COPD Caregiver Perspectives: Bargaining for Hope
This is the fourth post in an ongoing series on the 5-stage grieving process experienced by those caring for a person with COPD. Watching someone you love die by inches isn't easy, is it? So, it's only natural to do everything you can to try to change their fate (and yours).
The next stage in the grieving process, after anger, is often bargaining. At this stage, you still hope that you can change the inevitable outcome of COPD. If you just do the right thing, your loved one will get better...
Remember that each stage of grieving is perfectly natural and OK to experience. So, accept the feelings you have and know that you are not alone in feeling them. Just about every COPD caregiver will go through what you are feeling at some point. So, just know that it is a phase you will eventually pass out of as you learn how to cope with the changes you see in your loved one.
Also, don't forget that while many caregivers proceed through the stages in the order I'm writing about them here, others will take a different path. You might start with bargaining, then backtrack to anger. Or, you may go back & forth a few times, skip a stage altogether or experience more than one stage at a time. However you experience grief, it's perfectly OK. The important thing is to understand where you are in the process and then to deal with it in as healthy a fashion as possible.
Often when the storms of anger have passed, desperate bargaining moves in. You want to avoid the bad news you've gotten that your loved one is never going to recover from the lung damage that is part of COPD. You grasp at any straws you can in the false hope that you can change the prognosis.
Sidebar: This may strike non-caregivers as slightly selfish, but the caregiver is also prone to grief over the loss of freedom and rebelling against the restrictions that caregiving can place on your lifestyle. It's not that you don't love the person you're caring for. It's just that you don't want caregiving to take over your life... and yet, that is exactly what can happen as your loved one slowly spirals downward. Chances are, if you're a caregiver like me, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
So, your efforts at bargaining may be as much for yourself as your loved one. And that's OK. Remember, every stage, no matter how silly it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, is perfectly normal and OK.
In bargaining, you may actively pursue alternative or experimental therapies for COPD in the hope that you can reverse the lung damage, or at least slow its progression. Or, you might try to negotiate with a higher power for a different outcome. "I'll quit smoking if you let my mother live..." or "Just let her live until her first grandchild is born..." or "Take me instead..."
Guilt can be another component of bargaining. In an effort to cope with the losses you're feeling, you might begin to blame yourself, perhaps for not being a "good enough" caregiver or for some other equally unsubstantiated belief.
Tips for Coping with the Bargaining Stage of Grief
This is often a necessary stage of grieving, but the thing to remember is that you are reaching for false hope. There's nothing wrong with doing everything in your power to help your loved one live a comfortable life. Just be aware that your judgment might not be at the best level just now. Seek the advice of experts if you plan to try an alternative or experimental treatment, especially if your desire is to stop traditional medical treatment. You don't want to end up making things worse for your loved one.
Do your best to weather this next stage of bargaining. Look towards the future realistically and then do what you can to obtain the best quality of life for you and your loved one, given the circumstances.
Get support if you need it; you don't have to go through this all alone. If you can't lean on family or friends, look into joining a local support group or an online support group. See a grief counselor if you need it. It's vitally important to take good care of yourself, because the physical care your loved one needs from you, not to mention the emotional turmoil you're both feeling, can be overwhelming and exhausting.
A healthy lifestyle will shore up your defenses too. Make healthy eating choices, get a good 8 hours of sleep each night, and use stress relieving methods such as working out, meditation, etc. Explore your feelings, maybe by keeping a caregiver journal, and accept them as perfectly natural.
This Post -- Stage 4: Bargaining For Hope
Stage 5: Dealing With Depression
Stage 6: Accepting the Diagnosis/Prognosis and Moving On