The survivor's guilt: The case of cancer

Shulamith Kreitler*, Frida Barak, Nava Siegelman-Danieli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The paper deals with survivor's guilt. Survivor's guilt is a common phenomenon, defined as the guilt that individuals may experience if they have emerged unharmed following natural, human or social disasters in which others have been harmed. The purpose was to describe the phenomenon and to study some of its correlates and consequences in the context of the caretakers of cancer patients. The first part presents a brief review of what is known about survivor's guilt, and the second part presents some findings of an empirical study the authors have done about survivor's guilt. The participants were 195 caretakers of cancer patients; most of whom were interviewed and presented tests both pre- and post the patient's death. The study showed that survivor's guilt is prevalent among the caretakers of cancer patients and is related to remorse and somewhat less to depression. It is unrelated to variables, such as the duration of having taken care of the patient, number of deaths in the family, marital status, number of children and religiosity but is related to intensity of care for the patient and relation to the patient, and hence may be assumed to be rooted in deeper affective layers of the individual's personality. Observations about the correlates of survivor's guilt six months following the patient's death support the thesis that survivor's guilt exerts a pro-social impact on the person's behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRe-Imaging Death and Dying
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781904710820
ISBN (Print)9789004403987
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2020


  • Cancer
  • Caretakers
  • Guilt
  • Survivor's guilt


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