What Is the Bargaining Stage of Grief: What To Expect

Grief can be a dark and overwhelming experience. The five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, are a normal and healthy part of the grieving process. While bargaining may often be overlooked, this stage can be intense and exhausting. When individuals arrive at bargaining, they experience feelings of guilt and remorse.

Bargaining is often categorized by “What-If” and “If-Only” statements. It is essential to recognize that bargaining symptoms may vary from person to person. As a result, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to cope with this stage.

Today, we’ll discuss everything about bargaining, the signs, the symptoms, and how you can cope with it in a healthy way. We’ve incorporated different techniques to help you feel relief and move forward with renewed hope.

What Is the Bargaining Stage of Grief?

The Bargaining Stage of Grief is the third stage in the Five Stages of Grief model by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is a stage where grieving individuals try to negotiate and bargain with themselves, people around them, or a higher power to postpone or reverse the inevitable, with a feeling of gaining control over the situation.

The bargaining stage is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, overthinking, and hyperactivity and can be characterized by questions like “what if.” While it is a normal stage in the grieving process, individuals should seek support and guidance from friends, family, or professionals to help them cope with their emotions in a healthy way.

Signs and Symptoms of Bargaining Grief

Signs and Symptoms of Bargaining Grief

Grief after a loss is natural and common, but it can be exacerbated by the way in which you negotiate the situation. You may feel like you’re trying to fix your loss, but in reality, it’s not your job to do so.

This can lead to frustration and even bargaining with your grief, which can lead to further emotional trauma. Here are some signs and symptoms of bargaining grief that can help identify if it’s affecting you: 

  • Difficulty accepting reality: People with bargaining grief often deny the reality of the situation or find it too painful to deal with. They may also have difficulty processing their emotions and expressing them appropriately.
  • Impulsive behavior: A person with bargaining grief may have impulsive behaviors such as overeating, substance use, or risky sexual behavior to cope with grief. These behaviors can lead to negative mental health outcomes such as weight gain, drug and alcohol dependency, and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Self-medication: Some people with bargaining grief turn to self-medication, such as excessive shopping, gambling, or other forms of escapism, to help them cope with their emotions. This behavior can lead to financial problems and depression if left unchecked.
  • You repeatedly think about or talk about the person who has lost. 
  • You feel like you’re not coping well with the loss. 
  • You find yourself making excuses for the deceased person’s bad behavior or decisions. 
  • You pretend everything is alright when it is actually not.
  • You struggle to move forward in your life without the deceased person.

These are just some of the common signs that someone might be dealing with a form of grief that is not being dealt with properly. It is important for friends and family members to pay close attention to these indicators and help the person in distress work through their emotions in a healthy manner.

Techniques to Cope With the Bargaining Stage

Techniques to Cope With the Bargaining Stage

Coping with the bargaining stage of grief can be a difficult process. It is often filled with intense emotions and an overwhelming sense of sorrow. Trying to understand why certain events have happened can be mentally exhausting, but there are ways to cope with the emotions associated with this stage. Below, we will explore different techniques to help you get through the bargaining stage of grief in a healthy way.

1. Acknowledge Your Grief

When bargaining takes over, it can be difficult to move forward. Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to cope with this stage and help yourself through the grief.

One key technique is acknowledging your grief. This means recognizing that what you’re feeling is valid and important. It also means allowing yourself time and space to grieve in your own way – whether that’s through tears, anger, or simply quiet reflection. By acknowledging your feelings instead of trying to push them away, you can begin the process of working through them.

2. Write About the Bargaining Stage Grief

Firstly, writing about your feelings can be an excellent way to deal with bargaining. You may find that putting your thoughts down on paper helps you get them out of your head and into the open, where you can start processing them. Writing also allows you to reflect on what has happened and see things from a different perspective.

Secondly, talking about your experiences with others who have gone through similar situations can be incredibly helpful. Joining a support group or talking with friends who have experienced a loss can provide comfort and understanding during this challenging time.

Lastly, engaging in activities that distract you from negative thoughts during moments of bargaining can also be beneficial.

3. Seek Professional help

Seek Professional help

One of the most effective ways to cope with the bargaining stage is by seeking professional help. Professionals such as therapists and grief counselors have experience working with people who are dealing with loss and can provide useful insights on how to navigate this difficult phase.

They can offer personalized support, guidance, and advice tailored to your unique situation. Seeking their help also provides a safe space where you can express your feelings openly without fear of judgment.

4. Practice Self-Care

One effective way to cope with the bargaining stage is by practicing self-care. This means taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally while you navigate through this challenging time. Self-care techniques could include exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in a hobby that brings you joy.

Another technique for coping during the bargaining stage is to focus on acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up or resigning yourself to your fate – it simply means acknowledging reality as it is at this moment.

5. Avoid Ruminating Over These Thoughts

To cope with the bargaining stage, one technique is to avoid ruminating over these thoughts. This means not letting them consume our every waking moment and actively working to redirect our focus to more positive things.

It can be helpful to create a list of activities or hobbies that make us feel happy and fulfilled, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with nature. By engaging in these activities, you are able to shift your attention away from negative thoughts and towards something more productive.

How Can I Move Fast to the Bargaining Stage of Grief?

If you are feeling stuck in this stage and want to move through it more quickly, there are a few things you can try. First, try to identify and acknowledge your feelings of loss and sadness and give yourself permission to grieve.

It can also be helpful to talk to a trusted friend, family member, psychiatrist or therapist about your feelings, as they may be able to offer support and guidance. Additionally, working with a couple therapists gives you a super-fast result.

How Long Does the Bargaining Stage Typically Last?

Grief is a complex and multifaceted process that can last for months, years, or even decades. While the initial stages of grief may be difficult to navigate, they are vital in allowing time for the emotions associated with loss to settle.

In the bargaining stage of grief, individuals may try to come to terms with their loss by accepting it or working through their pain. They may also seek solace or support from loved ones or community resources.

This can help them through the initial shock and disbelief that often accompanies a loss and prepare them for any additional support they may need down the road.

The length of this bargaining grief phase varies greatly for each person. Some may only experience a few weeks or months of sadness and mourning before moving on, while others may need years to process their loss and work through any lingering emotions. Overall, the bargaining stage of grief is a crucial part of allowing individuals time to mourn and grieve, as well as processing their emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one.


The bargaining stage is an essential part of the grieving process that helps you come to terms with the loss. It may be tough, but there are techniques that you can use to make things more comfortable. Recognize that it is okay to grieve in your own way and time and that seeking professional help should not be a stigma.

Always remember to take care of yourself and practice self-compassion. Shift your focus to things that make you happy, and feel free to reach out to your loved ones or support groups for help. Coping with grief is an ongoing process, and you don’t have to go through it alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, share this article to raise awareness and show support.

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