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My mom died less than a month ago 94 years old renal failure, dementia. I find myself having survivor's guilt. I am at the grocery store buying some comfort food, snacks, etc. and suddenly found myself feeling guilty and thinking how my mother suffered. Do you all have that experience and how do I deal with it? Thanks.

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Survivor's guilt, as it is termed, is a fairly specific thing. It is perhaps especially characterised by the peculiar and tormenting dissonance between natural relief (that it wasn't you who died) and horror and pity (that your peers, companions, fellow passengers, fellow prisoners and so on did), leading to an irrational feeling of guilt and responsibility for their fate.

Bloom, it is expected in western societies that parents predecease their children. So while your raw emotions are in turmoil and extremely painful, I'm not sure that approaching what you feel as survivor's guilt is going to be helpful to you. And although I have said it before, and I don't for a second want to discourage you from working through grief by exploring your thoughts and feelings, I still think you're in too much of a hurry. Your loss is very recent.

Perhaps, as with love, rather than strenuously searching for it, it would be kinder to yourself to sit still and wait for understanding to come to you.
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Serenity Prayer
- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen."
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Don't all of us who survive feel guilt? According to our health care directives, when my husband had his stroke I refused the gastric feeding tube. After he died, I felt guilty for all the mean things I had said when he was difficult (due to vascular dementia) and wished I had been kinder. His children cut me off (and we had been married 32 years), but that was because I didn't keep him alive, unable to walk or see, in a nursing home. I can't tell you how grateful I was for the hospice counselor, who told me to go on with my life and not waste it on "woulda-shoulda-coulda." We could all have done more, and didn't. But we could have done a lot less, and didn't.
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This is a very common feeling and part of the general process of grieving. Is there a grief group you can join. It will help to talk to others in person. Hospices have grief groups that anyone can join even if the loved one was  never a patient. There will be people there at all stages of grieving and it can be helpful to hear how others dealt with similar feelings. You can just sit and listen you don't have to actively participate will you are ready.
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Arleeda -- You helped me when you mentioned that you refused to have your husband intubated with a gastric feeding tube. Although I vividly recall showing my husband's doctor his final wishes, I had forgotten that on the advice of several friends, I refused the doctor's offer of inserting a gastric feeding tube. You have described the potential side effects well. I believe my refusal to have the tube inserted may be the reason two of his adult children aren't speaking to me. At 86, I am leaving instructions or my children about what I want at the end of my life. In addition to my living will I will put in writing that I do not want to be intubated.
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I have survivor guilt because all three of my husbands died, and in all three cases I made the decision to give the doctors copies of their living wills stating that if they were dying they wanted no extreme medical measures taken. Although my mother left no advance directive and had dementia, I, as her only survivor, made the same request on her behalf, knowing that is what she would have wanted. I know that my guilt feeling is irrational, and pray that it will diminish with time. My father died suddenly, sparing me this decision.
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bloomschool--Do you have some vague feeling that perhaps there was something you could have done to prolong your mother's life or to lessen her suffering? Sometimes one discovers later that if a certain approach had been taken or some event under his/her control had been handled differently, the outcome could have been different. For example, my father got a piece of meat stuck in his esophagus one evening and after it became apparent to him he couldn't dislodge it himself, the next morning he asked to be taken to the emergency room. They removed it there, but he also had atrial fibrillation so he had to remain in the hospital until he was put into a nursing home where he went downhill until he died almost a year later. He had had food stuck in his esophagus before but managed to dislodge it soon afterward. I've sometimes wondered if his life would have been different if the meat had been cut into smaller pieces or if I had insisted on taking him to the emergency room right away, but then I realize he was at a point at which his days were numbered and even if everything had gone "perfectly" he probably wouldn't have lived more than a couple months longer--but potentially could have fallen and broken bones if he had remained at home. Therefore, I feel I did the best I could with what I knew at the time, and I let it go at that.
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I have this too and its been almost 6 months since my father passed away. I have to agree with Veronica and this is part of the grief journey. What you are feeling is natural and normal. Please consider joining a support group or talking to a counsellor. Maybe there are some MeetUp groups in your area that will also help with your grief. I think it takes a long time for our minds to come to terms with losing our parents. I know your mom was 94 years old but in our hearts and minds it was never going to be long enough. I too think it should have been me instead of my dad. I'm trying a little bit of everything and anything to keep myself going forward.
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merdianav... why? not the place for this. Bloomschool, what you are feeling is so awful and yet so very "normal" when it comes to grief. Give yourself a chance, let the feelings happen, one month in comparison to the decades you spent with your mom is a very small time for recovery. Lean on support groups, online chats, friends and family, they will hold you up when the grief hits you in the knees. I wish you the very best in this difficult process. Stay strong.
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My mother died years ago. I took care of her while working full time to put food on the table and pay the rent. She died in the hospital minutes before I got there and could say good bye. Also growing up, I was lonely and had a tough life (no fault of my parents) and I wasn't always the sweetest daughter although I loved her dearly. The therapist said it was part of growing up. I still carry guilt for those times and for how sick she was at the end. But I can't change what happened. I had to learn to keep going on and to accept I made big mistakes - but I learned from them. I know my mother has forgiven me and loved me. I don't know what else to say except your guilt is normal - it is part of being alive and living.
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