Survivor’s Guilt… The Hardest Weight to Shed

Survivor’s guilt. Two words that really don’t fit together. Yet it is one of the most illogically logical things I have ever heard of or experienced. How could I feel guilty for surviving something that nobody caused to happen, let alone myself?? It just doesn’t make sense.

Let’s face it, we all know of someone that died because of cancer, some horrible illness, war, an accident, or a natural disaster and we all see the stories about the school shootings. What we don’t hear about or see is what the people who survived go through. Most people, myself included, don’t talk about it much. “But you beat cancer, you should be happy!” “You living had nothing to do with someone else dying.” “It wasn’t your fault.” As much as those words are meant to help, they can often make it worse.

Yes I am happy that I am alive. I beat cancer. I survived two major surgeries. Yes I know that I shouldn’t feel bad for surviving. But that does not stop me from having questions. Why did I beat it when so many others don’t? Why did I make it through my surgeries when other people don’t survive simple routine procedures? Those questions nag from from time to time when I hear about someone who died as a result of their cancer or who didn’t make it through a surgery that is performed daily. Those aren’t the worst questions though.

The worst questions are the ones that follow those. Am I really doing enough? What is my purpose after surviving? I reckon those are questions that many of you have asked yourselves before. I did. They are pretty common questions after all. The uncommon part however are the afore mentioned questions that lead to them for survivors. They take on a whole new meaning after that. There is a sudden urgency to them. We often say that kids/teenagers feel invincible. Well even on my 28th birthday I figured I was a long ways from dying but 2 days later I was looking at my dad as I was laying in the hospital bed saying “I don’t want to die.”

Having that deeper understanding that tomorrow truly is not promised, I know wonder if what I am doing is actually worth it. Is it making a difference. If I died tomorrow, would the world be in a better place because of the things I had done in my life? There is no way that everyone that died because of cancer was a worse person than I am. So how do I make up for that? Is this blog or my facebook page enough? Will going and speaking about it be enough? Is just getting back to daily life enough? These are things that I wonder and these are things that I think a lot of survivors wonder and nobody can ever answer for us.

So when those thoughts creep in and those questions pop into my head at night, I just tell myself that I don’t know why and it doesn’t matter why. God brought me through all of this. He is using it in ways that I likely don’t know and will never know. It is my job to live in a way that shows people his love. Some days that might mean just waking up and being a husband, dad, son, and brother. Some days that might mean posting on my blog. Someday that may mean speaking at an event. But I know that He is using it.

One thought on “Survivor’s Guilt… The Hardest Weight to Shed

  1. Hi Matt. You’ve got me wondering/thinking in the middle of the night again. Here are two things you might consider: the story of Jacob wrestling with God, and (I don’t have a Bible verse or story I know of to refer you to for this one), God and Satan wrestling with each other over you…who will claim your heart and life.
    There is a verse in Lamentations 3 that tells us God does not willingly try the souls of men. God does not cause evil to happen to us; he allows it to happen…for our good , and with a ripple effect, for the good of others.


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