Let’s be honest, when you see an amputee, there’s a lot of things going through your mind! You want to know what happened. You want to know what kind of “leg” they are wearing. Or maybe you even feel a little sorry or instead, feel empowered by them! We get it, you want to say something. Here are a few things to avoid, as well as some things to say instead.
“I don’t know what I would do if I were you!”
Honestly, you’d have two options if you were in my shoes/or in my case, my prosthesis. (Haha!)
- Make things work and live a meaningful life
- Or… feel sorry for yourself!
- It’s simple! For me, I choose to enjoy my life and focus on my blessings!
In this situation, the best thing to do is not to say anything at all, unless you know the person well. Strangers don’t know each other. We wouldn’t come up to another stranger and comment on their physical appearance!
“Speaking of which … “Oh my gosh, I feel so sorry for you!”
Your pity doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t want anybody feel sorry for me, because most of the time I don’t even feel sorry for myself. Everyone has their own hardships and let’s not make this a competition.
“Hey, you are doing awesome in your life.” Again, if you don’t know the person and you wouldn’t normally make a similar comment to a stranger, don’t here either.
“My brother’s nephew’s sister has a niece that is cousins with a girl dating a guy that lost his leg and still runs marathons! I wonder if you know him.”
Contrary to popular belief, amputees don’t all know each other. Sorry to disappoint, but we do not have secret amputee meetings discussing how we are going to take over the world. Though we do share common experiences, we don’t all frequent the same place or do the same thing. We are all different people.
If you are trying to make that connection and you know another amputee, feel free to share their story. Most of us would love to hear the story and even connect with that person. But don’t assume if we know them already – we will let you know if we do.
“I know how it feels but ______.”
Empathy is very sweet and nice, but in this situation it just doesn’t have the same effect. Broken leg or an arm puts you out of commission for a couple of weeks or even months, but you must consider the fact that being an amputee requires a complete and permanent change in lifestyle. When you use statements like these, you do so with the intention of forging a bridge of common understanding. You can’t know unless you’ve actually been there! That being said, we admire your kind sensitivity to our experiences and your effort to understand! Thank you! J
Obviously, again, you are trying to develop an understanding. For example, perhaps you broke a leg. Start with, “Last year I broke my leg and it was very difficult but, I am sure it is a very different experience than what you are going through.” Invite them to share their story. You’ll probably find that although these are very different experiences, there might be some similarities.
“I don’t want to hear your story.”
There’s always that one person. If someone chooses to open up to you, it is because they trust you and they see something in you that allows them to feel comfortable in mindset of their vulnerability. Statements like these make it hard to open and trust.
Be considerate and listen! You never know what you will learn from us, and about yourself. Most likely, no one is going to try and make you feel uncomfortable.
Finally, whispering and/or starring!
Please Note – Just because we are amputees, does not mean we are deaf or blind. While some of us may very well be visually and/or hearing impaired, the rest of us see and hear you quite well. Your pointing, long stares, awkward glances….all that. WE SEE YOU! In addition, we hear you. It’s not like you’re good whisperers anyway. When you think you’re subtly gesturing to your friends to look our way, know that we’ve probably already seen and heard your breathy “whispers”.
Trust and believe that we want nothing more than for you to simply ask when you have questions instead of assuming or making obvious awkward glances. Shoot one of us a friendly smile or just ask. It will make a big difference.