Skip to main content
Site search

Coping with survivor's guilt after treatment

Among the many emotions you may feel upon finishing cancer treatment, one can be especially surprising: guilt. This feeling is common, though it can be difficult to understand if you've been looking forward to experiencing happiness and joy after treatment.

However unexpected, guilt may arise for various reasons. Some people may feel responsible if they find that cancer has not only changed their life but also affected relationships or dynamics within their family.

As a cancer survivor, others may feel like they've been given a second chance at life and set unrealistic expectations for how they think they should live moving forward. This can include things such as setting grandiose goals for themselves or trying to live an extremely healthy lifestyle. Falling short of these expectations—whether they are real or perceived—can cause guilt.

Guilt also may appear when survivors become preoccupied with existential questions like why they survived cancer but not someone else.

No matter the source of the guilt, the feeling is complex and can be confusing. If you are experiencing survivor's guilt, you are not alone and there are ways of coping. Here are some methods other people have found helpful in dealing with guilt after cancer treatment: 

  • Participate in a support group at Gundersen or in the community. Other cancer survivors often can relate to how you're feeling and serve as sources of support.
  • If you have lost friends or relatives to cancer, take time to grieve them.
  • Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with appreciating finishing treatment and surviving cancer. These are significant life events and worth recognizing.
  • Reach out to your social worker at Gundersen or a mental health professional about how you are feeling.
  • Remember that the guilt you are feeling is common and you are not alone.
Related articles
woman in front of a red backgroud telling a secret
Advice to keep your skin looking ageless

Start early with a consistent regimen and the effort will pay off in the long run. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Holiday gift guide: Top beauty products

Check names off your list—or treat yourself—with our skincare specialists' gift guide.
woman getting laser treatment
5 questions to ask before a cosmetic laser treatment

Before committing to a laser treatment—or any cosmetic service—there are some questions worth discussing with your skincare specialist.
woman with floral cloth mask on standing in front of a red background
Is wearing a face mask causing your acne?

Beat 'maskne' with these tips Is it stress? The changing seasons? Your new foundation? If you're wondering what may be causing more pimples than usual to pop up around your

1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

Language Support:
Jump back to top