Survivor’s Guilt

yes. it’s here. it’s strong.

Harvey destroyed towns, flooded a major city, wreaked havoc throughout the Gulf Coast. Irma is bearing down on Florida and the East Coast. A earthquake rocked western Mexico this morning.

There is so much happening in the world right now. It’s all too much.

This is from a friend of mine, who is a licensed clinical social worker:

Hi friends,

Welcome back to work after a very challenging week for our dear city of Houston in the midst of Hurricane Harvey and dealing with the aftermath. After being bombarded by news stories, Facebook and Twitter updates, and being witnesses to what they are calling the most catastrophic event in U.S. history, it is almost impossible to be left untouched in some way by this tragedy. During the course of the storm, there are people that lost loved ones, pets, homes and all of their possessions. Others, experienced loss of electricity, the opportunity to work and the sense of security that was taken by the powerful effects of the storm. Then there is a group who knew only of the horrific events by what they were seeing and hearing through the media, but were safe in their homes with every commodity and although overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude and relief, experienced a flood of unwanted questions and feelings. “Why not me?” “Why was I so lucky?” “Why was my community spared when the one right next to me is completely underwater??” This is a very common experience that is known as survivor’s guilt. I wanted to share this with everyone because not only have I been experiencing this, but I have been noticing that many others around me are experiencing the same exact thing.

Whether in our work or in our personal encounters with friends and family, it is helpful for us to recognize in ourselves how this natural disaster has affected us. Many people may argue you just have to “get over it.” They say, “Just stop feeling guilty.” But just because you tell your brain to do something logically, does not mean that your emotions always follow. It is helpful to acknowledge that a person can be traumatized by an event only by hearing about it and/or witnessing images of others who have experienced the event. Therefore, do not ignore your experience but rather pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in the same way you pay attention to your body when you get a fever. Your brain and heart are trying to tell you something.

So how do you move on? Once you have acknowledged your thoughts and feelings, it’s important to take time to process those thoughts and feelings. This can be done very simply in various ways. Some people talk to friends or family and just vent about the current events. Others may find comfort in attending a church service or religious ceremony. It can even be done through writing or drawing. Whichever way you choose, it is essential to express your thoughts and feelings about the events.

Please know you’re not alone and that we are here for each other. I encourage all to read the articles that are below when you have a few moments as they are very insightful and helpful. If any of you have questions, feel free to ask. If you find yourself having difficulty managing the survivor’s guilt or experiencing other psychological and emotional effects from this disaster, there is help. If you need guidance as to where to start in your search for a mental health counselor for you or a loved one, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for resources. Your request for information will be kept confidential. Make it a wonderful day!

Coping With Guilt After Surviving a Traumatic Event

National Childhood Traumatic Stress Center

Naomi Rachel Remen

I know many of you may not have been impacted by Harvey or in the path of Irma, but I know I often feel this survivors remorse whenever I see people dealing with major catastrophes online or on TV. If this can help you or anyone you know, please say something. I am here to listen if you need to talk to someone (even a stranger).

Thich Nhat Hanh

Please don’t feel guilty for making it through a challenge. Your path is not the same as others. You do not have to feel guilty for continuing to live your life and being happy.

Now, if only I can learn to internalize all of this.





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