Stages of Grief: Stage 3 – Bargaining


I just got off the phone a little while ago with a lady who talked with me about this series of blog posts. She was so encouraging to me and shared how the last post on anger really helped her to not feel alone. She said that she and her husband have dealt with this since his stroke 5 years ago. I write because it is therapeutic to me to try to help others. Maybe it is selfish, because I am always helped every time I try to help someone else. She was thanking me, but do you know what? I was helped by her!! She and her husband have been married for 55 years and have had a wonderful marriage, but the loss of his health has greatly impacted both of them and they are both grieving. It helps to know you do not journey alone on the road of grief.

Although grief is listed in stages, and I definitely see the pattern, it is not set in bounds. The initial stages are intense and dramatic and you remember them! However, though you may be past the initial stages, they can and do return at times. Maybe not as strong, and maybe not as overwhelming because you can identify them, but they do cycle in and out of your life. Not all of them in order or at once, but one or two of the stages will recur throughout your life.

I would say that most of the recurrences are circumstantial. Anger might pop up on a day I really have a project I want to get done but I can’t reach it or get down in the shed to find my missing tools. That anger is sometimes at my paralysis and sometimes it is at my family. “WHO lost my hammer?!!!” A lecture ensues because I am angry that I physically cannot look in all the places where it should be. They should be responsible with my tools, however, the lecture could do without the anger. I know where the anger comes from.

I just want us all to understand that just because you “get through a stage” does not mean you will never face it again. I also don’t want to sound like Debbie Downer! I don’t think this is a discouraging thought, because there is strength in knowledge. If you know that you may face these things at times, then you will be more prepared to handle them correctly.

We have already talked about denial and anger, so today we are going to move to the next stage. Bargaining.

Recently, my children and I watched Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I LOVE that movie! It is the story of Lenora, a circus horse-diving girl who hit the water with her eyes open and detached her retinas. She became permanently blind. In the first months, she kept telling her fiancé that it was temporary. The scene where they argue and he finally takes her by the shoulders and tells her it is permanent always leaves me very teary-eyed. She finally lays her head on his chest and says softly, “I know.” You feel the knife in her gut right along with her. I’ve been there. I know that feeling.

The denial is very much gone. The anger has let up. The permanency of it all is settling in. And now we begin to bargain. Bargaining can take on many forms. Questions and conversations haunt us! “Why did I let them drive that night?” “Why didn’t I take it more seriously when they said they weren’t feeling well?” “Why didn’t I notice he was spending more and more time at “the office?” “How could the doctors miss this?” On and on they go. Bargaining with God is also a common scenario.

My mind just rushed to the story of Hannah in the Bible. She was barren and could not have a child. Oh how her heart grieved for a son to give to her husband! There we find her in the Temple bargaining with God. “God, if you will give me a son, I will give him back to you for your service in the Temple.” God did give her a son and she kept her word, but

    what if God doesn’t do what we ask Him too?

I remember once when my younger brother, who is an asthmatic, was very little. He was not breathing well at all and they were going to rush him to a larger hospital in another city. I was about 15 and he was my best little buddy. I thought he was going to die and I was terrified out of my mind. I will never forget watching the ambulance pull away and telling God that if He would please let my brother live, that I would never miss a day of reading my Bible! My little brother lived, but I have missed many times of reading my Bible.

    What if we don’t do what we said we would?

I must stop and talk about bargaining with God. I love to bargain for a good deal. They have the power as the seller and I hold the power as the buyer. They want to make a sale, and I want to buy their product. We have equal balancing power. He won’t take less than what it is worth and I won’t pay more than it is worth. He has the power to say no to my terms and I have the power to say no to his. Bargaining over something makes us equals.

I am


equal with God.

He is all powerful. Because of that power, I am even more awed at his love, mercy, care and compassion for me.

I had to learn this. I remember prayers that I prayed that went like this:

“God, if You could have prevented this, then why didn’t you?”

“God, you know I have a bunch of kids. Why would you give them to me and then allow me to become half a woman?”

“God, okay, here’s the deal. You know if you would let me walk again, I could be a much more effective Christian.”

“God, just think of all the glory and praise you would get if I was healed!!”

Are these bad prayers? No, I don’t think so. Does God answer prayer? Yes, He does. Does He have to answer like I want him too? No, He doesn’t. Was Hannah wrong for praying and asking for a son? No. Hannah had already been without a son for a long time. That was not the first time, I am sure, that she poured her heart out to the Lord. Hannah had a request, but she was faithful and trusted the Lord all the other times she prayed and did not get the answer she wanted.

So, is the solution just more prayer? More persistent grieving and bargaining? No, I don’t believe so. When this happens, I get a bad and inaccurate image of God standing in Heaven with his hand to his ear yelling, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!! Can you plead a little louder?” Or maybe He is laughing at us and saying, “Ask again. Now say pretty please….with a cherry on top…!” No, this is not our God.

God does not need to be convinced or begged. Before I was ever born, He knew the plans for my life and nothing has happened that has caught God by surprise. He has only allowed the things to come to pass in my life that He knew would help mold me into the life that He had already planned for me. God loves us because we are His children. I have children! I know that I cannot grant some of their requests because it would not be good for their life. “Mom, can I quit school?” “Mommy, PLEASE let me play on the road.” I have never had a child that asked for a cavity to be filled. Nope. I know what is best for them because I know more than them. It isn’t based so I can flex my parental muscle. It is based on pure love. I love my crew with all my heart and as much as I love to pleasure them, I just cannot if it is not good for them. “Alicia, how could you walking again be a bad thing that would hurt you?” I don’t know. I also don’t know if it has to hurt me. Maybe God knows more than me. Just maybe God knows the life He has planned for me is much better accomplished in this wheelchair. Maybe it isn’t a maybe. For me, I


God knows best and loves me so I just trust Him. Just as I pray my children will trust me.

No extra faith beyond just a faith in Who God is and as the Master of the universe, He has my life in perfect control.
No extra prayers beyond a prayer of “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Not my will but thine be done.”
No extra bargaining. Just a simple statement, “Lord, please just use this. Don’t waste what you have allowed.”

How do you get through the bargaining stage? How do you help others get through it? I believe that the truths I just stated bring the ultimate healing. It is what brought mine.

You see, no amount of doctor’s wisdom, or timing, or trying to relive our past will ultimately change one thing. If it is in God’s plan for my life, it will happen.

I need to transition my mind away from trying to change the plan and instead embrace my new purpose.

Try to grasp ahold of this truth. Lead others into this truth. God has a plan and He still does. I may be slow to catch on, but all the pieces of my life are already a beautiful picture to God.

Don’t let the bargaining stage or bad Bible teaching keep you in a stage that should be gone through – not lived in.

Stage 1 – Denial

Stage 2 – Anger

Stage 4 – Depression

Stage 5 – Acceptance

5 thoughts on “Stages of Grief: Stage 3 – Bargaining

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