Moving Through Grief: Let's Make A Deal

This week I want to focus on grief and its effects on us in the Daily Devo.  Each day we're going to address one of the "Five Stages of Grief" established years ago by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her work on grief and how we process it.

Today we're going to talk about the third stage: Bargaining.     

Have you ever prayed a prayer that went something like this?  

"God, if you would just _____________, then I promise I will ____________." 

I feel like that's a prayer that most of us have prayed more than a few times in our life.  It's the kind that we pray when we're alone; at least, that's been my experience. 

I started praying that prayer at a young age when I would do something that I knew would get me in trouble if I was ever found out.  

"God, if you let me get away with this, I'll never say another cuss word or think an ugly thought the rest of my life."  

I then moved on to praying that prayer whenever I was about to take a test I hadn't studied for... or when I wanted to date a girl who didn't know I was alive... or when I  screwed up at work... or when I desperately wanted a promotion. 

I've also prayed that prayer when my oldest son was in the hospital with appendicitis, my wife almost died giving birth to our youngest, and countless moments when I felt like everything was falling apart. 

Most of us have tried at one time or another to bargain with God when we face a crisis, but we also do something similar when we've experienced a loss.  

Bargaining is a significant part of our journey through grief, and although it takes on a different form from our typical bargaining prayers, it's also very similar.  

This stage is what I would characterize as our "What if?" moments.  We wonder what we could have done differently before the loss, what we could have changed, and how our actions could have produced a different outcome.  

Bargaining in the grief process is focused squarely on the past.  It is our way of sorting through what happened without facing the reality of our loss---at least not yet.  

When we are in grief, and we begin to bargain, it's our way of saying to God: 

If you take away this pain, I'll do things differently.  I'll fix whatever was wrong about me in the past to improve the future.  I promise I'll be good if you just take away this pain.  

Melody Beattie has this to say about bargaining: 

There's no substitute for accepting reality.  That's our goal. But along the way we may need to strike a deal.  Recognizing our attempts at bargaining for what they are--part of the grief process--helps our lives become manageable. 

Sometimes we need to "strike a deal" to get through the day when we are experiencing grief and loss.  It's natural for us to feel this way.  We must learn to accept this as part of the process and not pass judgment on ourselves.  

God can handle our bargains as we grieve.  God isn't keeping score nor holding us to any rash vows or promises we make amid our struggles. 

May you give yourself grace if you are grieving and see your struggles as necessary parts of your healing and peace.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 

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