Managing Your Emotions About Your Body After Ostomy Surgery

After stoma surgery, your emotions may be intense, which is totally natural. Explore the range of emotions and feelings that you may go through, and learn tips to help you cope.


Learn how to deal with emotions after stoma surgery.

Your emotions after stoma surgery can be very intense. That’s partly because the changes to your body are sudden and significant. Getting through the first few weeks and months following surgery can be tough. Take heart in knowing that it is possible to cope with these changes.

Emotional stages during your recovery

After surgery, you may mourn the way your body used to be. As you come to terms with the way things are now, you may go through several stages (see visual below). These “stages of grief’ can happen in any order, moving back and forth in waves, and gradually moving nearer to adjustment and acceptance. Knowing about these stages can help you understand your feelings and recognise these waves of emotion when you are suddenly having a bad day after a period of doing well.


Feeling a sense of loss after stoma surgery

Feelings of grief can come from a profound sense of loss. This loss isn’t just about bodily function – the control of bowel movements – but potentially about the person you used to be and the life you used to live. There are other aspects too, such as losing confidence in yourself and the losing the ability to do some of the things you did before ostomy surgery.

Like other losses you may have experienced in your life, however, you can overcome this – one step at a time, with support along the way.

Dealing with anger after stoma surgery

Many people feel angry after stoma surgery. Some people ask, “Why me?” This is a natural part of the grieving process. Working through your anger can give you strength and help you realise that you can overcome your challenges.

Anger, however, can turn into a very negative emotion. Simmering anger can take up energy, or worse, lead to aggression aimed at those who care about you. Anger directed at loved ones can damage important relationships, so it’s important to manage this phase.

Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Talk through your “anger triggers” with someone who knows you well
  • Take constructive action. Find a way to diffuse this anger – through physical exercise, deep breathing, or relaxation exercises.
  • If you’re in an intimate relationship, try not to direct your anger at your partner

Dealing with worry, fear, and anxiety

You may also be dealing with a range of intense emotions about the future. You might worry about your illness returning, whether you’ll adjust to using a pouching system, how your relationship and social life might be affected, and so many other uncertainties. These concerns can trigger stress and may cause you to withdraw from the very people who love you the most – your partner, family, and friends.

Here are some tips that may help:

  • Talk to your partner, close family member, or friend about your fears and anxiety. Just sharing your worries can help reduce your stress. They might also suggest solutions.
  • Make an appointment with your stoma care nurse or healthcare team to discuss any medical concerns. Just getting an expert opinion can help alleviate unfounded worries.
  • Talk to your stoma care nurse about any ostomy appliance or stoma care concerns. They can offer solutions or reassurances.

If your anxiety is constant, or not improving over time, ask your stoma care nurse or healthcare provider for help. They may recommend counsellors, psychologists, or medications to help you to move forward.

The last word

Remember that all the intense emotions you are going through after stoma surgery are a normal and appropriate response to what has happened. It is always better to get these feelings out into the open and find the help you need, so you can begin to look to your future with hope and optimism.