This is part two of my series on grief as it exists within chronic disease. If you missed Part 1, please click here. All caught up? Great! Let’s move on.
3. Bargaining (1 and 2 in Part 1 – see above)
Let’s Make a Deal
The next stage in grief, according to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, is bargaining.
Bargaining is simply offering something, for something in return (just what the word implies). Typically, when dealing with the death of a loved one, it involves bargaining with a higher power: If I do this, will you please bring them back.
Within chronic disease, and this is why I continue to enjoy grief a bit more here than I do when grieving a death, we have the power to actually get our health BACK.
It’s crazy, but death doesn’t allow for resurrection. We can’t just raise our loved one from the dead. Unless you’re Jesus, or have other issues that are best resolved on other blogs (or preferably at your nearest therapist’s office).
If you have a disease, there is always the possibility and the hope for healing. It’s what I have talked about time and time again on this blog (don’t believe me? Read this.) We may say things like, “God, if I do this, please give me my health back?” or, on less intense days, “If I stop popping zits, will you please give me the complexion of J-Lo?”. It usually goes something like that.
So this is good. We can get our health back. Right? The problem in this stage is that you can find yourself right back at a stage you thought you’d left behind. You just landed on a shoot, and there you are, yelling at God again.
You’re angry, because you can’t understand why, after all the dieting, the exercise, the treatments, the medications…after all of it…you’re still sick. It’s not fair. You’re angry and maybe you’re bargaining, and I know there are other deep, dark, things you don’t want to share going on too. We’ll talk about those soon.
Bargaining also involves guilt. We think, If I had or hadn’t done this or that, then my disease would not have happened. It got as specific for me as, If only I hadn’t worn those ridiculous hooker heels, I wouldn’t have upset my pelvic floor and made this happen.
It’s just a bunch of ugly. You feel sick. You’re in pain. You are grasping for healing, and then you end up right back where you started. Napoleon’s playing tetherball, and you’re the volleyball, smacking middle schoolers in the face.
The most I can say here is all of this is normal. It’s expected. It’s not easy, and I can’t tell you when it will end, because, to be honest, I still have days where I feel I need to offer something more or feel I didn’t do enough, or assume this is my punishment somehow.
The truth is, with chronic disease, I don’t know if we ever get fully past the grief. We end up back in the stages of it from time to time. However, we do get resilient.
When a flare starts to come on, I, in turn, start to panic, and catch myself beginning the bargaining, the doubting, and the guilt (too many donuts!! too much icecream!!). But then I remember how far I’ve come. I’m not alone, and I’m not a lost cause. This will get better.
I remember the truth that entertaining my intrusive passenger, grief, has allowed me to understand the human condition in ways that staying healthy would have never allowed. I have lived it, so I can be there with you as you go through it, and hopefully offer you some hope.
Life is so sweet, even in the rare times that I am in pain. I am content. Most of the time, I have no reason to sit and bargain. You can find healing too, and you can find hope.
I’ll be back with Part 3 next week. In the mean time, please be sure you have subscribed! You’ll receive a free ebook and get email updates of any new posts as well as the occasional newsletter I will be throwing out into the universe.
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