What Happened to My Friends?

A topic came up at our recent support group meeting that I had not considered before, because I have been an amputee practically all of my life. I lost my leg at the age of 4, so all of my friends met me and got to know me as an amputee. I did not lose friends after my amputation, but I've learned that it is not uncommon for this to happen.

Why do friends become distant or even totally disappear when our physical image is changed due to amputation?

What is it that scares them away from us?

Some people just simply may not know how to deal with our situation and so they avoid it - and us - all together. Unfortunately their sense of helplessness can cause us to lose that friendship and it possibly could have been avoided. If that friend would communicate and just let you know that they're uncomfortable with the new you, you could possibly talk through it together. Feeling helpless in a case of loss makes people do strange things, and sometimes, unfortunately, this can include leaving.

Friends may feel that because you have changed physically, you're not the same person anymore as you were prior to your amputation. Perception plays a major role in how we view things and make decisions. If your friend's perception of you changes because you have changed physically by losing a limb, let them know that you are still you. Just because you have undergone limb loss doesn't mean you're a different person or that your personality has changed. You are still the same person they became friends with prior to your amputation.

Fear of the unknown can play a major role in others' decision to avoid us. The decision may be just because they automatically avoid anything that is different than normal. Being "normal" makes people comfortable. So when we aren't what society considers "normal" anymore because we have lost a limb, their feelings of discomfort may cause them to distance themselves from us. They don't know how to approach our disability or they may be afraid of the unknown - abnormal.

If you find yourself with less friends after amputation, try not to be discouraged. While the loss of friendships and relationships can be difficult to accept, please know that you are not alone on your journey. There are others who have walked your same path and are open and willing to become your friend and to support you emotionally. If you're not involved in a support group, reach out to the Amputee Coalition* and find one near you or join one of their virtual support groups.

If your friends disappear or desert you after amputation, this doesn't mean that you are alone! Support is only a phone call, email, text or mouse click away! Reach out to the limb loss community and you'll have more new friends than you could have ever imagined!


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