During grief, you may feel vulnerable and helpless. In those moments of intense emotions, it’s not uncommon to look for ways to regain control or to want to feel like you can affect the outcome of an event. In the bargaining stage of grief, you may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements. It’s also not uncommon for religious individuals to try to make a deal or promise to God or a higher power in return for healing or relief from the grief and pain. Bargaining is a line of defense against the emotions of grief. It helps you postpone the sadness, confusion, or hurt.
The bargaining stage for me also came with overwhelming feelings of guilt. I began to question every decision that I made and every act of care that I provided to my loved one. I found myself saying “If only I had gone and visited more” or “what if I would have made her go to the doctor sooner”. I spent so much time trying to think of ways that I could have changed the outcome of our situation and feeling guilty about what I thought I “should have” done. And then I found that this guilt just intensified other feelings such as depression and anger.
Even though there are several different stages of grief it is important to understand that you may experience all of these stages at different times, you could experience several stages all at once, or you may skip some stages. This process is different for everyone but it is important to understand that each stage can affect the others and it will just become a big ball of confusion. At this point the best line of defense is just to take time to identify each individual feeling and become aware of why you may be feeling this way. You may not be able to identify a reason for each individual feeling and that is also normal. Just focus on becoming aware and challenging any negative thoughts, bargaining thoughts, or thoughts of guilt. Take time to remind yourself that you cannot change the situation at this time and the only thing you have control over is the present; right this second. So what is something that you can do right now to remember a positive memory about your loved one and the support that you gave them?
“Guilt isn’t always a rational thing…guilt is a weight that will crush you whether you deserve it or not.”