Survivor Guilt

survivor guilt

I watched a documentary on the anniversary of September 11, about those in the towers who survived that horrific day. Ron DiFrancesco, the last man to make it out alive, sat in front of the camera, tears pouring down his face.

‘The physical scars don’t bother me,’ he said. ‘It’s the guilt. Why did I survive when so many others didn’t?’

I have survived an implosion of a much smaller scale, one in which not everyone made it out alive. Four and a half years on, my life is perfectly wonderful. I spend all day doing whatever I want, I’m in love with a wonderful man, I’m healthy and totally sexed up. All my worries are small.

And yet in spite of this, I feel indescribably sad a great deal of the time. I am sad that men shoot their families and then themselves, that babies die in the womb or minutes after birth, that relationships grow silent, and that parents forget who they are and who they love. I am on the verge of tears every single day.

Why have I survived when there are so many others struggling with their pain? Why can’t I help them? Can I give away some of my happiness to someone else?

And then I remember that pain is part of the human condition. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to bear. Celebrating being the lucky one when others are ground into the dust feels wrong and inappropriate.

The only thing I have to offer you is hope. My small smudges of clouds today are nothing compared to the raging storms of the past. The weather always changes.

I have an umbrella.

I can lend you my coat.

It is already wet with my tears.

survivor guilt t


About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

15 thoughts on “Survivor Guilt

  1. Katie this is a beautiful post. I can’t imagine anything harder than having to pick up the pieces after a horrendous tragedy. I am so thrilled to hear your life is happy but so sad to hear that you still suffer the aftershocks. Thank you for giving me a little glimmer into the world of the survivor. xox

    1. Thanks Kathy — I’m guessing that anyone who experiences difficult circumstances comes out with either a rock solid wall of armour or an over-sensitive soft heart. I think I’m one of the latter. If the only way to feel all the joy and love in life is to feel the pain as well, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

  2. What a wonderful post. I read a bit of your bio and you have had quite a journey but you are on the other side. So glad that you are a survivor and that you are sharing your wonderful words with others. It is not easy and no one can truly understand how it is to be in your shoes but your strength shines through. Thanks for sharing. Coming over from the FB Women of Midlife thread and glad I did.

  3. This is such a beautiful post. You have certainly had a life path full of challenges the rest of us couldn’t fathom. Not sure I could get through even one of them. I admire your courage and resilience and will hold you in the light.

  4. To my shame, Mizz Katie (who knoweth ALL THE WORDS!), I’ve not been over to visit before! I do like the way you write, though not the pain and heartache which has given rise to it.

    That said, yes – it’s part of the human condition – we hurt deeply when we love deeply. Or perhaps *because* we love deeply. And the sum of our life RightNow is a product of all the circumstances and choices leading up to this moment. And if, in this moment, you can look around you and feel happy or content, or positive, then that’s a very worthwhile thing indeed.

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