Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SURVIVING “SURVIVAL GUILT”


“Survival Guilt” is the type of remorse felt by people who manage to survive while their friends or loved ones do not. The events that take their lives do not have to be traumatic. They can be the result of a long illness or even old age. The common denominator, however, is that the survivor feels a tremendous guilt at being able to get on with their life. It can be summed up by: “why am I the lucky one?”

When my husband died at the young age of 59 it was the result of a lifelong illness. He was a brittle Type 1 diabetic &, although the death certificate read “congestive heart failure” it was the side effects of the diabetes that killed him. When this happened I felt shock, anger and sorrow, but overriding it all was an ominous feeling of guilt. I kept thinking how unfair it was that I would be here to enjoy all the milestones of the family that we had created...but Dick would not.

I was going through my own adjustments before he died. I had joined Alcoholics Anonymous 15 months earlier and I no longer had the crutch of alcohol to help me forget. This proved to be a blessing in disguise. “Forgetting” would have been the worst thing I could have done.

With the help of my sponsor and the kind people in AA I was able to face the loss and to experience all the emotions but not have them overwhelm me. I still felt that I’d let Dick down however and one night, while sitting at the table in my kitchen, I closed my eyes and “talked” to him. I told him that I loved him and that I hoped he was in a place of peace and finally free of pain and disease. I was going to ask him to forgive me but I was stopped in mid-sentence.

I felt a breeze on the back of my neck and then something brushed by my left shoulder. My eyes flew open and I blurted out, “Dick, is that you?” Of course no one was there but I felt a sense of comfort that I had never felt before and I knew that I had been absolved and that all was right in my world.

This is a true story, exactly as it happened to me. I am not a religious person but I do believe there is a type of higher power out there. It’s way beyond my comprehension but there is no doubt in my mind that it was with me that night in my kitchen.

(This is a repeat blog entry and I apologize to AC, Chancey & Cazzie who commented on the original.)

9 Comments:

Blogger kenju said...

I'm glad that you posted it again, Ginnie. As I was reading the sentence about something brushing your shoulder, I got cold chills and a tightening feeling in my neck muscles. I do believe that it was he you felt - letting you know he didn't hold you responsible for the guilt.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Hap Joy Free said...

beautiful story.....Dick would want you to be happy, joyous and free, the best way to rememer him.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

No apologies necessary. It's worth a reprise. I do believe that there is some power or whatever in saying things out loud like you did. I don't really mean it in a mystical sense, but just that there is something to saying it as opposed to just thinking it. Did I say all this before?

7:10 PM  
Blogger steveroni said...

Powerful message, Ginnie. And the truth of it is IN the telling. Thank you for sharing such a private moment with us.....
Peace!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Ginnie, as a newcomer to your blog, this was a first time reading for me. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. From your post, it seems fiarly certain that you have been forgiven by Dick and most importantly by yourself.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

This is a very touching remembrance.

It is such a gift to have moments of mysterious delight, beyond our understanding and yet full of personal meaning. I have a friend who has yet to have such a moment over the death of a spouse.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

That is a wonderful story Ginnie. I too have had that kind of feeling with my mother and my father. Their spirits were around me before and after they died. Congratulations on your birthday in AA. I know that you were grateful at your meeting when you picked up that chip with so many roman numerals on it!

1:08 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Thanks for sharing, Ginnie...
And congratulations on all your years of sobriety - and that you have so much to share with others. Ya never know when that one little thing is the story that brings someone peace.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

No apology needed Ginnie. I believe the same thing, that there is something so much higher out there than we may ever fully comprehend. This post was re-presented at such a good time for me right now Ginnie..and that, is a fact.. you have helped someone else just by posting about survival guilt..thankyou :)

1:05 PM  

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