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Survivors Guilt

Updated: May 16, 2021

Something that you often gain during your cancer journey is new friendships, meeting people in the cancer wards in hospital, going to various cancer support groups or support activities where you may meet others going through cancer. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to keep these people in our lives as they are taken away by cancer. It is SO common for a survivor to feel guilt related to one’s death. It may feel so unfair that someone that you loved so much has been taken away, maybe they are younger, have kids and a beautiful family and you think “how did someone like that have to die from cancer?”. Sometimes you may compare yourself to others and weigh up who should have been able to live and who had the more fulfilling life.

While I don’t believe that this feeling can ever go away, I do believe there are ways to cope. Here are some of the things that I have found useful to cope with survivors guilt:

Acknowledge what you are feeling –

Although the feelings of guilt are touch attempt to acknowledge them and their presence, understand how and why you are feeling them.

Doing good for others –

Some of the most rewarding things you will ever do is volunteering or helping someone out. This can be something really small or it could be quite a significant thing. Volunteering for a charity can help you feel like you do have a reason to be here and you aren’t taking it for granted, you are giving back. Fundraising is another fun idea to help give back. This can be a simple idea of making and selling things to the public or making a larger event such as a BBQ raising money. Another simple way is to just lend a helping hand to someone. This could be as simple as picking something up for someone who has dropped it, helping elderly neighbours that might need a hand in the garden, or offering support to a friend.

Accept the feelings –

These feelings are hard to keep away forever and often they come back into our lives, especially when we lose someone. Accept that you are feeling this way but remember you are not to blame and you have no control over the situation.

Talk to someone you trust –

Talk about some of your feelings with a friend, family member or someone you trust. People that love you will make sure that you know you are loved and wanted here.

Do not compare your life to others –

It is as simple as that, DO NOT COMPARE YOUR LIFE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S! Your life is just as valuable and meaningful as the next person and there is no need to compare your life, what you have achieved and how happy you are with someone who may not have made it. You are good enough!

Be proud of yourself –

Be proud of how far you have come and the journey you have been through. No matter what kind of cancer you have had we all experience some really rough times but you have pushed through and made it! Be proud of yourself.

Compassion for self –

Have some compassion for yourself. Ask yourself, would you think about the worth of someone else and whether they should be here? Probably not, so why are you doing it to yourself?

It's okay to be happy and doing well -

If you are currently happy and doing well in your life well done! Do not think you cannot be happy and do well because someone close to you has passed from cancer and you survived. Make the most out of your life, you have already come this far!

It's okay to continue with your life -

Similar to the last point, it’s okay to continue with your life after surviving cancer!

Ask yourself what control did you have over the situation? -

Asking yourself these questions puts the situation into perspective, did you really have any control over what happened? Other than keeping on going with the fight you had no control so do not blame yourself or feel bad.

How do others around you feel about your survival? -

When thinking about the loved ones in your life, how happy are they to have you in their lives? Imagine if it wasn’t the case? You are loved and others are happy you are still here.

Be patient -

Although there are ways to make having these feelings better, be patient with yourself. Not every day is going to be easy and sometimes you need to have time to just feel these feelings.

Seek help -

Like always, seek help when needed. If you feel like you are really struggling with feelings of survivors guilt seek help from a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or someone you trust. It’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to ask for help!

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