Survivor’s Guilt

I have a broad understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) I’ve read a lot about it…so much so that even my Instagram advertises about PTSD charities on my feed (weird).

PTSD

this advert about PTSD came up on my Instagram feed

 

There is one thing that I suffer from and that is Survivor’s Guilt.  This is when someone believes they have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.  In my case I have double the effect.  Why?  Because I survived a horrifying terrorist attack and second, I survived infertility…all within weeks of each other.

I did not know anyone personally who died in the Brussels terror attacks.  But I saw people who were dead or dying being carried out on stretchers, left alone on the side of the road as I helplessly watched.  At the time I wanted to help, but of course I couldn’t, I was (sensibly) being pushed further and further away from the airport.  I have these images burned into my head of a man with his body broken, dusty, bloody, head with loose bandages wrapped around his head, face indistinguishable and arm hanging out, quietly moaning.  All alone.  But I was behind glass some 20 metres away watching this happen in front of my eyes as more as more people were stretchered out.

I get it.  They have a system of triage, there were only so many first responders who were there in the first 20 minutes after the explosions.  The cordon was set up to protect people.  After all, there was a third bomb in there.  We know tactics of terrorists are to create mass effect by targeting the first responders.  But that boundary, the distance was so close, but so far.  I heard people were saying – I’m a first aider…I’m a nurse…I can help.  But they weren’t allowed to.  I can’t get my head around those very short moments.

I feel guilty for surviving, for not being able to help.  Sometimes my mind is heavy with these thoughts.  This doesn’t outwardly appear to affect me overall.  Well, I don’t think it does.  But I do have some bad dreams (to be expected), not regularly, but perhaps it does affect my sleep.  I wake up very early some days, I tend to put it down to my jet lag, but actually, it could be a symptom of PTSD.  I don’t have problems falling asleep, and I’m not afraid to fall asleep, so I don’t feel like it is an issue.

Then there is my pregnancy.  I am overjoyed we finally achieved our dream, we fought hard to get here!  But along the way, I have made friends with some very lovely women who have struggled with infertility too.  And the feelings I have are that of guilt.  Guilt that I have left them behind.  Similar to survivor’s guilt, and in some ways could be classified as such.  Infertility is traumatic.  I feel like I took the last life boat and rowed away from the desert island leaving you all behind in uncertain conditions.  So some days I haven’t been able to open and read blog updates, Instagram is hard to scroll through.

For those of you who are reading this and now worrying about me (my mum probably!!!) It’s OK, I’m OK.  I am sensitive to my levels of anxiety and sadness, and how that impacts my daily life…and I am OK.  Writing this down is kind of a release to me, and re-reading my writing makes me see things more objectively.  And that helps.

I found some words that are helpful (I think) on strategies to cope with survivor’s guilt:

“Rather than focus on the burden of guilt, remind yourself that you and your loved ones have been given a gift — the gift of your survival. Embrace your will to survive and fight the forces that challenge your way of being.”

Reading these words make me feel happy because deep down I know they are true, I just need to remind myself of this when I start to feel sad or guilty.

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19 thoughts on “Survivor’s Guilt

  1. My Perfect Breakdown says:

    I completely understand the infertility survivor guilt. I often think about how fortunate I am to have my son and I am determined to never take a moment with him for granted. And while not the same as your experience surviving the Brussels terror attack, I have always felt guilt for not being in the car that killed my mom and sister and surviving. I still feel this guilt and I suspect I always will in some shape or form.
    I think this type of guilt is completely normal. But I also thinking dwelling it isn’t healthy either. Somehow we just have to pick ourselves up, embrace that we are moving forward in our own way and make the most of it. At times this is harder then other times. I think the quote you shared is spot on.
    Sending my love my friend and hoping your guilt eases with time.

    Like

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Thank you for your thoughts….you know I greatly admire you for sharing on your blog your times of lows, and how you do get out of them when you think about your mom and your sister. And thank you for sharing this on my page too because it can’t be an easy subject to think about in this particular way. We are unlikely to ever forget or forgive ourselves for surviving, and I do think it’s OK as long as they are acknowledged and shared with at least one other person, not bottled up inside, pent up, ready to explode. I’ve definitely learned this with infertility too.

      The human psyche is weird, but guess that is what makes as human after all.

      Thank you XX

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The EcoFeminist says:

    As someone who is still in the middle of the struggle to try to get pregnant, my best advice for anyone who does end up having a kid is to pay it forward. Simply talking about how you feel guilty doesn’t make anybody else feel better and will probably cause a lot of eyes to roll… but if you take a tangible action to help somebody else or address an issue related to infertility, you’ll not only help assuage your own guilt but also have a lot of respect from the people who are still in the trenches. Stuff like advocacy work to try to get infertility treatments covered by insurance for all where you live, or donating money to someone’s fundraising to try to afford their own treatment, advocating for a better adoption tax credit or a less awful foster care process, or other things like that that promote a greater understanding of infertility and greater support of the men and women who still don’t know what it’s like to have a kid.

    They say when you’re grieving that giving back to others as one of the greatest ways to help cure your own pain. I would love to see more who have made it to the other side pay it forward by reaching their hand back to lift another up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Hi there! I just followed your blog! I hope that this cycle is the one for you 🙂

      When I first read your comment my stomach tightened because all I read was criticism…which I know isn’t your intention at all and is a reflection of my vulnerabilities!!! Particularly as I am constantly paranoid of making others’ eyes roll, I’m quite sensitive like that :-p

      I’ve read some musings about the idea of giving back to help overcome survivor’s guilt. It is a really good idea. With regards to infertility I too believe strongly in advocacy!!! Since our diagnosis I’ve slowly become quite vocal about it. I have written letters to congressmen and senators about all these things. I am a Brit, and I don’t get a vote here in the US, but I still decided I should raise awareness and make my voice heard! I have also donated to others anonymously because I am very lucky I can afford to< I do like doing that. I have also said to Chris that if we ever win any significant amount of money I know exactly where I want it to go. I spend many hours a week supporting women who are going through infertility in different ways. I am involved with my local infertility group and I do not have plans to stop being involved now and in the future. Infertility doesn't go away when you get pregnant and have a child or two or three…or however many a couple desires. It leaves scars and wounds that are easy to re-open. So I definitely believe in giving back to others in general, and as a way to help me not feel guilty. I too encourage others to do so if they feel strong enough to do so. But so far for me, the guilt hasn't stopped, it's still there.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      Like

  3. snowdroplets says:

    I just want to share with you my hopes that you will be able to let go of the infertility survivors guilt. When I think of you and my friend Mrs. MPD above, I feel so happy for you. Hearing your stories, I feel more hopeful and confident that I’ll eventually have children myself. It’s not going to be the way or the timing that I expected, but it will happen. Hearing positive stories from women like you is wonderful and I’m happy for you. From my perspective, no need for any guilt. Just love yourself and that little person with everything you’ve got! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Hi there!!! I’ve just followed your blog – I see you too have suffered from PTSD 😦 I am so sorry. I’m going to have a good read of some of your older blog posts too 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂 I remember when I first started on this journey writing similar things on other ladies’ blog posts too…for me it was important to read about successes. There were too many times when I read about failure and made me feel pretty depressed that it would never happen to me.

      Thank you for your thoughts, I greatly appreciate them X

      Like

      • snowdroplets says:

        Yes! PTSD has been an extremely difficult problem for me. I’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s very persistent and hard to get over. I look forward to chatting with you some more. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Surviving Infertility says:

    I cant imagine the things you think of and see from the attack. So traumatic. Im sorry u had to go through this.
    Also, I understand what u mean about survivors guilt with pregnancy. It hurts me to read some of the blogs and instagrams from those still in the trenches. My heart aches for them. Its tough, but u are doing great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Oh goodness me, I am very sorry she experienced that too 😦

      You know, my hubby definitely hasn’t found it easy and in some ways experienced the trauma by proxy in a very different way. We are definitely in it together as a family…and so I imagine it can’t be easy for you either.

      Thank you for stopping by and your kind thoughts 🙂

      Like

  5. flatwhitetogo85 says:

    I’m so sorry you are going through all of this. I completely understand the infertility survivor’s guilt. I do feel guilty that I didn’t struggle half as much as so many people (We were “only” trying a few years and I never actually had IVF. We were supposed to in January but it was cancelled at the very last minute for an admin reason. At the time my world felt like it was collapsing after all the waiting and fighting to get started…but then we got incredibly lucky). I don’t think there is much you can do to make the feelings of guilt go away, I just try to be sensitive by not putting scan pictures up on Facebook or being too vocal about the fact I’m pregnant.

    As for your guilt about Brussels, I just can’t imagine how that feels. It must have been awful to be there and to be so scared, then also to be prevented from helping other people (which of course you HAD to be prevented from doing). It must also be awful having those images permanently etched in your mind. I think the quote is very apt though and I hope over time the guilt eases. Just remember that you did not do those terrible things to those people. You seem like a lovely person and it would just be horrendous if the terrorists won by not only robbing those innocent people of their lives, but by permanently ruining yours and others for being unable to change events you never wanted or created x x x

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Awwww thank you so much for the lovely words and sharing your thoughts.

      That is a good point about not putting up scans or pregnancy related things on fbook. I am trying to figure out a way to announce, I want it to be sensitive but also make people aware of infertility and pregnancy loss too.

      You are absolutely right about these terrorists…I get so angry at them and glad they caught one and others involved in it. This is a good reminder for me, thank you X

      Liked by 1 person

  6. libraryowl33 says:

    I think it’s really good that you’re processing your feelings about these things by writing them down. These are legitimate feelings that need to be recognized. You can’t move past them until you’ve dealt with them, so this is a step in the right direction.
    I think you’re right that Infertility can cause PTSD. What we’re going through is traumatic on our bodies as well as our minds. You deserve to be happy though, and you’re going to be such a wonderful mother. Process these things so that you can move past them, and then let yourself move forward into focusing on the beautiful, healthy baby that is growing inside you. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeanette says:

    I have never commented before, but wanted to say I am thinking of you today as another international airport was struck with terrorists today. I can only imagine what this news and images must be like for you as a survivor of such a horrible crime. Praying that you are able to find helpful ways to comfort and support yourself. And of course prayers to all who are affected yet again by these senseless acts of terror. Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Thank you Jeanette for your kind thoughts. I am of course sickened by the events in Istanbul, and it did give me a slight punch in the stomach reading and watching these cowardly attacks. In someways it reminds me how lucky I am to be alive today, that their plans didn’t go as they had hoped in Brussels because what happened in Turkey was devastatingly effective 😔 it’s such a sad world.
      Thank you for your support 😊

      Like

  8. Alaine says:

    Very Lovely writing! It is so elegantly worded. I love the inspirational quote and I do hope it helps you cope with the guilt and enjoy your precious gifts!!

    Like

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