Why have I overcome the coronavirus and my family member has not? Why have I hardly had any symptoms and others are severe? Many people are beginning to suffer from the survivor’s syndrome associated with the current pandemic. And now survivor’s guilt over COVID-19 is a new reality.
The psychological consequences of living through traumatic situations related to risk to our lives or the lives of others, disasters or emergency situations or extreme violence can be devastating.
To the risk of death or health consequences, complex emotions are added, and in more serious cases. can favor the appearance of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This type of disorder has among its possible causes what has been called the survivor’s guilt syndrome. Caused by the feelings generated by surviving an event where someone close to you died.
Guilt can be frequent and natural. It should be identified in vulnerable people who should not hesitate to ask for help when they need it.
These feelings can lead to the development of idealization or other suicidal behavior and are a recognized risk factor for suicide.
In principle, we cannot define emotions as intrinsically good or bad. They all play a positive role. Guilt arises in situations where we perceive that we have made a mistake or failed or harmed another person.
To overcome it, we react with a greater motivation to restore the damage done by our actions.
Survivor’s Guilt Over COVID-19, A New Reality.
However, there are times when this emotion is irrational. We can identify this irrationality when the situation is not caused by an action or omission of ours, but when it is the effect of luck or other external causes.
This occurs, for example, in cases of terrorist attacks or mass murders or in the face of natural disasters.
Occasions have been described where guilt has driven survivors to take their own lives.
Whatever the consequences, it is also an emotion closely related to people who have lived close to the death by suicide of a loved one.
Many times irrationality is brought about by our own way of being. According to specialists, this occurs in people who tend to:
- Live in tension
- With anguish and feelings of devaluation towards themselves
- With fear of rejection or being wrong and with an excessive need for approval from others.
In order to manage the survivor’s guilt, it is advisable to:
- Encourage communication with people or by telling what happened in order to share it with others. To continually remember that the traumatic events are not our responsibility. To return to the daily personal routine as soon as possible. So we can be in a position to help others through our experience.
You may be asking yourself: ‘Why didn’t I die instead of my son? Or ‘Why did my son survive and my son’s friend die when they were both in similar circumstances?’
You may even feel responsible for that death, thinking that you could have done something about it. All of these feelings may isolate you, hurt you and make you wonder how to go on with your life. This is called “survivor’s guilt”.
Survivor’s Guilt Over COVID-19, A New Reality
But no matter how devastating he feels about his situation, there is always hope. Here are some strategies to help you cope with all that stress and get on with your life:
- Always keep the channels of communication open. Tell your family and friends about the situation you are going through and get professional assistance if it is too overwhelming to handle on your own.
- Remember that it is not your fault. You made the best decisions available at the time and there is nothing you can do now to change the past. Get rid of those feelings of guilt and let forgiveness replace them.
- Return to your normal routine as soon as possible. You may not feel like leaving your house or even taking a shower, but you need to get back into your routine as soon as you can. This will help you get back to a sense of normalcy and return to the activities you used to enjoy.
- Help others. You may feel powerless to change the events that happened, but you can take certain steps to control not only your future, but also to help others who are going through the same situation or are recovering from the same.
- Tell your personal story. Telling our own story and sharing it with others could provide a cathartic outlet for the emotions generated by this experience.
Whatever your circumstances regarding survivor’s guilt, know that you are not alone. Be kind to yourself and to those around you, and let your wounds close at the pace that is best for you.
You will never forget what happened to you or your loved one, but you can move on and eventually accept your survival. We encourage you to share your story and start to heal today.