What Does Bargaining Mean in Grief?

What Does Bargaining Mean in Grief?
Bargaining: a heart's plea for the impossible

Introduction to Grief Bargaining

Grief is an incredibly difficult emotion, and it is important to understand its various forms and expressions. One such form of grief can be described as ""bargaining"". This involves a situation in which a person will attempt to use negotiation or manipulation when dealing with the loss of someone close to them.

Although it can be difficult to recognize, grief bargaining is actually very common and can take many different forms. From trying to emotionally connect with the deceased to attempting to make a deal with a higher power, it can be a powerful coping mechanism for those who are struggling to come to terms with their loss.

It is essential to understand the concept of grief bargaining and how to properly handle it. This guide will provide an overview of what it means, how to identify signs of bargaining, the emotional process behind it, coping strategies, and how to comfort others who may be going through it.

Identifying Signs of Bargaining

Grief bargaining, also known as psychological bargaining, is when a person's grieving process is stuck in a repetitive cycle of emotions and behaviors. People who are facing the loss of someone or something important in their life might engage in bargaining in order to cope with their pain and fear.

When trying to identify signs of grief bargaining, it is important to look for signs of denial and guilt. Denial can be present in multiple forms, including avoiding conversations about the loss, refusing to accept that the loss has happened or minimizing the impact of the loss. Likewise, guilt can manifest in feelings of responsibility for the loss or in attempts to undo the situation.

Another sign of grief bargaining is distraction. People may attempt to distract themselves from their feelings by engaging in recreational activities or staying busy. This allows them to avoid the painful emotions associated with the loss they are facing.

It is also important to look out for extreme behavior changes. Someone who is grief bargaining might appear anxious, depressed, or panic-stricken. They may experience mood swings and have difficulty making decisions. Lastly, they may become more dependent on others for emotional support.

Download The Guide:

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Understanding the Emotional Process

    Grief bargaining is an emotional process that occurs when a person is unable to cope with the loss of or impending loss of someone they love. It involves the exchange of psychological promises in order to postpone or avert the loss. Fear of death and uncertainty are two of the most common factors that lead to grief bargaining.

    When a person is grieving, they often feel out of control and uncertain. This often leads to feelings such as anger, guilt and denial. This can manifest itself in a desire to bargain - to make a deal with the universe in exchange for the life of the one they have lost or are about to lose. They may try to bargain with God, fate, or even themselves, in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

    The bargaining process can be viewed as a form of self-protection. For example, a person may promise to dedicate their life to a certain cause if the person they are grieving for is spared, or they may make a pledge to themselves to live a better life if only they are given more time with their loved one. The bargaining process can also be seen as a way of trying to regain the sense of control that was lost when the person died, or when the death was imminent.

    The grief bargaining process can be difficult to cope with and it can take a lot of strength to get through it. It's important to understand that grief bargaining is a natural process and it should not be judged or condemned. It's important to remember that it's normal to experience these emotions, and that they will eventually pass.

    Developing Coping Strategies

    Grief bargaining can be a difficult emotion to deal with, but understanding and developing coping strategies can help you work through it. The best way to cope is to focus on what you can control right now, identify any triggers of your grief, and develop effective self-care practices.

    Start by acknowledging how you're feeling. Give yourself permission to feel the emotions that come with grief bargaining—denial, guilt, fear, sadness—without judgment. You can also talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you're going through.

    Once you've accepted your feelings, start looking for ways to manage them in healthier ways. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or other substances, and instead find healthy outlets like exercise, yoga, journaling, or even listening to music. Taking some time each day for yourself is important in dealing with grief bargaining.

    It's also helpful to create a plan for how you'll respond when a certain trigger sets off your grief. If a particular song makes you feel sad, maybe you avoid it or ask someone else to change the station. If certain people or places are associated with your pain, you can avoid them (at least temporarily).

    Finally, seek professional help if needed. You don't have to go through this alone. A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance as you cope with your grief.

    How to Comfort Others Dealing with Grief Bargaining

    Grief bargaining can be an overwhelming and emotional experience. It is important to provide comfort and support for those that are dealing with this type of loss. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

    Listen and Acknowledge Their Feelings

    The most important thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to listen to them. Acknowledging their feelings and validating their experiences can go a long way in providing comfort and reassurance. Everyone's grief experience is unique, so it is important to try to be understanding rather than judging.

    Offer Practical Support

    When someone is dealing with grief bargaining, practical support can make a big difference. Offer to help out with tasks like grocery shopping or running errands. If the person needs time away from their everyday life, offer to stay with them or arrange for someone else to stay with them.

    Encourage Self-Care

    Self-care is essential when facing any kind of loss. Encourage the person to take breaks, get plenty of rest, and engage in activities that bring them joy. It can also be helpful to suggest therapy or other types of support groups.

    Be Patient and Respectful

    Grief bargaining is a difficult process and it affects everyone differently. It can take time for a person to learn how to cope with their grief. It can also be a very sensitive topic, so it is important to be patient and respectful. Remember that no two people grieve the same way.

    Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice

    It can be tempting to give advice when someone is going through a difficult time, but it is important to let the person come to their own conclusions. Instead, let them know that you are there to listen and offer support.

    Professional Support

    Grief bargaining can be an incredibly difficult process to go through, and it is important to recognize when professional help might be needed. If your emotions or behaviors become unmanageable, or if you feel like you are unable to cope with the intensity of your grief, seeking professional support may be beneficial. Mental health professionals, such as counselors, can help guide you through the grieving process and equip you with necessary tools for coping.

    Additionally, if you are trying to provide comfort and support to someone who is going through grief bargaining, it is essential that you are aware of when someone might need additional help. If the individual is exhibiting signs of severe distress or is having difficulty coping, it is important to connect them with a mental health specialist.

    It is important to remember that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of any additional support that might be needed.


    Grief bargaining is an important and often challenging part of the grieving process. It can be a confusing time for those who are going through it, but it is possible to learn how to cope with the emotions associated with it and to find comfort in difficult times. By understanding the different aspects of grief bargaining, such as denial, guilt, fear of death, and uncertainty, we can begin to develop coping strategies that can help us navigate this difficult period in our lives. Additionally, knowing how to support and comfort those around us who may be going through grief bargaining can provide us with an additional sense of comfort and purpose.

    Ultimately, learning about grief bargaining is an important step in understanding our own grief and helping those around us. There are many resources available to those who are seeking help, such as counseling, books, articles, and websites. With the right understanding and support, grief bargaining can become a manageable part of life, rather than a burden.

    Bonus Section: Additional Resources

    When dealing with the difficult emotions and grieving associated with loss, sometimes it helps to look for advice and external support. There are many resources out there that you can use to better understand grief bargaining and provide assistance in your healing process. Below is a list of some additional resources that might be helpful.

    • Books: Grieving Mindfully by Sameet M. Kumar; Living Beyond Loss: Death in the Family by Alan Wolfelt; The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James
    • Articles: “Grief Bargaining: What Is It and How Can We Cope?” from the American Psychological Association; “Grief Bargaining: Understanding and Coping with Loss” from HelpGuide.org
    • Websites: Grief.com; Mental Health America; National Alliance on Mental Illness

    These resources can offer support and guidance as you work through the grieving process. It is important to remember that different people find comfort in different ways, so it is important to explore all your options to find what works best for you.

    You might also like this article:

    What Does Good Grief Mean?
    Good grief is an expression of shock, surprise or dismay. It has been used as a phrase for centuries, with its roots in religious texts and stories from around the world. It has evolved over time and today, it has many different meanings and implications depending on the context. In