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Old August 13th, 2007, 05:39
luciestorrs luciestorrs is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 137
Default Five stages of grief: stage three - bargaining

The third stage of grief, according to Kübler-Ross in On Death and Dying, is bargaining. At this stage, the bereaved will promise anything in order to make life return to normal. It often involves promising to be a better person. For example, those who have lost a loved one might bargain with God: "I'll stop smoking if I can have him back!" Before a loss, it seems you will do anything if only your loved one may be spared. "Please God," you bargain, "I will never be angry at my wife again if you'll just let her live." After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. "What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others? Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?"

We become lost in a maze of "If only..." or "What if..." statements. We want life returned to what it was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening... if only, if only, if only... and guilt is often bargaining's companion. The "if onlys" cause us to find fault with ourselves and what we think we could or should have done differently.

As we move through the bargaining process, the mind alters past events while exploring all those "what if" and "if only" statements. Sadly, the mind inevitably comes to the same conclusion... the tragic reality is that our loved one is truly gone.

Your thoughts and experiences about this would be welcome... and of course, once again a reminder that not everyone goes through the five stages of grief. Grief is unique to each mourner and to each loss.
Lucie Storrs, creator of

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep: over 250 funeral poems, quotes and readings
If There's Anything I Can Do...: full of practical ways to help the bereaved
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Old August 25th, 2007, 15:11
Calypso Calypso is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Midwest
Posts: 205

Lucie, this is great information. I remember reading somewhere that the guilt people often experience after a death has a lot to do with the bargaining process. "If only I'd done X, then maybe he wouldn't have died" or "If we'd allowed the doctors to do Y, maybe we would have had a few more months with her." As you so rightly pointed out, though, the sad conclusion is always the same. Whatever we did or didn't do, our loved one is gone.
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