Survivor Guilt: condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not... -Livestrong.com
As another close friend passed away last week after a long 12 year stint with sarcoma, it reminded me of a topic that I have been asked about fairly often...do I have "survivor guilt" and how do I deal with it?
I definitely miss many friends from over the last 17 years that have come and gone. I keep a mirror with little built-in frames around it with all of their pictures. It's getting cramped and I really hate adding pictures. I try not to look at it too much. Some days have more hard parts than others. Or other times a song will come on that reminds me and I get goosebumps or a tear in my eye. A lot of times it makes me smile though like they are saying "hi" and I remember beautiful memories and smiles.
My life is better because of all of them-absolutely. That's why I don't shy away from people who aren't doing well. If anything I am more drawn to being there for them when others may not. Death doesn't scare me. I've come so close so many times. Of course death can really suck but sometimes sickness and death are more comfortable topics for me than many others. They are the realness and reality of life-especially my life. It's why I offered and led a grief and loss group at my previous job and was the go-to for presentations around these subjects in graduate school. It's something I will be around often at my new job.
I certainly do not understand why I am still here when many of my friends are not but I don't feel "survivor guilt" for the most part. How I deal with it is trying my best to live my life in all of my friends' and family's honor. To do things they could not do. To help others in their memory and keep persevering-because that is what they would want. While missing my friend's out of town memorial service in a couple weeks hurts, I know she would want me to work at my new job and help others. As another friend told me in her last couple days over her oxygen mask, "Rachel-you must keep fighting here on Earth and I'll keep fighting in heaven". I try my best to keep my promise to her...
On that note, I am ready for a new year too. New job, new opportunities and hopefully upwards and onwards with health and everything. There is lots to be grateful for!