Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Moving beyond survivor guilt

survivor guilt

Cancer survivorship can be accompanied by a unique set of emotions—joy, grief, fear, relief, deep gratitude, a heightened sense of purpose, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility to live life to the fullest.

But there is another nagging feeling that can sneak into the mix: guilt. Survivorship is such a blessing, yet in spite of that blessing, we often find ourselves reflecting on those who have not been as fortunate.

In the Spring issue of Cancer Fighters Thrive™, marriage and family therapist, Rhonda Colley, who works at our Tulsa hospital, explores this emotional challenge of the cancer journey.

“Not all of our patients experience cancer as a traumatic event,” explains Colley. “But even if they aren’t traumatized, they can still experience survivor guilt, which means basically feeling guilty that they got through this treatment journey relatively unscathed.”

Colley works with a lot of survivors who are experiencing some level of guilt. “We call it ‘imagined guilt’ or ‘survivor guilt,’” she says. “Sometimes patients feel responsible in part for the passing of fellow patients.”

Colley normalizes the feelings of guilt that many survivors feel and provides tools for coping. Read the full article here.