We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
-- T.S. Eliot ( Four Quartets, 1962)
Although anxiety can serve as a defense against depression, both anxiety and depression can mask an underlying sense of guilt. Clinicians have reported that a frequent theme expressed by Holocaust survivors was their feeling that they should not be alive and that they should have died instead of the parent or sibling. Based on his clinical work with almost 2,000 survivors of the Holocaust, Niederland ( 1981) believed that it is not guilt over repressed death wishes but the survival itself that stood at the core of the inner conflict.
For the individuals in this study, guilt was a major concern. Some siblings felt they should have been the one to die because they felt that is what their parents wished. Others felt guilty that survival was so difficult for the afflicted child while everything came so easily to them by comparison. These siblings went out looking for challenges and seemed to drive themselves relentlessly as a test of their endurance. Many of the siblings expressed guilt that they did not love the sibling enough, or do enough for him or her. Jenny was obsessed with the time that her dying sister asked her to bring some pills to her, and she delayed for a few moments. Even though this happened several years before her sister died, Jenny was convinced that somehow her tardiness was responsible for her sister's death. Some guilt seemed to have arisen out of a basic belief that to survive was to do so at another's expense. Modell, Weiss, and Sampson ( 1983) theorized there is an unconscious bookkeeping system within a nuclear family such that the fate of particular family members determines how much good is left over for others. Several siblings wished that they had been a little sick, so that their brother or sister would not be so sick. Another type
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Publication information: Book title: Sibling Loss. Contributors: Joanna H. Fanos - Author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 113.
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