Bargaining and depression: The phases of grief, part III

By Ted Wiard
Posted 10/17/19

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others.

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Bargaining and depression: The phases of grief, part III

Posted

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Dr. Ted:Will you please give me an overview of the phases of grief? Thanks, Lorraine

Dear Lorraine:

Last week you asked about emotional healing from loss and we covered how loss happens, not only when someone close to you dies, but in many different experiences in your life. When you have loss, you are in a predicament where you have to redefine who were into who you are presently.

The grief process, a natural and normal healing process, is the journey of moving from your past to the present. Sometimes the grief process is welcomed and embraced, and other times redefining into your present reality is reluctant and painful.

Last week, the focus was on the phases of denial and anger. This week we will focus on bargaining and depression.

The phase of bargaining can be minimized and often thought of as a frivolous waste of time. Bargaining is an important phase as you heal. It is the process of cognitively working on making sense out of what has happened and allowing your brain to adapt to the present situation.

In order to do this adaptation, there needs to be some sort of settling from what has happened with the loss in your past. Trying to make a narrative that works for you can be difficult and your brain will come up with many scenarios to try to change the story of your loss. I call this the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" phase.

There is usually going to be some level of resistance as the brain is going to try to change the facts of the situation, devising other ways of changing the situation. Your brain will dream up all the ways the past can be changed, without regard to what fictional intervention it is implanting in your mind.

The fact is the loss remains the same. In this process of trying to change the story, you are chiseling at denial and flirting with the realization that no matter what you come up with to change the past, you are unable to do so. As the internal investigation continues, you are able to slowly pull nuggets of wisdom from the past and start to move to the present.

As denial and bargaining becomes exhausting, you move into more depths of depression. Within loss, depression is the phase of moving to surrender as denial and bargaining subside and your system "settles" into higher levels of the sadness and reality of the loss.

Depression has often been stigmatized negatively and this can lead to higher levels of resistance to feel the natural emotions of sadness of the futility of not being able to change the past. Depression is a melancholic state in which introspection and internal healing can happen. It is similar to the recovery room after surgery. Allowing your mind, body and spirit to drop and recover is important, and from that recovery time you have the opportunity to reintegrate into the world as you transition into your present situation.

Next week we will continue with the phases of grief and look at acceptance within the healing process from loss.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com.

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