Survivor's Guilt


Survivor's Guilt


your avatar   Joe, 37-year-old man

I am a 37-year-old single male. I have two sisters and a brother. My father died from cancer when I was 4. I lost my mom in a freak car accident when I was 14. I was in the back seat of the car and my mom and sister in the front seat. My mom was taking my sister to work and as she stepped on the brake to slow down at an intersection the car would not stop. The car went up an embankment and came to stop, or so we thought. When my mom opened the door and went around the car, it jerked and started to roll back down the hill. When it came to a stop at the bottom of the hill and I stepped out, I saw the car door resting on my mom's chest pinning her. Emergency crews arrived quickly but there was nothing they could do. The police placed my sister and me in a car and drove us home. The last thing I remember about my mom is someone placing a towel over her face.

My grandparents were still alive at the time so my brother and sisters were able to stay together. However, tensions between us drove us apart after my grandparents died 2-3 years later. I never received much counseling after the accident and I started to withdraw during high school by working all the time after school. Since high school graduation I worked and put my way through college to graduate at the age of 30. I moved 350 miles away from my family to get a good paying job. For the past 20 years however, I've been suffering from not being able to form close relationships and constant feelings of suicide. I've also been plagued by recurring dreams that awaken me with feelings of terrible loss.

I entered into counseling and went on medication a year and a half ago but it doesn't seem to be helping. I still have these dreams, can't manage to start a relationship because of not feeling worthy, and feel depressed all the time. I don't know what else to do.


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

Hi Joe,

You have had more than your share of traumas in your life and it does not surprise me that the dreams, depression, and feelings of worthlessness have been plaguing you. What always amazes me is how people assume that they can get over anything without really allowing themselves to grieve or getting help for it quickly. Our culture prizes self-reliance so much that people often feel shameful if they can't get over things on their own and often don't even think about the need for help.

There is no doubt in my mind that you are suffering from PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This essentially is delayed stress. When something overwhelming happens to a person they shock out and their feelings get dissociated so that they cannot feel them or express them completely. After a few hours or days the feelings resurface and the person can then express them if they let themselves. If they push them down again then they get stuck.

Several months or years later symptoms start to be exhibited. These include vivid dreams often of the traumatic incident, depression, anxiety, insomnia, preoccupation, suicidal feelings, substance abuse, anger, dissociation, and low self-esteem. These symptoms can be relieved best by a combination of counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and especially energy psychology.

Energy psychology works on a deeper level than traditional talk therapy and is often much more complete and quicker. There are several different types of energy psychology and they include NET, EMDR, and hypnosis. I would suggest seeing a therapist face-to-face to work on your PTSD issues.

It would also make sense to rule out whether or not some form of chemical disorder is also present. Whenever anyone feels suicidal or has experienced anxiety or depression for a long period of time, it is prudent to rule this out. I would suggest talking with a psychiatrist for this, but make sure that you inform him or her of the PTSD.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Good luck.


This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit:


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