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How to Cope With Post-Surgery Grief

Post-surgery grief is the feeling of helplessness, sadness, and overall grief that can be experienced after surgery. These feelings of grief could be from a loss during the surgery, loss of time from recovery, loss of an ability, or any other important loss. Whatever the surgical procedure may be, some people do feel loss – and that is okay.

Scars That Show

Scars can be scary and hard to deal with, especially for children. Surgery scars often require a story to be told, and many people do not want to tell their surgery story or discuss their medical history. When scars are left in easy-to-see places, others may ask a lot of questions. It is okay to say that the scars are from a past surgery, you are okay now, and do not wish to talk more about it. Most people will respect your decision and move on from the subject. If they do not, set a firmer boundary. Tell them that you do not want to discuss it and would appreciate them not asking again.

Loss of Body Parts

People who lose body parts due to surgery will likely have a lot of complicated feelings about their surgery. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, the loss of body parts can have distinct and overlapping psychological symptoms. In fact, the grief that follows the loss of a body part is highly comparable to the grief of the loss of a loved one.

The amputee will experience the five stages of grief: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The amputee may also experience clear visual memories of their body part and even feel as if it is still there. Difficulty with the loss, combined with the loss of mobility as they learn how to move differently, may cause anger or depression. In the study, those who were described as self-reliant people seemed to cope very well with amputation surgery at first, but after about a year they showed symptoms of grief. Those who dealt with their emotional grief earlier were able to process and adapt more quickly.

Start therapy or talk about your amputation grief after surgery and remember, it is normal to be sad about your loss. Be sure to give yourself time to grieve.

Cancer Surgeries

Cancer surgeries can cause immense stress due to the threat of losing your life that comes with them. Cancer has a broad range of aggressiveness, meaning that a person who undergoes cancer surgery may also be experiencing other symptoms of their cancer and/or cancer treatment. These symptoms can include acute pain, sleep issues, nausea, vomiting, infection, breathing issues, bowel movement issues, limited mobility, and more.

Victims of cancer may also be experiencing anticipatory grief about their quality of life after surgery. It is okay to be scared about cancer surgery. Talk to your local hospital or cancer center about support groups or find a therapist who can help you process your feelings. Make sure that you work with your family to have your affairs in order, and take time to enjoy life to the fullest.

Athletic Surgeries

Injuries that happen during sporting events can be traumatic and have major consequences for the future of an athlete. People who suffer athletic injuries may feel immense grief at first, mixed with pain and concern about their future athletic ability. The anticipatory grief for time off the field or out of the gym can be intense and persistent. Recovering from athletic injuries is particularly tricky, as rehabilitation for these injuries does not guarantee a lessened risk of another injury.

Many athletes strengthen their bodies as much as they can to avoid injury, and thankfully all sporting events have rules and regulatory gear to avoid injury. If you suffered an athletic injury and it has taken a toll on your mental health, that is okay. The loss of what might have been can be incredibly difficult to process. Therapy can help you cope with your surgery. So can a role change – perhaps instead of playing basketball, you can pursue coaching, volunteer at practices, or run the team website until you are back in the game.

Addiction to Post-Surgery Prescription Drugs

Post-surgery prescription drugs may be required to manage your pain from surgery. If you or your family notice that you are constantly thinking about your prescription, routinely take more than you are prescribed, cannot function without it, or do not want to stop taking it – even long after the doctor said your pain would be gone – it is time to talk to your doctor about prescription drug addiction. There is no shame in admitting that you need help.

Surgery grief is a very real thing. Depending on the type of surgery you have, you may experience sadness or fear. You may also be prescribed strong opioids to manage post-surgery pain, and these addictive drugs can have serious consequences on your overall health. If you or your family notices signs of prescription drug addiction, RECO Intensive is here to help. At RECO Intensive, we understand that surgery grief can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with prescription drug overuse. You may be struggling more than you realize to cope with the aftermath of your surgery. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can create a plan that is specifically catered to your needs. This may include inpatient or outpatient treatment to wean you off post-surgery drugs and therapy to help with your grief. We understand that your pain is immense, and we’re here to help you heal. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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