my loss became apparent. When I was no longer focused on achieving independence I let my guard down, and the grief set in. I needed to mourn the loss of my leg. It was a process that was lengthier and more painful than I anticipated.

I was walking and appeared "normal" to those around me. Only a few friends and family, in whom I confided, knew the depths of my grief. I was distraught. I felt lost and inept. Grieving my leg threw me into a full blown identity crisis.

I was feigning happiness for so long that I began to wonder if I would ever feel true joy again. Slowly I began opening up and giving my feelings a voice. I realized that the more I acknowledged the pain, the more it seemed to dissipate. It was a long process, but eventually I realized my laughter and smiles were genuine.

Grieving any loss takes time. It is imperative that both the amputee and those supporting him or her realize that adjustment does not happen overnight. My family and friends circled around me, allowing me to talk and cry whenever I needed to. They reinforced that I had a lot to offer the world, and that I could continue to help others despite wearing a prosthetic leg. They told me that I was beautiful when I felt freakishly ugly.

I learned through this process that I am not the same person that I was before I lost my foot. I am stronger than I realized. I am a more secure, confident woman. I have more respect for health and for completing seemingly mundane activities. In many ways, my amputation has made me a better person.

I enjoyed speaking with the author and telling him my experiences. In my opinion, and through my experiences, the psychological adjustment was much harder than the physical. What do you think?


  1. Beautiful post, Peggy. It makes me realize that I sort of "missed" Pat's adjustment to being an amputee because he really didn't share all of it with me. I'm curious to hear his reaction to your post.Oh, and I'm so glad you're healthy!

  2. My mom died when I was a child and I spent about 25 years coming to terms with it, 25 years to not think about her, cry about her, miss her every day. Losing my leg (well, really foot) made me as sad and distraught as her death. But I decided, I don't want to spend 25 years getting over it. That's too much time! I refuse to give the sadness that much of me. So, I go to the gym, take care of my kids, work, garden, cook, just move on. Because every day is easier and I am still me, despite this loss, and my family loves me. Aren't I lucky to be alive?

  3. I think we subconciously trigger an emotional defense mechanism when a traumatic physical event occurs. It deflects or subdues the psychological feelings of loss, steering our thoughts and energies towards survival and coping with the immediate physical adjustments we need to make. when i lost my limb last march, i was surprised that i didn't feel as sad as i thought i "should" feel. instead, i found myself comforting family members who were greiving for me. today, a year later, there are times when the emotional aspects of limb loss get the better of me... which may surface easier now that my physical adjusting period has passed.

    a sad twist last march, my mom was dying while i was in the hospital and passed away while i was in rehab. her death did not affect me emotionally as i imagined it would over the years... makes me wonder if that event was shielded from me emotionally by my limb loss.

  4. Interesting comments. I agree with what Al said about " I didn't feel as sad as I thought I should feel....instead I was comforting family members..." I feel this same way. It has been 6 months since my leg was taken and i have accepted it and I am pretty sure that I have emotionally moved on. what I have had a hard time dealing with is that my daughter was just 5 months old when it happened and I missed so much of her early life during my recovery and hospital stay. And now she is 11 months old and I cannot play with her the same way I would be able to if i had two knees or two legs. I cannot even cary her out of the house yet. But I have faith and so for now I continue to look forward.

    I consider this a daily journey. - Sarah G

  5. I want to thank everybody for their input. I am forwarding the entire post, comments included, to the author. Hopefully he will get an accurate depiction.

  6. Even though I have only been an amputee for the past two weeks, I find that my thoughts are focused on getting my prosthetic. I prepared myself so much before surgery, that each day without my new prosthetic seems like a huge delay. I have had chronic pain for over two years, the reason for my amputation; therefore, I am ready to get my life moving again. I feel like I have won the lottery, as my new life is what I want to make of it.

    I miss my leg, but I don’t miss the pain. Psychologically “I’m fine,” but there are times, very few during the past two weeks, that I am saddened by my loss. There isn’t one thing that sticks out to be the source of the anguish, it can be as simple as watching a drama on TV. I find myself making sure that everyone around me is “okay”, which in turn, is not allowing me to actually think about what has just happened to me. I expect that the next few months will become more difficult, psychologically, as I will begin to focus on my recovery.

    I also realize that each amputee will go through different emotions, some will mourn the loss of their limb immediately and others, like me, will celebrate it, as they will be able to start a new life. I am sure as time progresses and I get on my “two” feet, I will begin to realize that my new life is no different than my life, prior to my auto accident, and the loss of my limb will begin to take a psychological toll on me. As for right now, I am excited about the possibilities, but I am realistic, that I will have more psychological issues as time progresses.