Can We Make a Deal? Grieving Stage Three, Bargaining


We’ve been discussing the Five Stages of Grief over the last few weeks. Stage Three of the Five Stages of Grief is all about trying to regain some sort of control. In the first stage, we weren’t ready to accept the grief being imposed upon us; therefore, we denied the news we received. We blissfully hid our heads in the sand for as long as possible, searching for ways to bolster our worldview. Unfortunately, this cannot last, and when the bubble bursts, we are thrust into the second stage of grief, anger.

In this Second Stage, we lash out at those near and dear. Our anger is often directed at anyone and everyone. We may even find ourselves angry at the recently departed. This unrestrained rage is usually followed by guilt

Stage Three of Grief

We will often slide into Stage Three at this point, commonly known as the bargaining stage. Like the stages before it, it is a natural part of grieving for many individuals, and there is no correct timeline for how long one stays in the bargaining stage. Instead, it is often seen as a person’s struggle to find meaning in what is going on or regain control over the situation and stop some of these feelings. A person may begin to feel desperate in this stage, “I will do anything to change this.”

Denial can only work for a short time. Reality sets in, and anger often follows on its heels. Anger at everyone and everything is making you crazy.  That doesn’t help anything.  Now you’re ready to make a deal.

Bargaining Phase Begins

When a loved one is very ill, either suddenly or unexpectedly, you may find thoughts or prayers that include something like,” take me instead of them,” or “I’ll go to church every day, if you just spare them.” If any of these phrases sound familiar, know that you aren’t alone.  The bargaining phase of grieving is typical.

Bargaining may not always be on the lost loved one’s behalf, either. Instead, thoughts may morph into those asking for healing or relief from the pain and grief that accompanies the death of a loved one.

Bargaining is a natural “line of defense” between the other impending emotions of grief, whether they be anger, sorrow, guilt, or shame. It is also commonly used as a method by the mind to regain a sense of control when one’s life has been disrupted by a death or to believe that you can affect the outcome of impending death. However, as we all know, bargaining doesn’t provide a real solution, especially in illness and death.  

Though not everyone goes through every stage of grief, there is no natural solution to bypassing and processing the bargaining stage except to continue to process emotions and potentially seek outside resources like chaplains, health professionals, or counselors.

For more information on the Stages of Grief, contact Bluebird Health’s Hospice program. If you are struggling with the loss of health or your independence, check out Bluebird Health’s Home Health options which provide all the assistance you need to remain in your own home. Both skilled nursing options and home care are available including, pediatric!


Information on the Five Stages of Grief comes from the research done by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD

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