Coping with Survivor's Guilt During the Palestine-Israel War
Survivor's guilt is real. Nowadays, when I open the Instagram app on my phone, I usually see content of a similar nature: graphic images and videos of dead or seriously injured Palestinians. Often, the people in these posts are babies and children, and it is heartbreaking to see the plight of these innocent, young souls. This post is not about siding with Palestine or Israel, but it is about the survivor's guilt that many of us around the world are experiencing today. Let's take a look.
What Is Survivor's Guilt?
According to Verywell Mind, survivor's guilt is:
"A particular kind of guilt that develops in people who have survived a life-threatening situation. Some survivors feel guilty that they survived when others died. Others believe that they could have done more to save the lives of others. And then there are those who feel guilty that another person died saving them. While survivor's guilt was originally used to describe feelings that survivors of the Holocaust experienced, it has been applied to a number of life-threatening situations, including car accidents, wars, and natural disasters."1
Now, you may be wondering why innocent people like you and I are experiencing survivor's guilt. Well, this is the first time in history that we are witnessing war atrocities in real-time. According to my therapist, seeing these traumatic visuals day after day and being unable to do anything to help the people who are suffering is causing widespread survivor's guilt.
Coping with Survivor's Guilt
The first step, of course, is identifying if you have survivor's guilt; do this with the help of a licensed therapist. Once it has been identified, you can try out various therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Your therapist may also suggest tips like limiting your social media usage and practicing grounding techniques when you feel overwhelmed. Check out the video below for three tips on managing emotional overwhelm during tough times.
In my opinion, one of the most effective ways to fight survivor's guilt is to use it as a tool to take action. You can take the guilt you are feeling and use it to support an organization that, for example, feeds displaced Palestinian children. Or, if you are running low on money and cannot afford to part with any, you can boycott American and Israeli brands that are supporting the genocide in Palestine. You can also join local marches and rallies protesting the Israel-Palestine war and demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. There are several actions you can take to stop feeling helpless or at least feel more in control than you are right now. I know that these actions, although small, have a ripple effect, and they will matter in the long run. Plus, it's the least we can do as human beings with a functioning moral compass.
MSEd, K. C. (2021, February 20). What Is Survivor's Guilt? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/survivors-guilt-4688743
Shaikh, M. (2023, November 22). Coping with Survivor's Guilt During the Palestine-Israel War, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2023/11/coping-with-survivors-guilt-during-the-palestine-israel-war