“Survivor’s Guiilt,” a very serious problem and PTSD symptom among combat veterans.

by | Feb 23, 2012


“High on that list of emotions is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home — survivor guilt being perhaps the kind most familiar to us. In war, standing here rather than there can save your life but cost a buddy his. It’s flukish luck, but you feel responsible. The guilt begins an endless loop of counterfactuals ‑— thoughts that you could have or should done otherwise, though in fact you did nothing wrong. The feelings are, of course, not restricted to the battlefield. But given the magnitude of loss in war, they hang heavy there and are pervasive. And they raise the question of just how irrational those feelings are, and if they aren’t, of what is the basis of their reasonableness.”

The above quote is taken from a New York Times article dated July 3, 2011.  I write about the problem of guilt as a common symptom of PTSD in my book.  Anyone who survives a traumatic event where others are killed or seriously injured, will ask themselves; “why, why me, why was I spared?”  Living with this pain is brutal and a moral issue or injury.  There are things we humans cannot reconcile, and it is in our souls that we become out of balance and feel deep pain when others suffer and we are spared.  I live with guilt to this day when reminded of my own toxic home life while growing up, especially when recalling when a family member was hurt emotionally or physically.  “Could I have done something about it or prevented it?”   This is the question that comes back over and over again…  It becomes a lifelong moral compass issue.  Based on all the research, and in the above referenced article, the worst of it for combat veterans is to see a buddy wounded or killed in action.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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