Discussing it with a trusted friend or, if your thoughts are omnipresent, with a therapist will help you analyze your thinking and any assumptions you may have made.
Stephanie Hills, 68, who lost both parents earlier this year, regrets not being able to see her mother, who had Covid, after being hospitalized. At the time, Ms. Hills also had Covid.
When she spoke to her mother on the phone, "I kept telling her I would come back and not forget her," said Ms. Hills, who lives in Davie, Florida. But her mother was so weak that she couldn't. t answer.
The hospital rabbi suggested that she tell her mother that it was okay for her to leave.
"I couldn't tell," said Ms. Hills. "I wanted her to fight and get better."
This only increased her feelings of guilt, Ms. Hills said recently.
People are hardwired to think counterfactually, said Dr. Tangney. In other words, if something negative happened, they will ponder that experience and wonder if there was anything they could have done that would have changed the outcome. "If only I'd left a little earlier", for example, or "If I'd just said something else."
This way of thinking can come in handy in cases where we want to find new solutions or alternative methods.
"We're just looking for ways to gain control so that X doesn't come back," said Dr. Tangney.
However, when applied to circumstances beyond our control, it can also increase feelings of guilt, she added.