Survivors Guilt to Strength

Very few of us are accustomed to living a lone life. We have had someone/somebody to be with from the day we were born. That is why everyone looks for companionship, even if some fear commitments. It need not always be a partner; it could be a child for a single parent, a caretaker for an orphan, or a pet for an elderly person. The dynamics of the relationship vary for each individual, but it is always some person we look forward to spending our lives with. But what happens when they are no more? It takes away the will to survive and fight your battles alone. The guilt of you being able to breathe while the other person is taken away starts pounding the questions of “why me?” Survivors’ guilt is a typical response to the grieving process. 

What exactly is survivor’s guilt? Survivor’s guilt is the feeling of inadequateness and guilt experienced after a loss in a traumatic situation. The situation could be a natural disaster, an accident, a medical complication, or any situation that caused the death of a loved one. As a result, the survivor starts feeling unworthy of living and continuing with their life. 

As a survivor after my father’s demise, I did not have survivor guilt because I am starting my own family. Yes, I feel guilty about everything I could have done for my father when he was sick. However, my mother, at some point, could be feeling the guilt of carrying on with her life, which was earlier and for years moulded to suit the comforts of her husband. 

You are bound to feel lost if you have lost both your parents, or your partner met an untimely death. To be frustrated at that loss reflects in your life. You stop believing in the miracles of God, you don’t eat the same portions of food, and you don’t feel like doing anything. It all feels meaningless because now, who are you supposed to do things for? Who do you come back home to? Whom do you hug when you feel low? Who do you goof around with? The simple and complicated questions pile on…

You feel tired, physically and emotionally drained. Your mind is desperate to get away from this all. You feel the loss in your body and soul. But who will understand it, like your loved one, which is no more? Yes, some squeeze your shoulder and say they’re here for you, but they are not the shoulder you want to lean on forever. So you start feeling lonely, even when others surround you. This is because the innate connection we develop with our parents, siblings, or partner goes so deep that it is irreplaceable. You have shaped your life through them, and the loss, whether expected or sudden, leaves you in the wind. 

The guilt starts shaping up, and for some reason, we always believe that when we die, we will meet them up in heaven or down the hell hole. How are we humans conditioned to imagine forever and ever, even after death separates us? So we seep in guilt until we are hopeful to meet them again. The combination of loss with regret is overwhelming. 

Compared to the lone survivors, I haven’t experienced a loss so grave. But what I have learned with my family is how we remember the dead. It gives a different perspective on how we get back to normal. Feeling guilty is not the problem. It is common. But we are not ready to acknowledge our feelings, making them difficult to process. 

It is obvious to miss the departed person in your highs and lows. But why don’t we look at how they’d have been proud or comforted us had they been with us? Whatever little life we have left, why don’t we dedicate it to our happy moments together? Healing is not only about crying when you feel low but also about learning to hold back your tears and remember the happy smiles instead. 

Suppose you can do it once, twice, and repeatedly. You are no more guilty about surviving. You will gradually be responsible for your survivor strength. Your role in society is now altered to fill in the gap of the person who has left. It would help if you filled in this void, not for the community, but for yourself – to hold yourself back up. I know you can. 

The first step is channeling a survivor’s ‘guilt’ into the survivor’s ‘strength,’ and the rest should follow. Your parents/spouse trusts you; only you can care for yourself. And for them, you should. Death has not done us apart, and it has made you stronger. 


Writer by day, an overthinker by night. I let my thoughts flow through my writing. As a definite misfit, I let my words speak louder than my actions. Welcome to my journey of sailing through emotions and experiences, with words as my paddles.

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