`Bargaining’ may describe how a client's irrational hopes that if they work harder or honour their loved one more, the deceased will come back to life. This can appear more commonly when the death is unexpected or sudden, perhaps when the deceased was young or expected to live for much longer. The bereaved client may be experiencing guilt and self-questioning: "Would it have made a difference if I had found him earlier and not gone out that morning?" or "if I had been a better husband, maybe this would not have happened".
A therapist can help this client work through how he or she understands the events that led to the death of their significant other; by providing the client with space and a safe, supportive relationship to pour out the thoughts that may be going round and round in his or her head, the client can better find a place for them to settle, and form a narrative for this momentous chapter in their life. The client can bring to the therapist the worries and intrusive thoughts that she or he may not want to repeat to friends or family.
The therapist is there to reassure the client that grieving will be a journey that will see change and growth. By helping the client to process the questions and reflections he or she has throughout this journey, the client will gain insight, an expression of their inner world, and a way out of isolation towards reintegration in society and day-to-day life. Any bargaining will be met with the objective, non-judgemental and patient sounding board of the therapist to look at any regrets, or blaming of oneself or others. Unresolved grief, which may linger and hinder the client from re-entering 'normal' life for a long period, can be opened up and explored, providing an opportunity to redress any thoughts which are distorted and unhelpful.
A therapist can also be of great comfort to a client whose partner or family member has a terminal diagnosis and who may be experiencing a 'bargaining' stage of "if I do this or that, maybe he will live for longer". He or she can listen, support and normalise the client's feelings and help to contain the client's anxiety and sense of helplessness. The therapist can provide the understanding relationship when the client's anger and confusion are transferred onto him or her; she or he will not retaliate but understand and explain what is happening without recrimination.