Addressing The Bargaining Stage of Grief as a Caregiver

Ezekiel Lim avatar

by Ezekiel Lim |

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bargaining stage

The bargaining stage of grief begins when the reality of a traumatic event sinks in. As a stage of coping, bargaining is composed of the “if only” that comes as the result of appealing to an outside force or higher power. Someone going through the bargaining phase petitions a higher power for a resolution to the situation with promises of better behavior. With a positive outlook, the bargaining stage is the most hopeful stage. A negative outlook turns the bargaining stage into one full of false hopes.

The onset of a disease such as familial amyloid polyneuropathy in a loved one may come out of nowhere. As caregivers, the implications of such an unexpected, yet life-altering, event bring us through the five stages of the grieving process. With the weight of this diagnosis bearing heavily on our families, we grieve alongside our loved ones who suffer.

Bargaining as a distraction

As caregivers, we should not let the “what ifs” distract us from our work. Doing so makes the task of caring for our loved ones even more difficult. Left unchecked, bargaining leaves us bogged down with false expectations. When the symptoms of my mother-in-law’s polyneuropathy started getting worse, our family turned to prayer. Prayer gave us a new lease on our work as it shifted our focus away from our circumstances. Still, it was not a substitute for the work that we needed to do.

Bargaining stage risks

The bargaining stage involves pleas for the situation to end. This is something that caregivers must be careful not to dwell on. It is easy to focus solely on the physical well-being of a loved one while neglecting their emotional well-being. The bargaining stage presents the risk of falling victim to a consistent negative pattern of thinking while grieving.

Caring for the emotional well-being of our loved ones

The peripheral symptoms of my mother-in-law’s neuropathy prevented her from doing things as simple as giving hugs. When eating or playing board games with family members, her sensitivity to touch required the use of gloves. Aside from the physical work of helping her around the house, our duty to her also included making her feel wanted.

As my mother-in-law’s symptoms worsened, it was up to us to involve her in more activities. Making sure that my mother-in-law knew we cared about her was how we acted out our bargaining phase. Instead of “if only,” we focused on, “Let’s do this.” For our family, the best way to address the bargaining phase and its wishful thinking was to be proactive in caring for my mother-in-law’s emotional well-being.

What are your thoughts about the bargaining stage of grief? Please share in the comments below. 


Note: FAP News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of FAP News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to familial amyloid polyneuropathy.


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