So far in this series we’ve talked about denial and anger. The combination of these two stages leads us to the third, which is bargaining. When things aren’t going our way we eventually realize trying to ignore it isn’t the solution. We also find that being angry isn’t changing or improving the situation so we begin to make deals, falsely believing it will change our circumstances.
When I still hoped that my marriage could be saved, I remember trying to make a lot of deals; deals with my wife, deals with God, deals with myself. I just kept thinking, maybe if I change and fix all of the behaviors that my wife complained about over the years, things could go back to the way they used to be. I did that and it just seemed to drive her further away. Not only that, but how backwards was that thinking? If I made changes then maybe things could go back to the way they were! How screwed up is that? I mean, the way things were in the past was THE leading cause of why we were where we were. That thought process right there describes why bargaining doesn’t work and won’t bring back what has been lost.
From the beginning, I turned to God and pretended like I trusted Him to take care of me; to take care of my family. The truth is, I didn’t. That is evidenced by all the other deals I tried to make. When I did finally pray, I prayed to God all the time to fix things. I begged Him to save our marriage. I selfishly cried out to Him to just take the pain away. I really thought He wouldn’t let this happen. I promised Him so many things – empty promises. I didn’t realize that it was the choices we made as individuals and as a couple that would determine the outcome, not His intervention – at least not in the manner of how I was requesting His intervention.
I told myself and God that things could be different if only this or that would happen. It was through all of this bargaining that I latched onto false hope – a false sense of security. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are. Our losses and the subsequent pain doesn’t just magically get reversed because we plead for it. It doesn’t change because we suddenly find a higher power and say we believe and will do anything if it turns around.
Now, if we truly believe and realize that we can’t do it all on our own then things will get better. That doesn’t mean that your life will return to the way it was prior to your loss. It rarely, if ever, turns out that way. In many instances, it shouldn’t. Doing so wouldn’t be healthy for your well-being. For so long I just wanted to have what I did before – companionship. It didn’t matter what form it was or what it looked like. I thought if I wasn’t alone I’d be complete; that it would make everything OK. Oh, how wrong was I. It wasn’t until I truly spent time alone and figured out who I was and became comfortable with myself, who I was, that I was even able to have a glimpse of what real joy looked like. That was the moment when I realized I was the only one that was or could be responsible for my own happiness. I wasn’t going to magically find it being with someone one else or filling my life with meaningless and unhealthy choices. That’s not how it works!
We move past trying to bargain when we realize we have a choice. That choice is to face our reality and realize that in some cases we need to choose to do what is right and honorable. In other circumstances we may need to choose to accept what has happened and that there is nothing we can do to change it. That doesn’t mean our lives are over or that we are destined to be unhappy and broken for the rest of our lives. Quite the opposite. If we face our reality and are able to work through that loss our lives will become richer because of it. There is no doubt that loss is painful and we will always miss what was, but eventually we will get stronger and find joy again. There is no deal we can make that will magically bring back what we lost, that will change our current circumstances. We have to face that fact and make the choice to get up, brush ourselves off and move forward – to make something new for ourselves.
We determine our own happiness, not someone or something else. That is probably your most difficult task in becoming whole again. It is realizing that who or what you lost isn’t what made you who you are. Were they important in your life? Sure, but it isn’t what defined you. Rather, it enhanced and complemented you – the true, beautiful person you are all by yourself. You are still here and you still have a great life ahead of you. You need to make a choice. Is today the day you are going to choose to not try and control your growth and healing by making deal after deal? Rather, will you find the courage to have faith that if you do the work and realize you can’t do it on your own that you will grow and become more whole again? The day you make that choice you will be stronger for that reason alone.
Be Great! Be Strong!
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