Having to undergo a mastectomy can be an incredibly challenging time for anyone with breasts. It represents a loss and a significant adjustment to a new reality. Breasts not only symbolize confidence but also serve as a source of feminine pride. The process of learning to adapt to this new feeling and appearance can be a difficult one to navigate. It is completely natural to have concerns about how your chest looks and to feel lost in terms of knowing how to cope. That is why we are here to offer you four valuable strategies to help you learn to cope with your mastectomy.

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve After Your Mastectomy

Going through a mastectomy can be a traumatic experience, both physically and emotionally. From a body image perspective, we may struggle with accepting the changes that come with this decision. It’s completely normal to feel a deep sense of loss when our bodies are altered due to surgery. On top of that, the medical aspect of the procedure can bring its own set of challenges. This is a time to grieve and process the changes, allowing ourselves to feel a range of emotions such as sadness, depression, confusion, and even feeling lost.

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Remember that these feelings are valid and should be acknowledged. Grief is a unique journey for each person, and there is no right or wrong way to navigate it. Take the time you need to cope with this new reality, and along the way, you’ll discover more about yourself and your identity. Remember the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – but know that the process is not linear or typical. So, embrace your journey and do your soul-searching at your own pace, no matter how long it takes.

2. Find Your Support System

Getting a mastectomy is a loss, a traumatic experience for the individual. You may be feeling all sorts of emotions during this time. But remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Find your people, it can be family, friends, support groups, or people you trust of have had a mastectomy. Any form of connection during this time is essential and encouraged throughout your recovery. Coping can be a challenge, however, knowing you have people you can rely on when things get difficult is special.

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Lean on your support network to help you navigate the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies such a major life change. They can provide a comforting presence during moments of doubt and insecurity. Furthermore, seeking professional help from therapists or counselors who specialize in trauma and recovery can be an invaluable resource, offering guidance and coping strategies tailored to your unique experience. Remember, healing is a journey, and it’s okay to ask for assistance along the way, as your loved ones and healthcare professionals are there to help you rediscover your strength and resilience.

3. Open communication

Effective communication is a vital tool for coping with the emotional challenges that come with a mastectomy. Having someone to talk to and sharing your concerns, desires, and needs can be immensely therapeutic. Your support system is an invaluable space to express the feelings and emotions you’re experiencing. Furthermore, fostering a dialogue with yourself, and actively listening to your inner needs, is crucial in the long-term healing process.

One particularly important aspect of communication is discussing your feelings and concerns with your partner.

The changes in your body image after a mastectomy can be one of the most daunting aspects of the experience. It’s not uncommon for women to struggle with self-perception, feeling undesirable, unattractive, or even shameful. Opening up to your spouse or partner(s) about these emotions can bring you closer together. Your partner(s) or spouse can provide the support and reassurance you need through honest and heartfelt communication. Remember that accepting yourself as you are may take time, but it’s perfectly okay to seek help, support, and comfort during this journey.

4. Self-Nurture

It is challenging to love your new body after getting a mastectomy. It is a big change, and as we’ve learned, it isn’t a quick process. Healing takes time and so is loving yourself again. Here are a few self-nurturing skills you can practice to prevent body shaming post-mastectomy.

These suggestions may be corny at first but a little goes a long way.

Write something nice about yourself. Complimenting yourself in any shape or form is a great way to boost confidence over time, and it is much more meaningful when you say those words to yourself and mean it.

Validation should come from your mouth, first and foremost. A confidence booster like this can help with your self-esteem and how you view your body.

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If you’re not particularly inclined towards writing – there are other fantastic avenues for self-discovery and empowerment!

Consider immersing yourself in the world of podcasts where individuals share their relatable experiences. These podcasts, particularly those discussing body acceptance and the journey of those who have undergone mastectomies, can be a source of profound inspiration.

By tuning in, you cannot only empathize with others but also learn valuable insights.

Let me introduce you to three remarkable podcasts that delve into the realms of body image, self-acceptance, healthy relationships, self-love, and the unique experiences of being a woman:

Lastly, another self-nurturing skill to try out is mirrorwork. Mirrorwork is a method of self-love and can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. This method has been procured by Amina Peterson, an intimacy coach from the new Netflix series Sex, Love, & goop. Peterson explains, “Mirror work moves us out of this space where our beauty is for other people to consume and not for us to realize.”

With this compilation of coping strategies and sources of aid during and following a mastectomy, you are equipped with a valuable toolkit. Addressing the loss associated with a mastectomy involves stages of grief, building a caring support network, fostering open communication, and practicing self-care. If you or someone you know is in the process of or has undergone a mastectomy and seeks guidance in adapting to this new chapter, consider implementing these recommendations to strengthen your coping abilities.