Dealing and healing from survivor guilt after car accident

by Deb

Hi, my godmother recently got into a fatal car accident where the person she hit passed away. That same day, she suffered a heart attack. The doctors told her that she was unusually lucky due to the severity of the the heart attack and that she was near the hospital when it happened. I want to get her a helpful book(s) about recovery and dealing with survivor's guilt. I'd be open to all recommendations and advice on how to help her heal in all aspects of her life.

Thank you

Ben's Answer:

Hi Deb. As usual, for trauma of all kinds, my top recommendation is for EFT (Meridian Tapping) as a method of healing; I actually had a client who hit and killed a pedestrian. Her guilt was severe and she couldn't function afterwards - couldn't work and became depressed; She blamed herself even though it was actually unavoidable. At the time I hadn't yet learned to use EFT, so I used another trauma release method called EMDR, which helped her return to her normal life within several sessions. EMDR really requires the guidance of a therapist, and I actually find it far more tedious and cumbersome than EFT. EFT is often faster, less intense (you don't have to re-experience the whole trauma when using this technique), and while it is sometimes necessary to use the guidance of a therapist, you can also learn to use the technique on your own.

EFT can help her to extinguish the intense images and emotions that create a traumatic memory and can allow her rational mind to see the event from a new, more accepting perspective.

Survivor guilt can be quite complicated. If she truly believes that she was to blame for this death, then she will probably need to see a therapist who can help her to see things from a different angle. A good Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist could be effective - but again - an experienced therapist who uses EFT would be my first choice.

Best wishes,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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Jan 17, 2016
I Caused An Accident Resulting in The Other Driver's Injury
by: Anonymous

I am a very safe driver, the last time an accident was my fault was 13 years ago but that accident did not result in injury. However this time was different. I was at a stop sign and stopped. The path seemed clear to me so I proceeded, but out of nowhere I hit a car very hard. I feel awful because I should have seen the car. I think it happened because I didn't see him and he did not see me. The driver of the car is an elderly man and he was clearly hurt and shocked. An ambulance had to take him to the hospital. He was awake when they took him in the ambulance and I don't know how he is doing. I pray that he is ok. I feel so guilty about not being hurt...I actually wish it was me that got hurt. Praying helps but I still feel terrible. I don't know how to get through this.

Ben's response:

I think praying is a good way to cope with this situation. Maybe you could also find a way to send a message to him in the hospital. People in your situation often feel guilt or fear and assume that the injured person would be angry or would not accept any gesture of good will from the person that caused their accident. I don't think this is necessarily the case. We all make mistakes. It can happen to anyone. Get some support to deal with your own guilt. Don't wish hurt upon yourself. It does nothing to help anyone else and will only bring needless suffering to yourself. All mistakes are forgivable.

Take care,

Sep 02, 2013
Sisters accident
by: Anonymous

Hi, not sure if its the same but oh well. Mysister had a severe accident about a month ago where she got hit by a car in her bicycle. She is paralysed from the neck down because she suffered a spinal cord injury among several other injuries. She lives abroad so I had to go and sort out mostly paperwork (insurance, police, lawyer, etc) as well as spending time with her. I had to leave few days ago. I feel guilty of coming back to my 'normal' life when she is in this condition. I feel guilty not to be able to be with her. She's almost the same age as me. I feel guilty to have fun or to do things. When I heard about the accident I cried for about a week, but when I arrived to the place where she lives, I was all smiles to make her feel better. I've seen a lot of horrible things since then but I haven't been able to cry or feel anything about it. I even feel guilty of feeling sad when my sister is the one suffering. Most times all seems very unreal. Not sure what to do.

Ben's reply:

It is normal to feel grief, loss and trauma from watching a loved one go through a traumatic loss like this. You could call it "vicarious trauma" and it is a very real experience. Just as I had suggested in the original post in this thread, EFT Tapping would be my first suggestion for you in dealing with your own feelings of grief, trauma, and guilt about your sister's accident.

I would suggest the same for your sister, if she is willing to try it. Tapping can be done by one person on another, and it can also be done mentally (just by visualizing the entire tapping routine while saying the words out loud or silently).

I'm sorry for your sister's loss, and for what you must be going through.

Take Care,

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