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Sun 28 February 2021

Survivor Guilt, Why Don't I Feel Lucky?

Meet Jorja, a beautiful woman struggling with survivor guilt.

I survived, so why don’t I feel lucky?

It’s a miracle, it’s meant to be, count your blessings, and make every day count – all things people automatically say and sure in theory that would be great. In fact that sounds like a luxury at this point. I wish people would understand that I can’t feel those things, I can’t feel anything beyond the panic, regret and all-consuming heartache.

There’s a heavy weight on my chest, my legs seem to drag, my emotions are at tipping point, my head is a fog, what I want to do and what I can do just don’t seem to align. Excuse me if I don’t seem grateful, I am… I think? Or maybe I will be… I hope.

But for now, all I feel is remorse and a total sense of responsibility for such a tragic outcome being bestowed upon someone else when I have been spared. This horrible catastrophic natural disaster happened, I was there to help, to fight to save people, their homes and communities. Instead, we were fighting for our lives, to simply survive the event ourselves. I was pulled from the frontline for a mandatory rest period and someone else died in my place.

I have survivor guilt, it defines me now but I hope it won’t always be that way. There are far too many ‘what if’s’ that I am unable to logically process. My family live with the terror of what might have been. The flashbacks for me are real. The nightmares for my partner are as well but in a different way, I hate that I did that to them. I want to help make sense of this for everyone, but I can’t comprehend it myself. Sometimes tragic things happen, it isn’t fair and it isn’t logical. That doesn’t take away their impact and it doesn’t mean we should be expected to bounce back.

I used to think that these things don’t define you and how you move on does. But now I think differently, I think it does define me because it has been life altering, it has sent my life in a completely different trajectory and now I am fighting to make it count, to live enough life for the both of us – the one who was and the one who should have been. I don’t yet have the answers and the wounds haven’t yet healed, maybe they won’t, maybe they will just become part of the fabric of my being. Instead of pushing these feelings and experiences down and burying them, I am throwing them out in front and leading with them, dragging this foggy brain and these heavy legs and heart. I know I have a lot of life left to live and you best believe I will be bringing all that baggage along for the ride, it has to mean something – even if I am not yet sure what that is or what it is meant to look like. And hey maybe this is the wrong way to do it, but trying to forget and denying my experiences hasn’t worked yet so now I’m being honest to myself and to my support crew.

I have survivor guilt and now I have to make sense of why and how to keep living.