It’s hard to imagine surviving an event in which other people were killed. The pain and grief that a person experiences after such a traumatic event no doubt affects them for the rest of their lives.
In this AskReddit article, people who survived such incidents share how they cope.
“Was in a boat accident with my entire family when I was 8. I wasn’t injured but my sister was killed. I saw her bloody body in the arms of my grandfather in the remains of what used to be his boat. He was never the same man after that. I’m still unpacking how much it’s affected my life, but I know I’ll never forget the image of my dead sister.
Yes, I have very real survivors remorse, as this boat trip was the first time the whole family had been on the boat together, and my sister and I fought over sitting at the tip. I won, she died.”
2. I see their faces
“In the summer of 2012 I was taking a road trip with my family when we got T-boned by a guy going 50 mph. Luckily I was sitting on the left side of the car right behind the driver seat but my sister and my step mom weren’t so lucky. Almost every day I see their faces right before the crash happened and the sheer terror split second before they died. I very rarely take automobiles now and only like biking or trains.”
3. Poor souls
“I was born with cancer in the late 80s (Canada) and at the time chemo wasn’t really used on kids. A European doctor came to Toronto and took 14 of us and gave us chemo. I was cancer free by the time I was 4 but only half of us walked off the floor. I’m 31 now and have 4 kids but I often think about those poor souls who didn’t make it.”
4. Close call
“I didn’t ‘survive’ it, but I did make a choice to not get in the car that killed one and severely injured my best friend.
The driver was the one killed, but there was no remorse for the guy. He was always a dangerous driver.
However, there was a bit of anger towards him for what he did to my friend. It changed him. Years of childhood memories wiped away due to the head injury. The stuff he did remember was some of the bad times we had, including the argument that led to me not getting in the car.
Our friendship was never the same after that.”
5. Crazy story
“A relative of mine served in WWII, and apparently when he was stationed on an island base in the pacific (fighting Japan) a Japanese plane just showed up out of nowhere and landed on the airstrip. They just kind of left it there for a few days until they decided that it probably wasn’t a kamikaze, and went to confront the pilot.
They found him there starving to death and chained to the cockpit. Eventually he told them that he was supposed to have been a kamikaze pilot, and that all of the propaganda about how brave and willing to die all of the kamikaze pilots were was just to cover up the fact that no kamikaze pilots were volunteers, and they were all forced to die in those planes.”
“I met a man who survived the Korean airliner crash on Guam. He had bent down to tie his shoe at the moment the plane hit the mountain and a fireball went through the interior of the plane. He told me he felt so bad that so many had died while he had survived. At the time, I was so confused and only years later realized he suffered from Survivor’s Guilt.”
“I was on my way to school with my sister, our driver was making a turn onto the street where our school was when a bomb went off. Everything stopped and I huddled my younger sister under me as glass exploded.
It was just scary because I had no idea what to do in that kind of situation, I was just 13.
What’s crazy is that we had stopped for gas otherwise we wouldn’t have been late. A few kids and teachers lost their lives and one happened to be a teacher I was very close with.
I wasn’t able to attend school there anymore, I used to get scared from the vibration of big trucks and loud pops, even balloons lol. I don’t have survivors guilt but always will have that morbid feeling in my stomach wondering what if we hadn’t stopped for gas.”
“Las Vegas shooting.
I actually don’t have survivor’s remorse, but I think I have (minor) PTSD from it. I feel uncomfortable in large crowds because I’ll imagine gunshots going off and seeing people running everywhere in chaos. It’s gotten better but still unsettling sometimes.”
9. Boston bombing
“My mom was waiting for my sister at the Boston Marathon bombing. She saw the bombs go off and as a medically trained professional, she felt that she should have gone there to help but she also didn’t know where my sister was and whether more bombs would go off.
So she left and found out that my sister had only avoided being at the finish line because her period had started in the last mile of the marathon. It took them hours to get out of Boston. My mom said she could still smell the bombs and felt intense guilt for not helping and a lot of rage towards the bombers.”
10. I miss him
“When I was 21, I was in a tandem hang glider accident that killed my dad. Just a few seconds after takeoff from the hill, a wire came loose and the glider plummeted to the rocky hillside. He took the brunt of the impact for the both of us and died two days later, while I was relatively unscathed.
My dad raised my brother and I on his own from the time my brother was still in diapers. I credit him for my values and my resilience in the face of misfortune. He died just as I was starting my career and finding my own way. I often miss being able to share my trials and triumphs with him – adventures, marriage, births and his grandbabies growing up.
But I never once wondered why it had to happen this way. Our only thought on the subject was to imagine that he would’ve had it no other way. Maybe he even, in those last few seconds, did what he could to shield me from injury. He was a skilled and advanced pilot, achieving his instructor rating after almost three decades of enjoying the sport. He likely knew the outcome of our predicament. But I’ll never know since the seconds before and after the impact are a blackout.
So no, there’s no guilt. That’s not where my head goes for acts of pure chance, however tragic. I just miss him, sometimes terribly.”
11. Strong current
“I was swimming off a beach in Vietnam. There were a whole bunch of people. I was on the edge of the group further out. There was another guy, maybe 50 years old maybe five feet further out than me. Strong current swept me and the older guy out even further away from the group. In a slight panic, I started swimming and made it back ok. The older guy did not. I remember making it back to the shore and the lifeguard on duty was being yelled at by other people to go save the old guy.
The lifeguard froze up and it was several minutes before he swam out there and pulled the guy back in. The old guy was limp and they didn’t even try CPR. They just loaded him up on an ATV and drove him off.
I think about it and wonder every now and then if I could have saved him. But not being a great swimmer or trained rescuer, I probably would have died too if I tried.”
12. A sad story
“I was in a head-on collision in which a drunk driver hit me and another car in the lane next to mine. The 82-year-old lady in the other car died the next day due to her injuries. When she was pulled from the car, one of her legs looked badly twisted and broken. But other than that, she looked much younger and in good shape, so I figured she’d be fine. I walked away with only some scratches from glass in my face, and some soreness. The drunk driver was taken away on a stretcher, but she survived and is in jail now.
I felt terrible for the lady who was killed. I didn’t find out till a day or two later when a police officer called to get my statement. I didn’t feel survivor’s guilt, because it had nothing to do with me, and I just felt lucky to be alive. I was 41 years old and getting married a few months later. The daughter of the lady who was killed contacted me a few years later, just to hear first-hand what happened that morning. I felt terrible for her and her family, especially since i lost my own mom and dad within two years after that accident. But I didn’t feel guilty. Just sad.”
13. Terrorist attack
“I survived a terrorist attack. Many people died and I survived and now I have the worst survivors remorse. I remember reading headlines about all the people that died. There was a father and a son who died together and the son was little like 12. I feel so guilty every single day that I got to to go my prom, go to college, make mistakes, have fun, get my driver’s license, and keep doing all those things when this little boy can’t do anything ever again.
He doesn’t get to keep learning every day like I do. His family will never get to learn his personality, he’ll never meet his first love, or feel pain, or accomplishment, or try something really hard and succeed. Its really hard to put in words the feeling that I feel every day. Its not that I want to die, its more that I feel this incredibly deep sadness and this feeling that I don’t deserve any day or any joy that I feel.
Other than that, any time I hear a loud noise, my entire body stops working for a second. I cant run or I have a flash back of running. Sometimes I feel like ‘That’s So Raven’ because I’ll be doing a totally normal thing and then everything just stops and I am transported back to the place. And I have a permanent bruise on the top of my foot which is annoying. Also, I have learned to use humor as a coping mechanism and it makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable, which is a bummer.”
14. Lucky to be alive
“Hit by car at 50 mph.
Ironically the girl in the car died from all of the glass and I only needed a few months to recover been 6 months still can stop thinking about her.”
“I do have survivor’s remorse. 13 years ago, I was running errands with my mom and my little brother.
My brother, who was 17 at the time, had just got his first job in the cafeteria of our local hospital. He just needed to complete his pre employment drug screen. We stopped by the clinic first thing to get it out of the way. After waiting for a bit I went back to my car because I wasn’t feeling well. I was a few weeks pregnant with my son and had awful morning sickness.
While I was in the car I saw a truck come speeding through the parking lot towards the clinic. I thought “wow they’re going too fast to take the turn” and they were. The truck hopped the curb and slammed through the clinic’s window at the end of the little road. My mom and my brother were sitting right where the truck hit. They died an awful, painful death and I nearly did too.
I feel so guilty for not being with them. It’s taken years but I have realized that my mom and brother wouldn’t be angry or upset that they died and I didn’t. I miss them so much.”