The relationship just wasn’t working out, and I wanted it to so badly. I kept thinking if I just made myself look prettier, if I just tried to be a more loving, kind person, then he would love me. I turned myself inside out to be something better, when all along, who I was was okay. I just couldn’t see what I was doing, though, until I moved forward and accepted reality.
One of the most frustrating stages of acceptance is the bargaining stage. In denial, there is bliss. In anger, there is some sense of power. In bargaining, we vacillate between believing there is something we can do to change things and realizing there isn’t.
We may get our hopes up again and again, only to have them dashed.
Many of us have turned ourselves inside out to try to negotiate with reality. Some of us have done things that appear absurd, in retrospect, once we’ve achieved acceptance.
“If I try to be a better person, then this won’t happen…. If I look prettier, keep a cleaner house, lose weight, smile more, let go, hang on more tightly, close my eyes and count to ten, holler, then I won’t have to face this loss, this change.”
There are stories from members of Al-Anon about attempts to bargain with the alcoholic’s drinking: “If I keep the house cleaner, he won’t drink…. If I make her happy by buying her a new dress, she won’t drink…. If I buy my son a new car, he’ll stop using drugs.”
Adult children have bargained with their losses too: “Maybe if I’m the perfect child, then Mom or Dad will love and approve of me, stop drinking, and be there for me the way I want them to be.” We do big, small, and in-between things, sometimes crazy things, to ward off, stop, or stall the pain involved with accepting reality.
There is no substitute for accepting reality. That’s our goal. But along the way, we may try to strike a deal. Recognizing our attempts at bargaining for what they are—part of the grief process—helps our lives become manageable.
Today, I will give myself and others the freedom to fully grieve losses. I will hold myself accountable, but I will give myself permission to be human.