Friday, September 23, 2016

On The Other Side Of Grief (Stage 3)

Stage 3

            The next stage to be discussed is bargaining, which is a deep regression to an earlier, much younger state. We often see strange rituals, enshrinement or deification that seem puzzling or obscure.  This is primitive, magical thinking and also the attempt to regain some sense of control or "normalcy."  There is the need to feel safe, and there is no safety.  The work during this phase is to realize that nothing will bring back life as you have known it, no matter how many things are enshrined.  This is a very important time and is part of the redoing of the upset sense of reality.  It is an - "if this, then that" attitude.  For example, in bereavement we sometimes see a room or object enshrined; the thrust being, if I keep everything exactly as it was, then the person will not be so gone.

     In this stage the grieving person’s response is to bargain for impact.  To try and do something safe and familiar.  The most common form this takes is for us to join in the rituals.  It is such a relief to feel useful and see the grieving person interacting once more.  It seems like the person is finally getting on with life, and they are.  This joining together continues to strengthen the relationship and is part of our new history together.

     A person stuck (chronic grief) in bargaining continues with the rituals or enshrinement or deification in order to avoid further hurt.  I have known parents that haven’t touched anything in the child’s room since the death, as though that child would return and continue like always.  Others I have worked with simply won’t talk about the child, as though they never existed. These people also do not bother those around them.  It is as though everything were OK once again.  The problem is that further growth and intimacy is not possible in all other areas of life.  This is a very tricky type of stuckness  because it is usually not visible to others.  The person may appear to be peaceful - the key is the lack of growth because all energy is being used to stay in place.  Sometimes there are clues in unreal conversations about the loss.  This phase is probably related to significant earlier loss that is also unresolved and the person is simply overwhelmed.  As a youngster this person was probably required to be stoic or a good soldier.  The bargain is usually not spoken, but goes something like - "If I do not change anything, it will not be so true."  The way to help a person stuck in bargaining is a gentle, but firm confrontation that life must go on. This type of message may need to be expressed several times.  Otherwise the mourner may sink deeper into isolation and magical thinking.

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