Survivor’s guilt in The End of the Road

When all that remains is guilt

The survivor’s guilt is a well documented psychological phenomenon. When mentioned, it brings to mind the survivors of cataclysms, genocide, plane crashes and accidents. People who should consider themselves lucky to have walked away unscathed whilst many others perished, seem unable to rejoice and be merry. Instead, they are tormented by a sense of responsibility for the others dying. They often feel it was somehow their fault. They believe they don’t deserve to live, that it would be a travesty to just go on with their lives whilst others cannot.

Guilt-ridden survivors have been known to punish themselves, slide into depths of depression, even try to take their own lives. Guilt is a powerful emotion. It often isn’t rational – the real offenders out there rarely experience it. Guilt is a way of channelling loss and trauma. It is a fascinating, albeit difficult, theme for a writer to explore.

In The End of the Road I confront my characters with such guilt. It isn’t just the guilt of surviving the apocalypse. Its roots go deeper into my characters’ past: their mistakes, losses and transgressions against those they once loved. It is about past events they can neither reverse nor make up for. Their reactions are different: some of them run away from their guilt; others run towards it. Whatever they do, they can no longer remain passive precisely because they are the survivors – the only ones left to take action before they too are gone.

The End of the Road is available to order here

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