The Bargaining Stage of Grief

Updated: May 25


The third phase of grief, known as the bargaining phase, is part of the healthy healing process. The death of someone close to us is often the catalyst for a major grief event. Grief, however, is associated with many other life events we experience.


In my book, Open the Mind Heal the Heart, I recognize the virtually infinite circumstances that can cause a person to alter their life due to a loss. The bargaining phase is nuanced like the previous phases that I have discussed. If you have read other interpretations of this phase, it may be good to reread them and incorporate those observations with the ones that I have identified.


In my opinion, this phase is characterized by a kind of “churning” that takes place within us. This churning results in at least three actions that a griever considers: realization, struggle, and frustration.

My experience as a psychic medium gives me a unique perspective of the human experience. Peering into the lives of others and witnessing life and death from a clairvoyant angle is very humbling, and it takes a toll on me. Death often affects everyone around a person even those who do not know the deceased personally.


The family, friends, spiritual community and other places where the person had relationships is affected. I understand the heavy weight of grief and feel the pain of a person suffering from a loss. Since grief from death is my primary focus, I need to start my observations with the most common types of bargaining which are “bargaining with the Creator” and going through a “would have, should have, could have” discussion.

The bargaining phase of grief represents a realization, not an acceptance. The acknowledgment of death is there but “what if there was a time machine that could take us back to another time?” It represents an attempt to turn back time and resume a physical relationship that has ended. It is a form of trying to rationalize the irrational.


If we could make a deal with the Creator to go back to a time that we felt was easier, it would fulfill our greatest desire. The truth is that the association with the person we love has not ended. It has changed. It is no longer spiritual and physical. It has just become spiritual in nature, and this reality is difficult to accept. We yearn for the physical relationship to be renewed, and we are sad that this is not possible.

The struggle we encounter in this phase is the difficulty in finding joy in just the spiritual relationship with our loved one. We want to see, touch and feel their presence. A spiritual relationship is less tangible, and it takes work that we are not yet willing to do to enjoy the benefits of loving a person who is not physically with us.


We have been taught that there is continuity of life and in this phase, we struggle as to whether we want to immerse ourselves in that belief. In some respects, the shock and anger phases are still present during this phase of the healing process. This struggle often makes us angry with the Creator, others, or ourselves.

It is frustrating for us to deal with the changes in our lives due to a death. It is not anything we dwelled on prior to our loss, but frustration has been thrust upon us. The bargaining phase is not one during which many people attain relief from their sorrow. We cannot have our way! It is a time of trying to sort out our own situation in terms that only we understand.

The virtues we need in this phase are perseverance, loving ourselves, and fortitude. Faith continues to play a role, and an inner optimism of a promising future is necessary. It is difficult for those who are not experiencing grief to comprehend, but healing is not an easy task. A determination to work through our issues must be present. It is only natural to be frustrated with the situation.

Frustration and the inability to create a suitable bargain leads us to ask ourselves, “What do I do now?” This is a common dilemma a griever faces, and it brings us to the next phase of grief. Bargaining, in a sense, is a transitional phase that helps us sort out our issues, and it forces us to deal with our loss.


However, it can cause an internal anger that we know as depression, the fourth phase of grief. Depression must be handled carefully because it can be the “darkest” and most difficult phase to overcome. It causes us to go deep within ourselves. Depression is expressed in many forms and overcoming it can be accomplished. In my next article, I will share my thoughts about depression and some remedies for it.

John Cappello has been a practicing psychic medium for over 25 years. For more information about his work or to set up an appointment go to www.johncappello.com


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