Approximately 2 million Americans are currently living with limb loss. The causes range from trauma to vascular disease and include people who were born with a congenital limb difference. Every walk of life is represented, every age and ethnicity, and every geography.

Consider this: everyone has the potential to join this group.

What works

Losing a limb can be physically and emotionally devastating. People may feel overwhelmed by questions and a changing future. Loved ones may not know how to help. Much of what is available is either dated or colored by high-profile people with limb loss whose experiences, although an important demonstration of possibilities, are often not typical.

Although there is no map to success, surveys from the Amputee Coalition show that peer support and connecting with others who have had similar experiences has a positive impact. Being supplied with resources and information about what to expect throughout the recovery process is empowering, helping people to define their own path. It is also important to be your own advocate or to ask others for help to get the support that you need.

What to expect

Healing includes physical, social and emotional aspects. A changing body and physical abilities are addressed with your clinical care team. Social and emotional healing can be more complex, as is exploring body image and self-esteem. Many people who have had an amputation also go through a grieving process; one study estimates that 36 percent of people with limb loss have experienced depression.

There are many trustworthy resources available that demonstrate that there is no right or wrong way to heal, including the Amputee Coalition’s resource guide, “First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss.”