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Understanding Survivor's Guilt When the Lights Go Out

July 13, 2020

Understanding Survivor's Guilt When the Lights Go Out

In the middle of all my grief, I never even really thought about Gideon dealing with Survivor's Guilt after our wreck. Looking back, so many things now make perfect sense, and had I had the good sense to notice everything around me, I would have known.

Gideon was our youngest son, and when Andrew died, I'm quite sure part of him died as well. But again, that's his story to tell. My part of the story is that I didn't pick up on his own grief as much as I should have. And I would want to encourage any grieving parent to take care to watch for the signs that your surviving children may be experiencing Survivor's Guilt (which is also a symptom of PTSD).

Some of the symptoms of Survivor's Guilt include:

1. anger or irritability
2. disconnection
3. problems sleeping
4. flashbacks
5. obsession with the event
6. fear
7. headaches
8. stomach aches
9. social isolation
10. thoughts of suicide

I'm sure there are others, but these are serious symptoms. When I think about my little 8 year old boy going through all of these feelings, I get upset even to this day. (Of course Ray thinks I only spoil Gideon more and more each year!) (I might have cooked him supper after our electricity came on about 9:30 last night... might have... not stating for a fact I did...)

Here's a fact for us moms and dads: All of our children should be equally important to us. Therefore, when our children hurt, no matter how much we are hurting, we need to jump in and give them some comfort, reassurance, and perhaps the occasional late night meal.

I don't want Gideon to ever feel like I somehow loved Andrew more than him. I didn't. I loved both my children to infinity and beyond. I would gladly give my life for either. But sometimes, when I hurt, I forget that he hurts too. And not just Gideon, per se... Ray as well. (Yes, he is just as spoiled! I promise you!)

In reality, both of my overgrown babies did suffer much from Survivor's Guilt. It is real. And my heart always hurt for them both, and still continues to do so. I cannot hardly stand to see either of them cry. (Talk about a Mama Bear coming out of hibernation!)

If you are a parent, or a spouse, or even if you suffer yourself, and are dealing with survivor's guilt. I pray God's peace over your family. I pray for you to have strength to give to the person who is hurting so very much. I know it can be difficult when you are dealing with your own grief. But God is faithful; He certainly has been to me.

So... My advice for someone who may have a family member dealing with survivor's guilt:

1. Do not just blow it off as an attention seeking action. Have patience, and by all means do your best to either help the survivor or find someone who can.

2. Be gentle with the survivor during those moments where he/she doesn't seem to have it all under control. Try to think of what they may be experiencing on the inside. It's easy to see what our loved one who died went through physically, for they are no longer with us. But so many times it is much more difficult to imagine the extreme pain - physical, psychological, and emotional - our loved ones are carrying on the inside.

3. Love them... show them they matter... show them their lives are worth everything and you are so very happy you still have them in your life. Each soul is precious, and just because we lose sight of one doesn't negate the importance of those who are still on this side of eternity with us. Our grief sometimes clouds that. We have to push forward. Our loved ones need us... every single day.

I am so very thankful God saw fit to allow Gideon and Ray to live on April 2, 1998. Although my heart was crushed in losing my firstborn child, my heart has been able to heal because of my baby and my husband. I don't ever want to take them for granted nor miss the signs of their own grief.

Much love to you all!

To Be Continued!