Tips for Overcoming Survivor Guilt

Experts offer tips for patients and survivors to overcome feelings of guilt.

Counselors who regularly help patients overcome survivor guilt have toolboxes of ideas to help alleviate the problem.

Vicki Kennedy, a licensed clinical social worker who works with the Cancer Support Community in Washington, D.C., and Donna M. Pisano, a psychologist who volunteers with the Cancer Hope Network, recommend the following:

> Recognize that guilt will feel more overwhelming on some days, and when that happens, acknowledge those feelings and find a way to express them. > STRIVE to find gratitude in daily life and focus on what’s good, rather than on the pain and suffering of others.

> Don't socially isolate. Be around friends and family, and get out of the house.

> Practice small acts of kindness. “If you go to chemotherapy and see someone who seems really nervous, hold their hand and give them a smile. That works wonders” for both people involved, Pisano says.

> Exercise, which can help to treat many of the physical symptoms that commonly accompany survivor guilt, including depression and anxiety. “Go for a walk and get some fresh air,” Pisano says. “If you don’t have a lot of strength, walk around your home. Any kind of exercise can be helpful.”