Sometimes we would give anything, even our own lives, to stop the dying of our beloved. Death never makes sense in the moment, even the death of the elderly. The death of a child or of a relatively young adult is especially unbearable. At these times we can be crushed by the feeling that “it should have been me.” Death brings us face to face with our own mortality, and raises deep questions about the meaning of life, our life.
When the anguish of early grief is past, a type of survivor guilt may possess us. We can’t understand why we are still alive while our loved one is gone. Trying to make sense of our life without our beloved is one of the toughest aspects of grief work. Sometimes, without our beloved it is difficult even to find meaning in our own existence. The work we have to do does not come easily or quickly. It takes months, even years, to find our way to affirming our own lives as significant and worthy. We have to live into our new realities and new names: widow, widower, child-less mother/father, orphan.
Survivor guilt is especially significant for those who have survived a trauma in which others have died. This is complicated grief, and may result in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Those suffering from this type of grief are strongly advised to seek professional help. Please know that you are not alone. There are others who can walk this road with you. If you are unable to seek help on your own, speak to someone who can direct you: your physician, your faith leader, a close friend.