Survivor’s guilt isn’t just for those who’ve survived a war. Many cancer victims suffer with this overwhelming feeling.
While going through cancer treatment a patient meets many other people who are fighting the same battle. When they beat the illness they often wonder “Why me? Why did I survive when so many others didn’t?”
It’s important to understand that this feeling is very real. However, the basis for it is not real or true. Remember, cancer is not your fault. You are not to blame for anyone else having cancer or dying from cancer. The guilt you feel is real but your feeling of personal responsibility is not.
Time is a major factor in healing. As time passes the cancer victim goes back to their day to day life and some sense of normalcy returns. In some cases, time is all that is needed.
For others, they need to consciously work on their feelings.
Here are some ideas to help you on your journey:
Accept all your conflicting emotions. These can include sorrow, anger, fear, confusion, uncertainty, numbness, anxiety, guilt and a host of other ongoing feelings. These feelings aren’t right or wrong, they are simply the reality of what you feel.
Journaling helps some cancer survivors voice their thoughts and emotions in a safe environment. By writing down their feelings they can get them out without thinking they are burdening others. Plus, they don’t have to worry about justifying their feelings to anyone else.
Survivors often feel a heightened sense of responsibility. They think they must have been spared for some great purpose. While it’s important to move on and enjoy life with gusto, it’s not necessary to try and take on changing the world or to feel it’s now your duty to do so.
When these feelings remain after a period of time, it often requires the help of professional counseling. Ask your oncologist or his nurse for a list of resources. They should have names of psychologists and counselors who specialize in helping patients with survivor’s guilt.
Your doctor should also have a list of local support groups. If not, call the American Cancer Society and they can refer you to local groups.
The positive side of this feeling of guilt is; it often makes the survivor more aware of ways they can help others fighting the same battle. By sharing their experience they help others who are experiencing cancer. They find ways to turn the negative to a positive.
It is often hard for family members to understand survivor guilt. They are so happy that their loved one has survived that they feel only happiness. They don’t understand why their family member is sad or depressed. This is why counseling for family members can be as important as for the cancer survivor.
Don’t let survivor’s guilt ruin your chance of living a happy life. Though these feelings are normal, they do not have to affect the rest of your life. You do not have to fight this battle alone. Deal with it as quickly as possible and get the help you need to move forward – cancer free and guilt free.