Sunday, October 15, 2017

Survivor guilt...aint' nobody got time for that!

My friend Peggy called to say she was bringing dinner to me & Michael. A few days later she came bearing roast with potatoes & carrots, rice & gravy, salad, homemade rolls & apple dumpling...it was a feast! As we talked she almost whispered "I hate to be in line somewhere and be asked if we flooded. I feel bad saying no." Her face revealed the depth of her "survivor guilt." The rest of the story about my friend is that her husband's dental office flooded causing great upheaval with employees and patients. She is providing housing for some family that flooded. She is helping with her church flooding recovery. And she is cooking and delivering meals to many! Survivor guilt...she ain't got time for that! 

I have survivor guilt too. My house only took on 10 inches of water. My daughter's home had over 4 feet, many of their belongings were destroyed. Their little family had a place to go...my retreat venue I closed, Nellie's Cottage, their new home. Soooo....my sweet daughter has survivor guilt for having somewhere to go, while mom lives upstairs in her half gutted home! 

Where does it end? Are we allowed to be grateful for the tender mercies that have come our way? Are we deemed callous to be glad our circumstances are not a worse case scenario? 

Yes, I believe we are allowed to be glad, grateful, & relieved. It is even NECESSARY that we do not allow survivor guilt over come us. Those in worse circumstances need us...desperately! 

Survivor guilt..."aint' no body got time for that." 

Survivor guilt 101...
If you did not flood (I hope I speak for everyone who did) we DO NOT begrudge your good fortune! We are glad and grateful you didn't...we have needed you to help muck out our homes, bring us supplies, provide us with meals because we are sick of fast food, AND bring a much needed stability and comfort to our lives! 

Again..we are GRATEFUL you did not flood!


I would suppose that there are some that could use a dose of survivor guilt. But those kind of people rarely feel the need to contribute to the world. During the storm and immediately afterwards we had a young man stay with us who was helping his sister with her 3 young children. He was a valuable asset to all of us in those first tumultuous days. I praised his efforts on behalf of his sister and asked what he would be doing if he was not with us. He replied "I'd be in Beaumont with my roommates, probably watching movies in our apartment. Keep in mind these movies being watched by his roommates were while people were being rescued by boats in life threatening conditions. So my theory proves correct in this instance..those who need to feel survivor guilt usually do not. 

Ironically, those who are running faster than they have strength to help those in need often do feel bad that they are in better conditions than others. Life cannot be a "I have it worse than you" fest...there is ALWAYS someone somewhere in the world that has a MUCH more tragic story to tell. So...how do we cope with "survivor guilt" when we are on the better side of those around us? It's simple, we help in any way we can. 

I had a cousin text me from a non-flooded area of Houston asking if she could share pictures of my flooded house with a Facebook group page. Those in the group were making snarky comments about not wanting to come to our area and help muck out houses. She wanted to set them straight and boy did I have a reply! 

"If people don't understand the devastation it means they are not doing enough for the ones who were devastated. You can quote me on that. They need to get their rear ends out there and be mucking out houses, washing clothes, buying groceries, feeding people, or babysitting kids. I don't have much time for laziness right now!"  (unapologetically me)

Survivor guilt is real, I am certainly not discrediting those who have it. Survivors of every tragedy face a long road of managing emotions they never anticipated, nor were equipped to manage. However, the roller coaster of "I am so relieved it wasn't me but feel terrible it wasn't me" can be channeled for the good. Many charities, scholarships, and "doing good" organizations came about in the face of a personal tragedy by one who decided that making lemonade from lemons seems a better way to live than sucking on sour lemons for lifetime of bitterness.

Survivor guilt...channel it, do good where you are able. Assume all good people are helping. Ignore the rest. 
In the words of one of the great survivor anthems of the 1970's by Gloria Gaynor

"I will survive...long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive".....

Isn't this the answer to our survivor guilt? 
As long as we LOVE (and serve)...we will all survive! 
It always comes back to love... 

And so with all of my survivor guilt, I dedicate this song to horrible hurricane Harvey...
WE WILL SURVIVE!
https://youtu.be/Faf1ch7Q9XE

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you wrote this! David and I have talked about this very thing. The first few days I sat in my dry home, watching posts on FB of my friends, who were taking on water. I felt very helpless. We didn't even lose power for several days, yet people around the town were evacuating, taking on water, and being rescued.
    We eventually had our own scary story to add, but we never got water in our home, thank God.
    However, I do agree that those who are affected need to contribute in any way they can.

    We've been giving stuff away, left and right, and this week I'll be making some treats to hand out.

    David's mom took on water, so even though we didn't flood, the work has been the same for us.

    The thing is, if you weren't flooded, you most likely know someone close to you who did and need to put your efforts there. Thankful that there are some who can help in this way.

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