Survivor’s Guilt in Caretakers of Cancer

Shulamith Kreitler, Frida Barak, Yasmin Alkalay, Nava Siegelman-Danieli

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

3 Scopus citations


The paper deals with survivor’s guilt. The purpose was to describe the phenomenon and to study some of its correlates, functions 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, focusing on its frequency, the circumstances in which it has been observed and explanations offered in the frameworks of the psychoanalytic, the social-evolutionary and existentialist approaches. The second part presents findings of an empirical study of survivor’s guilt by the authors. The participants were 113 caretakers of cancer patients, to whom questionnaires were administered 2-3 weeks before the patient’s death and 2-3 weeks following it. Interviews were conducted with 42 caretakers 6 months later. Survivor’s guilt was reported by 65.4% of the caretakers. The major results were that survivor’s guilt is distinct from the emotions of guilt and remorse, and that it is only moderately related to demographic, emotional, circumstantial and other variables characterising the relationship to the deceased. Interviews after 6 months showed that most of those with survivor’s guilt were engaged in voluntary pro-social activities and showed evidence of enhanced ‘contact’ with the deceased whose presence was maintained in their life space.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAt the Interface
Subtitle of host publicationProbing the Boundaries
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAt the Interface: Probing the Boundaries
ISSN (Print)1570-7113


  • Cancer
  • caretakers
  • guilt
  • survivor’s guilt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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