Effects of Traumatic Amputation on Partnerships: Patient Perspective
by Amber Henson, on Aug 3, 2020
When one person of a couple experiences a life event that results in an amputation, it is important to understand that both people are affected. While the person whose limb was amputated receives the medical treatment, both partners need to know that they have gone through a traumatic event, and should consider receiving counseling, in one form or another.
At Arm Dynamics, we offer our Wellness Inventory patient screening tool that can highlight possible areas that may need to be addressed by a mental health professional. This tool can be useful to help start the process of discussing the impact of an amputation beyond the physical toll, especially for someone who is reticent to do so.
We here at Arm Dynamics are only able to assess our patient, and while that can be enormously helpful, both partners need to be on equal footing. You may need to encourage your partner to seek help in their own way. If you are both willing and able to see a counselor (separately or together) or attend group therapy, be sure that the counselor or group therapist is someone who specializes in grief and trauma.
Peer support can also be very helpful. Other amputees can be a great resource, and being able to observe and speak with an amputee can help you adjust. Many amputees have found it helpful to get to know someone who struggled after their accident, but is now living life the way they want — they are a testament to how time, care and tools can help someone adjust.
It’s important for you to know that recovery is not linear — just because you were able to do something yesterday, does not mean you can accomplish it today. It will be helpful for your partner to understand this as well — you should celebrate the “inchstones” (because waiting for a milestone can get frustrating) together but understand that you may have to cross that inchstone several, if not many, more times before it is behind you. You may find it helpful to assess progress at the end of each week — what is something you can do this week that you couldn’t do last week? Even if you can’t do it consistently, celebrate that with your partner.
You need to be honest about what you are feeling — all feelings are valid, but it’s the actions you take because of them that need to be regulated. This honesty is a start toward healing. Because your partner is not going through what you are going through, you may find yourself pushing your partner away. Your partner may feel hurt, or left out, or helpless and may try to push you away as well. Do your best to be cognizant of these motives and do not let them cause a divide at a time when you really need each other’s support.
Your limb loss was a traumatic life event, and it is important to understand how that trauma has a ripple effect on your partner. Keep the lines of communication open, even if what you need to say is something they may not want to hear.
We have an article similar to this one that is for the partner of someone who has had an amputation. We have more articles on how traumatic amputations can affect different types of relationships, including families and friends. If you are an amputee or the partner of someone with an amputation who is struggling, please reach out to us — we may be able to help you and /or connect you to someone who can. And please comment below if you have any questions or have anything encouraging that you would like to share with your peers.
Sources and Outside Resources:
- Good Therapy - When It All Falls Apart: Trauma’s Impact on Intimate Relationships
- Limbs 4 Life: Practical coping strategies to help amputees and their families
- The Gottman Institute: Reclaiming Our Stories From Trauma
For more Arm Dynamics articles, see related resources here: