I've been mulling over options for a label to replace "survivor guilt" --the emotion some patients experience after someone else dies from the same disease they had/have. Key ideas about the feeling:
- Patients have no reason to feel guilty (they've done nothing wrong)
- Despite #1, some patients do feel guilty (for something they thought or felt; for not cherishing every second of every day; for surviving, as if it were a zero-sum game)
- Many patients don't feel guilt but do feel any or all of the following:
- grief ("I'm sad for him/his loved ones.")
- gratitude for one's own good fortune
- empathy for the surviiving family ("They're experiencing what I feared for my family.")
- awe at the mystery of life ("Why not me?")
- a sense of unworthiness ("He was a better person than I am.")
- fear of recurrence ("It's all random; I could be next.")
An ideal label would capture the complex feeling, as well as encourage a healing response. My earlier attempt (saditude) successfully emphasized the sadness. The label didn't work well for me, though. I didn't like that it was a made-up name. And the link of "sad" with "attitude of gratitude" demanded too great a leap.
Lately I've been leaning toward "sad-gratitude" or "grief-gratitude." Those capture the mix of the primary two emotions, and they avoid the mistaken reference to guilt. Thoughts?