According to Wikipedia, Survivor’s Guilt is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. It is common among the friends and family of those who have died by suicide. It is not a recognized diagnosis, but rather a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder. Hmm, well let me settle into that one. It seems to be just my size.
Do I think it was my fault? No. Could I have done more? Clearly. Clearly, now that I have the missing pieces to the puzzle. Do I have Survivor’s Guilt? Absolutely. I recognize it for what it is, but that changes nothing. Daily I remind myself to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn’t know before I learned it. My guilt is compounded far beyond the way in which he ceased to be here. It is weaved throughout my entire being; how I grieve, how I heal, who I am, and who I am not. I am no longer Corey Gerald’s wife. I am no longer the boss’s wife. I am no longer married. I am no longer tied to my last name. I am a widow, and my guilt is perpetuated by the shock and horror on the faces of those who come to realize that.
I get that it takes however long it takes, but to set up camp in grief is a trap. Walk through the forest, but don’t pitch a tent. Can someone explain to me how to do that? Because here in the forest it’s hard to tell which way is north and nightfall is coming.
I wore marriage well. I knew who I was and I represented in every circumstance. I had the role down for more than twenty years. I was proficient. A friend surprised me with a visit a few months into my grief. He lives out of the country and this was the first time I had seen him since Corey’s death. I couldn’t keep it together, and then he said “It’s okay. It won’t always be like this, but he was a great guy. Don’t you think he’s worth the tears?” YES, a thousand times yes. He is worth the tears. That somehow gave me the freedom I needed to accept grief. I get that it takes however long it takes, but to set up camp in grief is a trap. Walk through the forest, but don’t pitch a tent. Can someone explain to me how to do that? Because here in the forest it’s hard to tell which way is north and nightfall is coming.
So here I am approaching four years out or in? Who knows. People find it an acceptable, casual conversation starter to ask me if I’m ready to date. I can’t imagine starting a conversation with “So, you’ve been married awhile now. Ready to move on yet?” My friends have been wonderful in including me in social activities, whether that be a girls night out, vacations, parties or fundraisers, but the reality is I don’t fit anywhere anymore. Let me add to that complexity. I am now in a professional position that involves dinners and galas, fundraisers and evening networking. I throw off the balance of the round tables that seat eight or ten designated for each company. And I am not the only one who notices or pretends not to. Here’s the real kicker, it’s me and my Survivor’s Guilt. Not only to invite a plus one to an event would make me incredibly self-conscious of my glass-housed status, but I wrestle with the guilt. We loved each other for twenty-four years together. I’m approaching twenty-eight because love transcends. To wade into those waters is like me telling him, “We had a good thing for twenty-four years, but I’m only willing to give you four solo.” Yes, I realize that sounds warped. Tell that to my heart.