These stages, in the context of limb loss, are:
1. Denial and Isolation. “This is
impossible. It’s not really happening! I feel
nothing at all.”
2. Anger. “Why is this happening to me? I’m
enraged! God is unjust.”
3. Bargaining. “If I promise to do such and
such, maybe I’ll get my old life back.”
4. Depression. “I feel hopeless. Everything
is beyond my control. Why bother trying? I give
5. Acceptance. “I don’t like it, but the
amputation is a reality. I’ll find ways to make the
best of it and go on.”
The cycle of grief does not flow easily.
Emotional recovery, like physical recovery, is
based on your own timetable and other factors.
These include age, gender, circumstances of
your limb loss (accident, disease, birth), how
you coped with problems in your life before
your limb loss, support or lack of support from
family or friends, cultural values and norms, and
The new amputee may experience feelings
of depression that are difficult to ward off.
What are these feelings and how can you work
Signs & Symptoms of Depression
Loss of appetite, changes in eating patterns
Lack of energy
Sleeplessness or sleeping more than usual
Diminished interest in enjoyable activities
Loss of interest in sex
Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or
Emotions that are flat – expressed robotically
rather than with feeling
Following are some suggestions for overcoming
your depression, physically, emotionally,
mentally, and spiritually.
1. Get your rest. Each day, get out of bed,
get dressed, and, if possible, go out of the
2. Make sure you eat well – not too
many sweets. Foods with sugar will give
you quick bursts of energy then quickly let you
down, taking you deeper into depression.
3. Get involved in physical and
recreational activities that do not
cause you pain. Exercise and gentle
movement will release endorphins to help
4. Practice deep breathing. This will help
relax muscles, decrease pain, and relax and
focus the mind.
5. Decrease alcoholic beverage intake.
Alcohol is a depressant. Eliminate other
drugs that you use to self-medicate. If using
prescription drugs, make sure you take them
6. Accentuate your best features; don’t
focus on the loss. For example, if you have
beautiful skin or eyes, a bright smile, a terrific
figure or a great personality, this is the time to
value your assets.
1. You are not alone.
2. You are not to blame. It is
important that you feel the anger
because if you don’t, it will lead to
3. Write letters and don’t mail
them. Journal your feelings.
4. Increase contact with
supportive family and friends.
5. Assert yourself and
communicate clearly. Tell those
around you what you need and don’t
need. For example, you may need to
expend less energy this year so conserve
your energy. Go to a movie or rent a
video, especially if the weather is harsh.
6. Tell your loved ones you are
experiencing grief and talk about
your loss together. This gives your
loved ones the chance to express their
feelings since they, too, have to adjust
to your loss. So don’t skirt around the
issue, walk on eggshells or ignore the
problem. Be honest and talk it out. This
will give you and yours a greater chance
to heal and adjust.
7. Remember, people want to
help but often don’t know what
to do to support you. So ask,
ask, ask! You can remain independent
– but let go of the controls for now.
Allow others to give to you so you can
replenish your energy.
8. Explore the potential benefits
of meditation, guided imagery
9. Contact a support group. If
there isn’t one in your area, contact the
Amputee Coalition office toll-free at 888/267-5669 for
information and help.
10. Laughter is a healer of
depression, so add humor. Make
light of something that is serious, and
laugh at yourself.
11. Get professional help
if the depression becomes
overwhelming and no small
changes are occurring. Everyone
needs help at some point in his or her
life. Be a positive statistic. You are
worth it. If finances are a problem, call
your local mental health office or the
Amputee Coalition at 888/267-5669 for information on
12. Most importantly, know
that these feelings will lessen
over time; however, for now, get
1. Commit yourself to work
with the medical staff,
physicians, nurses, occupational
and physical therapists, and
prosthetists, even when you
don’t want to.
2. Do not make big decisions
such as beginning or ending a
relationship, or buying or selling
a house or car, when you are
depressed. You may regret this later.
3. Go to a mental health
professional for evaluation and
medication if necessary.
4. Seek alternative medicine,
acupuncture and hypnotherapy
for pain management, phantom
pain, sleeplessness, anxiety and
5. Replace negative self-talk
about your body and life with
positive cognitive messages.
1. Forgive yourself; don’t judge.
Dr. Harold H. Bloomfield, co-author of
How to Heal Depression, states, “The
primary reason to forgive is for your
peace of mind and the quality of all
your future relationships. That’s what
we do when we forgive – let go of the
imaginary (but painful) control of the way
we think things could be, and we untie
ourselves from the burden of judging the
way they are.”
2. Learn to redefine yourself.
• Keep your dreams and create a new
definition of success. Make goals and
objectives for the future, and start small.
• Accept support from loved ones while
• Make new rituals/memories thus
creating hope for the present and future.
• If your religion or spirituality is
important to you, become more involved
• Remember: A part of you is only
physically gone or altered; the core of
you is still the same.
Amputation is an enormous loss and
learning to adjust is a process that takes
time – so be gentle with yourself. Try
not to isolate yourself or withdraw from
people; use your experiences to build
new memories and start new traditions
to reach your goals. Sure, there will be
adjustments for your disability along the
road to success – but it is still your path.
Who you are has not changed. Always
remember, you are much more than your
—by Omal Bani Saberi, LCSW, CCHT
About the Author
Omal Bani Saberi is an above-knee
bilateral amputee. She is a licensed
clinical social worker (LCSW) and a
certified clinical hypnotherapist (CCHT)
with Master’s Degrees in Social Work
and Counseling Psychology. Currently,
she is in private practice, providing
mental health services, including
counseling and psychotherapy.
You may reach her by e-mail at
National Mental Health
Association Resource Center
2001 N. Beauregard Street, 12th Floor
Alexandria, VA 22311
(Or contact your county mental health
How to Heal Depression
Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, and Peter McWilliams
On Death and Dying
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
(New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1969)