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Surviving Survivor's Guilt

Last Updated on Thursday, August 07, 2014

Are you someone who has faced the loss of someone you love because of a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy? Perhaps it was your child or your spouse, a close friend or relative. Whatever the relationship, aside from the pain of the loss, you may also be confronting feelings of guilt or shame.

You may wonder 'Why did I survive and my child did not?', or 'Why did my child survive and my friend's child perish when we both went through a similar circumstance?' You may even feel responsible for the death by thinking there must have been something you could have done to change the outcome. Processing these feelings can be isolating, hurtful and leave you wondering how to go on with life. This is known as survivor guilt.

As devastating as your situation may feel, there is hope. Here are some coping strategies to help you through this experience and allow you to move forward with your life:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk about what you are going through with your friends and family, and seek professional help if the burden is too much for you to handle on your own.
  2. Know it is not your fault. You made the best decisions you could at the time and nothing you can do will go back and change the past. Relieve yourself of the blame and allow forgiveness to replace it.
  3. Get back to your normal routine as soon as possible. While you may not feel like leaving the house or even taking a shower, start going through the motions as soon as you are able. This will help restore a sense of normalcy and rebuild the activities in which you used to find pleasure.
  4. Get involved. While you may feel helpless to change the events you have been through, you can take action now and get control of not only your future but help others who are experiencing or recovering from a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. The Preeclampsia Foundation has many outlets for volunteering, donations and advocacy.
  5. Share your story. We each have come to the Preeclampsia Foundation with our own unique story and sharing yours may provide a cathartic outlet for your emotions about your experience.

Whatever your circumstance may be with survivor's guilt, know you are not alone. Be kind to yourself and those around you, and allow yourself to heal at your own pace. You never have to forget what happened to you or your loved one, but you can move forward and eventually come to embrace your survival. To connect with empathetic individuals who understand exactly what you are going through, we have an active discussion underway on our Facebook Page or our Community Forum. We encourage you to join us and share your story.

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