Archive for the ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ Category

He led the rebel movement.

Rebels? Yes, that’s what they were. How unimaginable it would have been just a few years before. When life was normal. Peaceful. Predictable.

The invading foreigners were determined to decide the fate of his people. Determined to impose a way of life, their way of life. A life he could not imagine.

Thousands of rebels were at his command. Trusting — not trusting — watching his every move. Traitors among them. Spies among them. How could he be certain? He dare not let them know or see how doubt and regret haunted his inner world. How he’d issue a command having only himself to trust, only himself to blame, for its fate.

They dare not know how impossible it often felt to sustain his own belief. How the hardest battles were the ones he fought with himself, out of sight, in his heart. How terrified he actually was.

They called him cold and unfeeling. A man without a heart.

The tally of their dead could prove them right.

The enemy was cunning, well armed, with advanced technology and endless funds. Their only limitation was their rules of engagement, issued from afar, from their highest command.

Young men had left their foreign land to battle here, for a war that few could fathom was necessary, certainly one that seemed to be over greed, power, control. But what war wasn’t?

His men fought for their homes, for their families, for the right to rule their own country, for freedom from these foreigners. No one with any sound reason would believe they had even the slightest chance at victory.

What would they think if they knew how hard it was to convince himself of it? What would they think if he failed to keep up appearances of hope, optimism, belief? No one knew how close he had come to giving up.

No one.

The man they saw was not the man he was inside. The confident orders he heard himself issue were not the fearful words he heard in his mind. The smile he mustered reminded them that he was human, it did not erase how dead he felt. It could not ease the fear, the heavy weight pressing down on his chest, that made it hard to breathe and sometimes, hard to not put an end to his breathing.

Perhaps his nightmares were the terrors of a weak mind that could not put down the burden of command, could not put down knowing that good men had died because of him. That more men would die because of him. How their families suffered — the women, the mothers, the innocent, carefree children — god, he dare not go there. Not now.

A cold man? Unfeeling? Because feeling brought pain too unbearable to endure? At the end of the day though, who cared? His suffering was merely a reflection of his men’s suffering, compounded by a thousand. The pain, itself, the same.

War had taken so much of them it was hard to feel what, of their humanity, remained.

And yet, as hard as he prayed for relief, as much as he begged God to release him, giving up was not an option.

Too much had been paid. Too many had fallen. Too much had been sacrificed to give up now. Giving up would invalidate it all, disgrace them all, those bodies of his men out there, dismembered, bleeding, gone. He could not do that to them.

He would not do that to them.

The pain of this war would be part of his soul forever. Etched into his cells, his senses, his heart, his mind, his existence. The enemy would not win by getting him to take himself out. Not now. Not ever.

Surrender was not an option.

This bitter night would end. In the morning, the sun would rise.

His rebels would look to him for courage, for hope, for the will to live.  For the reason to fight on.

He would give them that reason.

The tent flapped open, startling him from his thoughts.

One of his guards came in.

“General Washington, the boats are ready.”



NOTE: If you are in imminent risk of ending your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. 

It all adds up. Accumulates. Pain, trauma, losses. Anger, resentment, guilt. Buries You underneath. You watch your Self vanish, become unrecognizable. And wonder if you’re too far gone to be saved.

Is there such a thing as too far gone to be saved?

You’re tired and it never seems to get better. Your life is permanently altered. You try not to think about it, but you can’t help wondering if it was worth it.

Are you too far gone to be saved?

What you want is relief. An end to the pain, the anxiety, the feeling that ever since you came home you’ve done nothing but disappoint everyone. That you’re failing everyone. Constantly.

Misplaced. Displaced. Misunderstood. Too different. Too angry. Too volatile.

Your love was the battlefield. Your soul is still there.

But you can’t go back. The war is over. Or, rather your war is over.

And you’re so fucking tired of fighting your Self.

Too far gone to be saved?

You see ghosts, or rather, feel them. Hear the voices of those who blew up or bled out. Here one moment, gone the next. Still here though.

Still here.
(there is no gone)

You move through your time now reacting to dangers only you once knew.
Still feel.
Safe now.

Safe. Now.

Too far gone to be saved?

Pills, therapy, band-aids, thank you for your service.
What do they know of where your soul is?

Where is your soul?
Oh, yes. Still there.

Call it back.

Call who?
Your soul.
I don’t know where it is.
Yes, you do.
Call it back to you.
Souls do not die. Souls cannot be too far gone.
There is no too far.
To be saved.
Save yours. Save the only one you can.

Too late.
Too tired. Too far gone.
Too much loss.
Too much heartache.
Too much failure.
Too much being the cause of pain.

Too much??
Too much believing you are alone.
Too much blaming your Self.
Too much forgetting that you belong.
Too much holding on to what was.
Too much waiting for someone else to
heal what only you can release.
What only you can allow.
Too much denying that grace is not for you.
For denying grace is a choice.

Too far gone to be saved?

What if death does not resolve what you wish to escape?
What if the only way to end the pain is to stop believing you are too far gone?
What if healing does not mean erasing, but releasing, surrendering your Self
to your Oneness with all beings?
Starting over with new beliefs?
What if the only way out is to dissolve into the Eternal Love that has always held you?
Not by killing your Self, but by loving your Self?

Yes, that Self.
The one you rage against.
The one you infuse with whiskey and nicotine,
chemical oblivion.
The one you berate, hate, reject, blame, shame.
Incriminate. Judge. Condemn.

That Self.
The one who wants to be saved.
The one who waits for your kindness.
For you to understand that
You need your own compassion.
More than you need others’.
Tending. Gentleness. Honor.


Yes, honor.
Shaming wounds, raging on wounds,
Blaming wounds only keeps you wounded.
There is no shame in being wounded.
War is designed to hurt.
You are designed to live.
You are a warrior who is gifted with the wisdom of death.
The awareness of life.
The ability now to create life from death.
By the power of what you choose to believe.
What you choose to walk toward.
How you love the one who needs your love the most.
In this moment.
In this choice.

Too far gone to be the same?

Too far gone to be saved?






It’s that heaviness deep in your chest. That gaping void where part of who you were before is permanently gone. It’s the sense of having done things that can never be undone, a burden of being responsible for having taken life and for having lost it. A burden you know is yours to carry.

It’s being moved to tears by songs that invite you to grace and mercy because you know in your heart that for some reason it doesn’t apply to you. Grace and mercy? You want to believe, but they feel as if they’re for others. Not for you. For your brothers, for your family. Not you.

And your heart aches and contracts and your chest caves in on itself, your breath catches in a prayer you can barely whisper. You want to, but you don’t believe in redemption, even though it calls to you, like a far away home you can hardly remember. You feel as if you’re standing outside the circle, watching all the innocent ones, the ones who haven’t destroyed and killed, the…Others…receiving grace and forgiveness. Accepted. You know deep down you will never belong. You are… marked. The spiritual repercussion of being a warfighter.

It eats at you. Oh, not the killing. At least, not the ones that were justified. No, the decisions under fire, the split-second hesitations, the choice to go down one road instead of another. The feeling in your gut that warned you, but you weren’t in a position to heed it. Or you were, and you didn’t. And now they are dead.

Men you loved. Men who loved you. Men who died for you and with you and for whom you would have died. But you didn’t. And you’re pretty sure you should have. You would now if it would bring them back.

It gnaws in your stomach, replays in your mind, haunts your nightmares. Sits in you. And you move through your days forced to live with the knowing, with the overwhelming sense that there is nothing you could ever do that will ever unmark you. Ever undo what happened.

You move through your days held by the underlying certainty that you can’t belong. Always, standing outside that circle. Believers of all faiths invite you to step into their circles of salvation. But grace feels like a fantasy, like a far off wish that is fine for others, just not possible for you. At least, that’s what runs through your mind.

It’s that sense that you don’t deserve real love, real goodness, real joy, to have what your heart wants most in this life because you’re responsible for more destruction and devastation on this earth than anyone knows. So you just stand there, on the hillside, outside the circle… with your fellow warriors. And you watch the Innocents get the joy and love they deserve. And you’re glad they do. But your eyes fill with tears for the longing to belong and the seeming truth that you never will.

This is your reality. You’re strong. You’re a soul of courage. You know how to carry your own shit and it’s yours to carry. You know all the explanations and comforting words that your wisdom reminds you of. The chaos of war. The chain of command. The fractured nature of time in combat. The possibility of death even if you did it all right. The randomness that played into it all. You know good men die in war. You know that you did a hell of a job. You know you would do it all again. Even now. Knowing how it hurts. You’d do it all again. It’s who you are.

You stand among men who are rare on this earth. Those brave enough and human enough to deliver death and endure life. You can’t undo what has been done. It IS your burden to carry. But it’s not yours alone. Your brothers stand with you. Those who shoulder the weight of being the only group of souls on earth condoned to take life and heralded as heroes for doing so.

“Some things can’t be fixed, they can only be carried.” I read that recently.

The hell of combat lies in the silent aftermath. In the second-guessing one’s decisions. In the very real weight upon your soul that bears actual responsibility for the loss of human life. It is in what you should have done, what you couldn’t do, in the reality of your actions. In the unchangeability of what you did or didn’t do.

I don’t have an answer for you in this. I can only shoulder it with you. Perhaps redemption is found in the choices we make now, going forward, in choosing to remember and live with a sanctity of life, in giving back, in finding ways to be more truly alive. Perhaps there is redemption for you in a religion that makes sense to you. Perhaps there is redemption in choosing to let love break you open and risk feeling again.

I don’t know. I seek an answer as much as you do. What I do know is that the pain is real, the ache hurts, the sense of carrying something that only a few ever have to carry on this earth and even fewer will ever understand is sometimes overwhelming and always there. Underneath it all.

I do know that you are beautiful in your brokenness. You are beautiful in your pain. You are beautiful in your courage to be a soul who carries this weight. I know your heart is good and you are loveable. I know your heart has done dark things you have never told anyone. I know that sometimes all you can do is let the tears rise and fall, to make the pain just a bit more bearable, than gather your strength, get up and carry on. I know that you may be shut down and so numb that nothing touches you anymore.

I know that you are loved by those who understand you and by those who don’t. You are here for a reason and while the weight on your soul is so heavy, you have the strength and fortitude to bear it. And when you stumble to the ground under the heaviness, the rest of us will be here to kneel with you, give you water, wipe your tears, and hold courage for you while you find yours again. And when you are exhausted and can’t get up, we’ll carry you.

The spiritual burdens of combat are hard. There’s nothing easy about this. Few are willing to even address this issue. But I refuse to believe that there is no hope for less pain, for different perspectives, for wounds to heal. I also believe you find courage by facing truth in the face. Trying to make this less difficult only denies the reality of how complex and real this issue is. I will continue to go into this dark cave until my eyes adjust to the dark and I can see what my soul needs to see.

We may be outside the circle, but we’re here together.


This is the kind of post that takes a shot of whiskey to write. Only, alcohol gives me migraines, so fuck that. We’re gonna talk about something that many of you live with and most of you will never be able to find words for… and that’s having witnessed or caused the death of children during your deployment. The adult pain of losing buddies and having killed others and killed parts of yourself in combat is somewhat tolerable (or at least expected) compared to the guilt and sadness that comes from the death and suffering of children. Many of you weren’t all that much older than the children you were around, some of them reminded you of your own siblings, and for those of you who were older, some of them reminded you of your kids. They all reminded you that children don’t have a choice in this world and that their innocence even in presenting a threat to you is something adults are supposed to defend…. except you couldn’t…. okay, deep breath. Grab your bottle of whiskey, and keep reading. This is tough terrain, and the only way to the other side is through it.

The fact that children have always been the victims of war doesn’t make the reality of your experience any easier. In an ideal world, when adults go to war, they’d just kill other adults… and in an even more ideal world, warfighters would only kill other warfighters, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in this hurting world we live in. In this real world, children are present in combat zones. They watch warfighters, interact with them, bring both joy and fear to them, gain and earn trust, and often get used by evil adults who enslave them as participants in war. We all know, logically, that children suffer and die in war zones. Just as they do in natural disasters and in any tragic situation in the world where adults fail to protect them.

But knowing that isn’t the issue. It’s living with your personal experience of it.

I’m not going to trigger you with graphic word portraits of images that already haunt you.
I am going to talk softly to your heart…

That ache you feel, the consuming guilt, the feelings of shame, anger, powerlessness and second guessing — those come from the soft, compassionate parts of your spirit that instinctively know that Life is to be protected. Children embody that innocence of Life. And as an adult in a position of power over life and death, you felt even more responsible to protect that innocence.

We don’t often talk about the warfighters’ softer side (and yes, every one of you has one, even if all you can feel is numb right now). Warfighters’ hearts ache from causing and witnessing the immense suffering, grief, destruction and devastating living conditions that the local civilian population endures. Emotions get very conflicted here because if you feel too much, you’ll let your guard down… and if you feel nothing, you wonder what kind of a human being you have become. The military doesn’t make it easy to show emotion, let alone “soft” ones. But just because you are culturally denied the right to show that you have a heart, doesn’t mean that your heart feels less. Quite the contrary, that tenderness gets bottled up and shoved down inside so it’s hidden from others’ view. And the pain becomes a very private wound you carry.

The death of a child kills the child in you.

When you witness children’s remains, or a child dies because of or in your presence, or you couldn’t prevent a child’s death because of rules of engagement or because you weren’t there in time or were there at the wrong time…. a part of the innocent child in you dies, too. And that is the part of you that I want to hear these words. You see, love, all the pain and grief and shame and feeling as if you failed or did the unthinkable… all that incredible sadness, all that was lost and broken in you… comes from a very tender place in your being. The child in you. You see, you go to war as adult as you can be and your mind throws up protective walls that help you endure and do what you’re trained to do. But inside, the child in you holds on to all the hope that love and joy and beauty still exist and will someday return. That child in you holds and protects the essence of your being: Love. And when you experience the death of a child in this world, a part of that child in you dies, too. And you feel deeply broken.

Your adult mind rages against the reality of a child’s death. You feel as if you should have been powerful enough to stop it or change the circumstances and those beliefs can consume you. You feel the grief of the parents, the family, and how fucked up we adults are when we can allow and create a world where killing each other is how we solve problems. Children remind all of us of who we could have been.

So what do you do? How do you deal with this pain? It hurts so deep inside and the shame and guilt keep you silent. After all, what would people think if they knew?

This kind of pain is the kind that drives people to suicide. These unspeakable acts of war become the unforgivable memories of war that eat you alive. The deep sadness at knowing that your presence (the presence of your country) participated in the suffering and changed or ended a child and family’s life forever couples with the aloneness you feel back home knowing how blessed and carefree kids are here and what horrible conditions children suffer back over there. And continue to suffer. What do you do with this weight you carry?

Listen carefully now as I whisper this to you…

Allow yourself to be held in compassion.

There are no magic words that are going to make what happened right. It will never be right. Yet, you are not excluded from compassion. The human heart is amazingly capable of feeling deep compassion toward others while holding itself to the harshest condemnation. Guilt and believing that you should have been more powerful to change what happened are normal feelings to have, yet your heart and your spirit also need compassion that allows you to see yourself in light of your true nature… a loving human being who was also placed in extreme conditions. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t feel guilty. If your heart wasn’t loving, what happened wouldn’t bother you. Try to see yourself with the compassion you give to others. Imagine that a loved one felt as you do and had been through what you have been through, what would you think of him or her? What would you tell him?

Consider the power of forgiveness.

You can’t undo what happened. And if a child died because of you, the thought that you deserve anything but hell may be unthinkable. Why should you deserve forgiveness? Why should you be here when they’re dead? Why should your kids be alive when that child isn’t? Why should you ever allow yourself to be happy when you caused such deep pain? Those are not easy questions to answer. Yet, if you pull yourself out of the tunnel vision of guilt and look at the broader picture, you’ll see that there is something bigger at play in our lives. Why you, that moment, that child, those circumstances, that precise second in time? As painful as it seems, allow yourself to consider the possibility that we choose our lives and our moments of death before we come to this earth… and if so, that child’s life was fully lived when he or she died. (I know that theory stretches a lot of beliefs; stretching beliefs and thinking is what I’m here to do.)

What if in the big picture of life, you were right where you were meant to be? And what went down went down. And there is more compassion and grace for you than you know? And forgiveness isn’t something someone gives you, but something you have to take for yourself?

Honor their lives with life.

The desire to feel redeemed requires action. In Bosnia, mass graves from the 1992-95 civil war are continually located and the remains excavated. Shortly after I moved back to the States in 2004, I was pregnant with my second child and working a desk job in our local town. I remember being on break at work and checking the Bosnian news, and a two-sentence report came on that said they had found the remains of “two small children who had died hugging each other”. Maybe it was because I was pregnant, I don’t know, but that bit of news and the image it evoked hit my hard. I could imagine my own children in that position. It haunted me. And I vowed that I would not let their deaths be in vain. That they would not be forgotten. So, I wrote a novel about them (no, it’s not published and yes, it needs work.) My point is, your heart has felt totally helpless and powerless and it needs action to feel as if it is doing something to honor the lives of those little ones.

There are no magical answers to moving through the pain you feel over this. That pain comes down to the thoughts you think, the perspective you have, the beliefs you hold about yourself. And the way to move forward is to open your heart to new thoughts and new beliefs. So pull off that protective armor and know that it is not only okay to hurt as you do, but it is a sign that your heart and spirit are still tender. And that is a good thing. In the big picture of life, you are also a victim of the tragedy of war. That child in you that died over there also didn’t get protected in the grand scheme of humanity. It’s okay to be a warfighter and feel this intense compassion. And it’s time that you allow yourself to feel that way toward you.







First off, let me tell you this: forgiveness is a human issue. Not just a God one. There is ample discussion of forgiveness in religion and many sources to find those discussions. Instead of diving into theological viewpoints, I’m going to bring it all down to one fact:

We are all of One Source.

One Entity. The human Spirit carried in physical bodies. You don’t have to believe in a religion to sense this. Nor do you have to alter your religious viewpoint. For our purposes here, what matters is that you realize that when you are seeking forgiveness from God or in your faith or from another person, what you are actually seeking is to feel accepted despite the actions you sense were wrong.

The question “can I be forgiven?”  is a desire to feel that you are still worth loving and loveable, even though you’ve done something that you believe is against God/against another soul/against your own moral code. You can call your actions “sin” or not. Labels here don’t matter. What you feel is a sense that you do not belong, that you’re not worthy, that you can’t be embraced by Love as fully as others can. You feel cut off from God, from others, from yourself. And often, you feel so drenched in guilt that it begins to consume your sense of identity. What you feel responsible for becomes who you feel you are. And you punish yourself by not allowing yourself to step into Compassion. Life and living become a constant effort to cut yourself off from any thing that might be “too good for you to deserve.”

Wherever you are along the line of guilt, shame and longing for a sense of forgiveness, you need to know that there is Love for you. So let this article wrap you in a Love you’re not sure exists for you and, even if it’s only for a moment, allow your heart to be held by a Grace you do not fully believe in yet.

Why do you feel the need to be forgiven?

A good part of your mind knows that everything you had to do in combat, you had to do. You were doing your job, doing it well. Your job was to kill the enemy and protect your own. Your job was to follow ROEs. You did your job. There’s no debating that.

What comes up sometimes is how you feel about the job you did. The factors thrown in that tug at your human heart and more importantly, at your warrior’s soul. Questions like: did I do enough? Could I have done something more? Would this person still be here if I had? Those are questions that can lead to doubt, guilt and shame.

The sense that you need to be forgiven comes from a deep, instinctual place. And this is where warriors get stuck. Three elements intertwine:

1) What you believe about moral/ethical behavior

2)The moral/ethical behavior you experienced as reality

3) Your innate spiritual nature as a being Of Life

Let’s start with what you believe.

You grew up with a sense of right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable behaviors. These depend on your parents, your childhood environment, any traumas you endured, and your affiliation with religion/faith. You have your own sense of what’s right and wrong. And you took that with you into combat.

But what did you experience?

Your own beliefs were put up against forces that confirmed and contradicted them. You saw, heard, felt, and did things that crossed or questioned your own boundaries. What you were so certain of before became murky. Some things felt right. Some things did not. Experience changed things. You lost buddies you believed could have been saved, you may have had to consider children as the enemy and kill them, you saw many injustices by people you expected injustice from and many from those you did not. What was right and what was wrong blurred fast.

In this spiritual chaos, the big picture gets experienced in the precise moments that eat away at the heart. Not having said goodbye. A last word that didn’t convey how much someone mattered to you. Someone else dying, having been where you were meant to be, but weren’t. The look in a child’s eyes. A family wiped out in a vehicular crash. What you didn’t know or do, couldn’t have known or done, but really believe you should have. And the things you did but know you shouldn’t have.

Then we have your innate spiritual nature as a being Of Life.

As a warrior, it’s honorable to kill, not hard to kill, and you may even miss killing. But every time you took a life your soul broke a bit somewhere deep inside. Why? Because as humans we are Of Life. It is our natural instinct to defend life, even when defending life means taking it from others. As part of humanity, you can’t escape your essential nature as a Breath-bearer. Or the instinctive knowledge that taking life separates you from feeling spiritually accepted.

So, the sense that you need to be forgiven comes from a combination of all of these things. And at the core it stems from your beliefs about yourself, what is right/wrong, and your own power to control things.

Who can forgive you?

I believe that as beings Of Life, we are also Of Love. And that this Love is greater than all the doctrines of all the religions. I believe we come from Love and return to Love. We ARE Love, even though we don’t always remember that too well while we’re here on earth. Who can forgive you depends on your beliefs.

But beliefs about God and religion are just that: beliefs. They are the thoughts you choose to believe as truth. There is no evidence of them except for the echo in your being that those beliefs resonate with you. Who can forgive you ultimately, comes down to: You.

If you believe that God can forgive you, you must still be the one to accept that Thought as Truth. You are the one who accepts forgiveness — whether it’s from a Deity or another person — the power to feel forgiven is completely and only within your power. For example, if you are a Christian, you must accept (i.e., choose to believe the thought) that God forgives you for your sins in order to feel forgiven. Christians will tell you that you are forgiven whether you feel it or not. But what good is being forgiven if you don’t feel that you are??

You hold the key to your own freedom from guilt and shame. Whether that is through embracing a religious faith or changing the beliefs you have about what it is to be human.

How do you set yourself free and feel forgiven?

Feelings come from beliefs. Beliefs are thoughts that you keep thinking and accepting as truth. Thoughts and feelings can be changed. Religions talk about grace and forgiveness by God, but those are relatively easy to accept mentally. What they do not teach you is how do you forgive yourself or feel forgiven when God forgives you?

I’m not going to make light of how hard this is. I’m not going to say that it’s just a matter of changing your thoughts and poof! you feel forgiven. It’s not. What is at stake here is an entirely deeper way of looking at yourself, a more human way than most of us ever venture to explore. It takes seeing yourself with Love and Compassion and Grace. It takes looking at yourself as you would look at a loved one who had been through everything you had with the same results. It takes humility to admit and accept that in those circumstances you were powerless or not in control. But what it really takes is looking deeply at your intention.

Did you intend for what happened to happen? A good majority of the time guilt comes from our sense of powerlessness and our inability to accept that we were not able to change events. It comes from holding onto a belief that we should have/could have — when the reality is, everything combined in that moment, including forces beyond your control, and what happened, happened.

On a spiritual level, you also have the other person’s soul at play – and you do not know what decisions those souls made about when/where they would leave earth, or what they came here to experience. Or how their lives were meant to interact with yours and in some way, end up blessing you and themselves with the Love of Acceptance.

And what if you did intend for what happened to happen and now you feel guilty?

Couldn’t it be that the lessons for your heart are the same, but in reverse? A deep humility that acknowledges your power and the control you had? A sense that there is a greater purpose for what you did and the lives you changed, and perhaps that purpose is to receive the Love of Acceptance?

People can tell you you’re forgiven and accepted, but as long as you keep believing that you’re not, their words won’t make any difference.  Read that again.

No matter what happened, it’s what you choose to believe that keeps you feeling what you are feeling. You need to understand that you own the power to feel forgiven — even if the other person cannot forgive you. Forgiveness is not declaring what is wrong to be right. Forgiveness is about getting unstuck from a moment in life that keeps you from growing and moving on as a human being. Ultimately, it’s about coming back to where we started: we are all of One Source. Our transgressions against each other, our acceptance of each other is all within the same Oneness. And there is a rich, deep well of grace for us as Us.

Thoughts to Explore

It is easier to talk about this than to do the work to reach a point where you can feel forgiven. It requires the time the soul needs to remember that Grace is how we humbly continue living when our own hearts convict us the harshest.

It’s also important to remember that you keep yourself cut off from Love as a way to punish yourself. Self-hatred, self-rejection, self-disgust — these keep you unable to accept Good in your life, to feel Love, to allow yourself to receive Love from others.

As you ponder forgiveness, here are some thoughts to explore:

1) Imagine that someone you really love has been through what you have. How would you feel about that person? Would you be able to see them with compassion? Would you be able to see that they are more than just what happened or what they did?

2) What would it mean if you could know that those you killed or who died because of you have nothing but Love for you now?

3) What if you could know that someday, because of what happened, blessing would come in some way you cannot imagine now?

4) How will holding yourself apart from acceptance do anything to make things right?

5) When you return to the Spirit World, and you are embraced in Love, will you regret that you held yourself accountable to a sense of judgment that no one, including God, holds you accountable for??

Please know that even if you cannot feel it, you are held in Love. You can deny that, you can not allow yourself to feel it, but you cannot change it. Love is there for you.

It’s okay to allow yourself to respond to it.

Why are you still here?

You survived. They didn’t.

You know it just happened. There was no rhyme or reason. They were with you one moment, gone the next.
And you were left alive.

You’d take their place in a heartbeat to spare the agony you saw in their loved one’s eyes.
A hole in the heart of a family, a missing parent, a child dead before his years.
Why are you still here?

Silence absorbs your question. Guilt crushes you into the darkness.
No answer comes.

You feel guilty for being alive. Guilty for not being dead. Guilty for having another chance at life.
Guilty for not being able – though you’re not sure how you could’ve but surely you could’ve – kept them alive.
You came home.

They went home.

You are here. They are… too.
With you. Flashes of memory. Moments shared. Fears faced.
Boredom overcome. Bonds forged. A date and hour stamped indelibly in your conscious.

Now, they are there. You are here.

The soul asks; it cannot accept sheer powerlessness.
The soul cries out because it forgets. Blinded here in this veil of earth-existence.
Unable to remember the decisions made when the adventure was planned.
The perfect control and power over every detail. Now unrecalled.
It forgets that our time here is but a game.

A game, you say? A game that sears pain so deep you are sliced in two?
A game?? Are tears a game? Rage? A mind that relives a moment over and over and over…
capturing you in sheer powerless night after night after night?
A game?!?

Where is God? Where is mercy? Where is something, anything, to hold responsible for this?
This decision that left you alive and them dead.
That gave you another chance and took theirs away.
Where is the one who decides?

A voice whispers, so familiar.
You listen. And centuries of beliefs give way.
Religion fades. A faint memory returns. Of that time, back there in Spirit World, when you were together, mapping out this great adventure. Planning how long you’d stay and how you wanted to “go” this time around. Of wanting to be tested and of the growth that would come. “How long should I stay?” you asked. “Longer than me,” he said. “But why?” “Because I’ve already learned that.” “Okay.” And you agreed.
Do you remember??

“You cannot lose what was never yours,” they told you, “don’t forget that,” they said. Years on earth left unlived, memories not made, time not spent, a whole “future” gone —
“It’s not gone,” they remind you gently. “For it was never going to be.” You cannot lose what was never yours. “Don’t play your grief forward, don’t stop living when we’re gone,” they warned. “For this is our choice, not yours. And while you will be there when we leave, it will not be yours to blame. So live.”

How do you accept that? How do you let go of the thought that it could’ve been different? A second in timing. A millimeter in distance. If you had just done something — anything — differently, if you’d been taken instead, it would be okay. They’re gone, you miss them, you want them back, they’re never coming back this time around.

Why are you still here?

“Because your journey isn’t done,” they whisper.
There are lives yet for you to reach. Hearts to love. Healing to experience.
And until every life that you are meant to grace has been touched,
Every heart yet to be loved by you and love you in return,
Every joy that you give just by being here,
Every soul that looks into your pain and grief and finds courage for their own,

Until then, this is where you belong.

If you’re dealing with survivor’s guilt and would like to share what’s on your heart, please reach out. I’ll walk with you.