This was the most confusing stage for me; especially since it’s one of the harder stages to correctly define.
When I was sitting in a room with several other birthmothers at the 2013 Birthmom Buds Retreat, we were discussing the grief cycle and when we got to this stage one woman even said out loud, “I've never been sure how this stage works” followed by the agreement of half the room. What in the world was this bargaining stage and how would we know we were in it if we didn't even know what it was?
“I've always seen it as the 'If I just do this then everything will be fine' kind of mentality,” said our discussion leader. This statement was followed by even more agreement. I had been locked into that kind of mentality for months after Halloween.
The tricky part is I knew none of it would bring back my son. None of it was going to make any real difference to him. But somehow, it made a difference to me. I was in grad school at the time. I was working a full-time job. I was trying to get myself established as a small business person with my knitted, crocheted, and sewn items. I kept trying to do everything that I could. I kept trying more and more things to try to get my life to work like I thought it should. But I wasn't really sure how it should work. Wasn't really sure what my life actually working was supposed to look like. But somehow, if I just got ahead and got things to work, then everything would be fine.
This whole part of the grief cycle, at least to me, often feels like just another round of denial. You keep yourself busy. You keep doing everything that you can think of to do. You keep going and going and going thinking the next thing will make everything better. I guess my problem was it wasn't going to get better. Better would mean that I had my son with me. Better would mean that my ex was with me again. Better would mean that somehow our lives were actually working like this and we were actually giving our son the life he deserved. That was my brain’s version of “better.” And it was an unattainable one.
And just as unfortunately, the only way to break out of that endless cycle, was to realize that I wasn't going to get my son back; I wasn't going to be with my ex again; I wasn't going to get that life that I kept imagining where the three of us were actually making things work. That realization caused a bone-crunching depression to settle down inside me for the first time in a very long while. I've had issues with depression since I was a teenager. But this time it was tougher to deal with than any time before.
I know this entry is a little shorter. But in truth, this stage I got through the quickest of them all. I've always been a realist, forever trying to get myself to accept reality and move on to whatever the next step is. If I had to guess, I probably lingered in this stage for a few months before winter took over and my depression set in.
Since we’re three steps in, I’m wondering what you all think of this and how this in any way lines up with your experiences. Would love to hear from you! Hope you’re all having a good weekend!