What is the bargaining stage of grief?

When we lose someone close to us, the grief that follows can feel overwhelming. It can affect us in ways we don’t expect, but understanding the common responses to grief can help us reconcile with it and begin to move forward.

In  the 1960s, researchers outlined the five common phases of emotion we typically go through when experiencing grief. These are known as the Five Stages of Grief – you can read more about them here. ‘Bargaining’ is the third stage, after denial and anger, and before depression and acceptance.

Grief doesn’t have a timeline or predefined path, so it’s perfectly normal to go through the stages in a different order or not go through some of them at all. Bargaining, however, can be a difficult stage to move through. Here’s why.

Understanding the bargaining stage

The bargaining stage is a natural response to the feelings of helplessness that can come after losing a loved one. Following the initial waves of shock, denial and anger, we sometimes try to negotiate or bargain in order to change the outcome. We dwell on questions of “what if?” – imagining what we could have done differently. 

While bargaining is a common and perfectly normal response to grief, it’s important to acknowledge that we cannot rewrite the past. Part of moving through this stage is gradually accepting the reality of your loss. This might take time, but help is available. Reach out to a friend or family member, speak to your Funeral Specialist or seek support from our list of resources to help you through this stage. 

How you might feel during the bargaining stage

The bargaining stage can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. You might toggle between hope and despair. It’s completely natural to yearn for a different outcome – to hold on to a glimmer of hope that this might all be a big misunderstanding. But it’s important to remind yourself of the facts of the situation to ensure you don’t lose sight of reality. 

During the bargaining stage, try to find healthy outlets for expressing and processing your emotions. Reach out to loved ones for support, join a grief support group or try some writing, art, or mindfulness practices. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who have also experienced loss can provide comfort and a sense of connection. 

The path to acceptance

Ultimately, acceptance is the key to healing. But we must reach this point in our time and our own way. After the bargaining stage, you might find yourself in a period of depression or deep sadness. Again, this is normal and you are not alone. With the right people behind you, support systems in place and a bit of patience, you’ll be able to move through the sadness and reach a level of acceptance. 


Seeking support

Despite how it might feel at times, you’re not alone. Reaching out and sharing your grief with others can bring about a sense of connection and collective healing. 

If you think you need professional support, grief counsellors and psychologists can 

offer a safe haven to explore and process the emotions you may be experiencing. They can share coping strategies and create a supportive environment for your healing journey. 

To speak to someone right away, you can contact Griefline on 1300 845 745 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also find more grief support resources here.

At White Lady Funerals, we’re here to walk by your side and help you carry this grief. Our experienced team will guide you and your family through the loss of your loved one, sharing our strength while you find your own.


This information is based on our interactions with grieving families and resources we have collected over the years.

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