Survivors Guilt After the Death of a Child

Every year, I receive a reminder for my annual ultrasound scan. This is necessary due to the genetic predisposition to Matthew’s rare and aggressive form of kidney cancer. While I appreciate the importance of being screened, I can’t help but feel a surge of guilt when the results come back normal. This feeling is commonly known as survivors’ guilt. It feels like getting a participation award in a life tragedy competition but feeling like you don’t deserve it. It’s that nagging sense of guilt that sticks around after surviving a traumatic event when others didn’t.

Despite my efforts to address and release these emotions, remnants of survivor’s guilt linger, particularly evident during my annual scan. I acknowledge that healing is an ongoing process, and I continue to work towards finding peace and acceptance.

Navigating the complex emotions of survivor’s guilt after losing a child is a journey that requires patience and self-compassion. Acceptance and forgiveness are crucial steps in this healing process.

Acceptance is not about letting go of Matthew, it’s about acknowledging the reality of the situation and finding a way to integrate his death into my life. Forgiving myself for any imagined blame or guilt is also essential to healing. I understand that I did the best I could with the information and resources that were available to me at the time. I’m still learning to accept that I did everything I could, and I have forgiven myself for any shortcomings or mistakes I believe I may have made, for example, not making him go the the doctors sooner!

Grief can feel isolating, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Lean on your loved ones for support and understanding as you navigate the complex emotions of survivor’s guilt. Share your feelings openly and listen to the experiences of others who are also grieving the loss of your child. Create a safe space for honest conversations and mutual support as you move through this journey together.

Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is crucial when navigating the complexities of survivor’s guilt and grief. Prioritising your well-being and seeking professional help are important steps in managing your grief and finding healing in the midst of loss.

My podcast, A Gift for Grief, is a useful resource to listen to because connecting with others going through a similar journey reminds you that you are never alone. 

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