Understanding the Bargaining Stage of Grief
The bargaining stage of grief is often a way to negotiate with someone or something you believe can change the outcome of the situation. Many emotions occur where you attempt to make bargains in an attempt to bring your loved one back.
During this time, we experience a sense of false or misdirected hope in the face of our loss; it is a form of self-preservation (like I said before, similar to denial).
You may start to plead “Please if you bring my loved one back, I promise to be better” is an example.
The challenge with bargaining is that you are already aware that your loved one is never coming back, and that is why denial and bargaining are so closely intertwined.
Each phase of grief is hard and intertwined. Just because you may be at the bargaining phase, does not mean you have fully processed through the previous ones. I tend to find this stage one of the challenging ones. You are in a state of the various stages, which can make it confusing. For example, you may naturally assign blame to those you perceive could have prevented it, and even guilt about what you could have done differently.
To be specific, bargaining takes place in the mind by trying to rationalize things that could have done differently. We attempt to negotiate a different outcome that would bring back what we lost. Key examples include, “If only we had taken them to the doctor sooner,” or “God, I promise to be better if you bring her back.” In cases of those who have a terminal illness or are in an accident, we may say, “I will do good or trade places if you let them live.”
When we bargain or negotiate it is our minds attempt to gain control by not accepting the fact of the loss. It slowly preserves the mind by avoiding reality and not allowing our truth to set in. Of course, most of us are aware that our loved one is gone.
Bargaining is a slow evolution from the denial stage; you are still in somewhat of denial but moving forward, and you may start to assign blame and feel guilt.
Guilt is irrational; we blame ourselves or others. It is also something that is often buried deep inside of us, the “what ifs” or “should haves.” It usually a result of unrealistic expectations that distort the facts. We assign blame or feel guilty often over things we cannot change.
After a loved one passes, we cannot change or undo the things that happened. Bargaining, blame, and guilt is typically temporary emotions, more like a warning sign that we need to identify, talk about, and come to peace.
The good news is that for most, this is the stage most process through in a short amount of time but also essential in the healing process of finding peace and moving forward.