Survivors Guilt – my experience

For the past few days I have been sitting with two images in my head, the reality of what happened and one of could have’s and maybes. Toiling with myself if I want to share this experience getting conflicting information to either spill it all out or my favorite just pretend it didn’t happen and move on with your life, but somehow I feel the need to spill my guts.

Last week was supposed to be a week of relaxation for me. Every year I take leave during the colder months, I find it less stressful and less expensive to go out of season. This is the second year that it was only the girls and I that went on our holiday adventure together to my aunt’s house that lives near the coast. This year started no different.

First few days were brilliant, I took the girls to the beach and they went on zip line adventures. My biggest concern at point was just not too go overboard with the spending and having fun. Took leisurely drives and watched TV seeing that I never really get a chance to do it with my schedule. Relaxing bonding time.

On the Wednesday night it was us ladies having a braai or barbecue as more fondly known in other places, still laughing about how nice it is not too have any men around. I don’t really drink but because I was on holiday decided to have one, my girls at this point were having a lie down on the couch complaining we are too loud while watching their cartoons. My aunts being who they are said it’s late and that I must take the girls to the unit we were sleeping in and they will do the dishes and the rest of the cleaning up.

An hour or so later while in bed I heard a commotion, but with all honesty thought it was the in-between neighbors having a domestic dispute? Sounded like hitting and shouting but could really make out any details, only when I heard the man say I am getting my gun, I shot up from bed.  Hearing gun had me worried about more than one thing, firstly my kids, secondly the lady next door had a kid, and thirdly my aunties next to them.

As I opened the door one of other male neighbors had bruising and scarring looking like they fell. There was disorientation and chaos when all the neighbor tried telling me it’s my aunties. I hit a blank for a minute before firstly locking the door where my kids were sleeping and secondly rushing off to them.

What I saw I wish I could erase from my mind. Blood! Blood all over the people I loved, panic, confusion and more blood. They were alive but hurt. Somehow I think my mind left my body and all my actions became automated, like my mind wasn’t there but my body knew what needed to happen. I had to stay calm for them, for my kids sleeping peacefully and rest of the community that was all shocked and panicked.

Two young males entered their home after they did the dishes and got relaxed for the evening. They took a garden fork from the side of the house entered and started beating up my one aunt and giving a few blows to my other aunt. They demanded money and shouted profanities and slurs. If you have to meet my one aunt she is very petite, she wears a size 4 shoe, they gave her the brunt of the beating. Hitting her even when she willingly gave them her money. The other  keeping my other aunt at bay with more violence.

I took my phone with me when I went to put the girls to bed but left my handbag, this in turned actually turned into a blessing. Phoning the police and doing my best to give them and address and details of a place I am only a visitor too, but managed. Getting my aunties in their state of shock not too wash off any of the blood was easier than I thought, but felt futile when the forensics came. Trying to come to grips and understand what happened.

Sounded like the Police had a busy night as the controller decided it was ok to tell me, they will send a van when they can, as they only have one and there was a murder and an another robbery. In the back of my mind I thought this cannot be normal, but just continued to go through all the processes.

As they ran out they grabbed all the small valuables like cell phones, jewelry, handbags. They even took my 7 year old daughter hand bag where she kept her life savings, it wasn’t a lot but it was the violation of it all. After that we had a range of people coming in and out. First the police, forensics and detectives. The one head wound didn’t want to stop bleeding so we got the ambulance in the mix too. All this happened a little after 9pm, and all the emergency services left and we were finally alone slightly after 2am.

I couldn’t sleep and I can guarantee they didn’t sleep for the rest of that night. Having to see people you love and care for in this state is not easy. I wish I had a detergent to wash out my head and really try and just forget it all happened. Having to listen how people try and process a trauma and the after effects is soul shattering especially cause there is nothing you can do to make this better or go away. There is nothing anyone can do.

For the girls we just explained that were bad people that came and took our things, and that the aunties fell. We felt like a 7 and 5 year old don’t need to know the details of the events of the evening. My 7 year old still asking me when the Police will bring back her money that the bad people took. In the back of my mind I think they are also a bit shaken up from the aftermath, they know something happened but they are not sure quite what but we all kept it together for their sake.

Unfortunately this this not an unusual thing in South Africa, you just keep thinking it won’t happen to you, until it does. I might not have physically assaulted like they were but I was there with them. I sit and think to myself, if I am feeling like this how they are feeling. Trying to not blame myself for not being there to help them, thankful I took my kids to bed when I did. It angers me when people say at least they not dead and it could have been worse, is this what we as a country have come too. It shouldn’t have happened and the fact that they are alive is not a consolation prize.

Our Police force is under budgeted and under a lot of pressure to deal with crimes they don’t have resources too, leaving the communities they serve feeling like they are part of the problem and not there to protect. I can rant on for days about this but this will not solve or actually help the situation, as I know a lot of Police that are doing the best they can with what they have. To date they have not gone back to my aunties to a follow up and update the case file with the doctor’s report for the assault.

I am back home now, having to try and replace all the documents that got taken, but I would rather be inconvenienced like this then having to plan a funeral. We are all on high alert and think sometimes in state of unbelief. I feel bad and glad that my involvement was only that of support, I survived the attack and just had to help deal with the aftermath. I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more to help but thankful my kids are unharmed. Even writing this I had arguments in my head it’s not about me it’s about what happened to them, the range of emotions can be quire overwhelming.

I have never in my life met two braver women, how they carried themselves during and after, has humbled me. It has given me a new insight on how different people react in stressful situations, and just made the respect I have for them grow even more.

Be vigilant, love your loved ones, and accept the feelings for what they are.



Categories: HealthTags: , ,


  1. Wow! Glad you survived.

    Liked by 1 person

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