Bargaining – Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
WHAT IS BARGAINING?
In an attempt to suppress the pain unleashed during the anger and frustration stage, Brain Aneurysm/AVM/Hemorrhagic Stroke patients will try to exert some control by bargaining their way out of a situation. Patients will make desperate attempts to bring their former life back by offering deals or making agreements to a higher power or themselves. People will confess not to do particular things anymore in order to take away what has been done. Bargaining is the phase of the grieving process in which people try to go back in time and change what has occurred. In some cases, bargaining also becomes a tool of preventing change and circumstances, when the alternative is too painful to bear. Bargaining becomes a method to make a truce with a higher power.
Brain Aneurysm/AVM/Hemorrhagic Stroke survivors become lost in a labyrinth of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life restored to what it was, the only life that we’ve ever known. If only we could go back into time: get to the doctor sooner, recognize the condition quicker, go to a better hospital, and the list goes on.
Remorse and guilt are the companions to bargaining. Survivors tend to find fault in themselves and believe they could have done things differently. It is not uncommon to bargain with the pain that is felt; we will do anything not to feel the pain of our losses. In the bargaining stage, survivors may find themselves intensely focused on what they or others could have done differently. They may also think about all the things that could have been and how wonderful life would have been if not for this unpleasant situation.
Bargaining essentially brings optimism, or the illusion of hope, to a despairing situation. By offering something in exchange for the happy resolution of a sad situation, the sufferer perceives an option of a positive outcome. This can be a comforting notion before acceptance has settled in. Unfortunately, trying to negotiate a way out of the hurt, survivors will remain in the past.
HOW TO STOP BARGAINING
The first step in overcoming the bargaining stage of grief is to learn about bargains. Bargaining can literally go on for years after a difficult reality has occurred. It’s an alternative method of thinking that keeps us from really having to accept something we just don’t want to accept. Begin by taking a look at the numerous times you attempted to make your bargain go through. You’ve offered up the right things in exchange for your old life back and you’ve used all the correct words to plead, but nothing has changed. Once you’ve looked at the fact that your difficult reality is not going to change, you can make a decision to stop trying to get it to change. Essentially, if you desire to move on with your life and get to the acceptance stage, you have to stop bargaining. The truth is that difficult reality is not going to change; make the decision to stop trying to get it to change.
MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
FACT: Trying to ignore the pain you are feeling or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For healing to begin, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
MYTH: It’s important to appear to be “be strong” when in fact I don’t feel this way.
FACT: Feeling sad, lonely, or frightened is a normal reaction to all the losses you are experiencing now. The single most important factor in healing from bargaining is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss of your former life makes the burden of grief easier to carry.
Turning to friends and family members is a great way to stop bargaining. This is the time to lean on the people who care about you the most, even if you take pride in being self-sufficient and strong. Accept their assistance that is being offered. Often, people desire to help but don’t know how to, make sure to tell them what you need.
Join a support group because the stages of mourning our prior lives can be very lonely even when you have loved ones around you. Sharing your sorrow, anger, anxiety and sadness with others who have experienced living with a Brain Aneurysm/AVM/Hemorrhagic Stroke can help you understand the methods to living a life that is happy and pleasant. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone. Connecting with others will help you heal.
If your bargaining stage continues, talk to a therapist or a counselor who is experienced in brain injuries. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving process. Contact a clinical board certified neuro-psychologist if you feel like:
- Life isn’t worth living
- Wish you had died
- Blame yourself for your current condition
- Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
- Are having difficulty trusting others
- Are unable to perform your normal daily activities
Suffering a significant change in your life can be painful and may conjure unpleasant emotions. The pain of grieving of our prior lives can be both emotional and physical, and unfortunately there’s no way to avoid it. Denying or resisting the pain of grieving can lead to physical symptoms and can also prolong the grieving process. You will find new ways to learn to accept and deal with the reality of your current situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the prior YOU that existed before this tragedy. You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your prior life (pre-aneurysm/AVM/Hemorrhagic Stroke) without the pain and suddenness. You will once again start to anticipate the good times to come and find joy and pleasure in living. Moving onto the final stage of acceptance is a better reality to be in rather than trying to strike up deals about going back into time. When you finally arrive at acceptance you come to realize you are in a place of understanding that you are going to be fine with the new reality and life you are living in. You may even find that you have changed at the core level by getting past your grief. Bargaining, however, only keeps you stuck in grief.
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