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Survivor's Guilt: How to Recognize it and Move Beyond It

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  • Survivor's Guilt: How to Recognize it and Move Beyond It

    When tragedies occur, survivors often fall victim to 'survivor's guilt,' a feeling of severe guilt for surviving when loved ones or others died. Numerous situations, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters to even surviving an illness, can inundate the survivor with an impossible list of questions:
    • Why did I survive when others died?
    • Why didn't I save them?
    • What if I had would that have helped?

    Meanwhile, surviving a tragedy or illness can bring on feelings of self-doubt and shame. Am I worthy of surviving? What am I doing with my life to deserve this? I survived and am feeling depressed, what's wrong with me?

    While feeling this type of guilt is quite common, it does nothing to change past events and will only make it harder for you to recover.

    'All guilt is an I owe you' for punishment and we never feel like we have been punished enough,' says Hale Dwoskin, CEO and director of training of Sedona Training Associates.'

    Dealing with the loss of a loved one or going through a traumatic event or illness, you need to allow yourself time to heal without tormenting yourself with irrational feelings of guilt.

    Letting go of Survivor's Guilt

    1. Release the tormenting feelings. You will drive yourself crazy wondering 'what if' and why' after a tragedy. The Sedona Method shows you how to let go of these negative feelings like self-blame, shame and guilt so you can feel like yourself again.

    'In addition to letting go of wanting to punish ourselves, we should recognize that if the situation were reversed the person who we survived would want us to get on with our lives. Let the bad feelings go and feel good about being alive,' Dwoskin says.

    2. Forgive yourself. Recognize that you did nothing wrong, and use The Sedona Method to release on 'surviving when others did not.'

    3. Do things that feel good. Stop punishing yourself with guilt by allowing yourself some pleasure. Whether that's getting back to the gym, going out with friends or just smiling again, make it a point to start enjoying life again, even if it's little by little.

    4. Talk about your feelings. Do not feel bad for feeling survivor's guilt. As you work on releasing it, accept the feelings without judgment, and feel free to discuss them with friends or family. The support you get from your loved ones will help to instill in you what you already rationally know: that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

    5. Be thankful. As you let go of the guilt, allow yourself to show your gratitude for surviving. You may want to devote some time to a particular cause, such as helping others with chronic illnesses if you survived an illness, or simply give thanks by living each moment of your life to the fullest.
    Purchase Letting Go Movie on DVD
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    Purchase The Sedona Method Course
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