Have you ever been healing from a breakup and wondered if and when you will ever feel normal again? If you answered “yes” you are not alone – and you’re not imagining the pain. In fact, the stages of grief in a breakup are real and they’re hard.
Sometimes, when you’re getting over a breakup, it feels like a part of you has died inside. That’s because, in a way, a part of you has died. It’s the part of you that counted on your partner and maybe even had plans for the future.
When you lose a significant relationship, you grieve that loss just like you would if someone had actually died.
One of the world’s greatest experts on grieving was a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. She studied death and dying and came up with a model that explains the grieving process.
In her model of the stages of grief, Kubler-Ross breaks down grieving into five stages. These stages of grief are probably the best understanding that healers have of the grieving process.
But dealing with a loved one’s death isn’t the only healing process that can follow the stages of grieving. Breakups, too, can be experienced in these five stages. Understanding the grieving process can help you with healing from a breakup.
5 Stages of Grief in a Breakup
The five stages of grief in a breakup are the same as they are when healing from the death of a loved one. And they can often feel just as painful.
The five stages are as follows:
Denial is the first of the stages of grief in a breakup. In this stage, you don’t feel much besides numb. Denial, which is sometimes called shock, is an important stage because it allows you to ease into your grief. When you are in denial, you usually haven’t fully understood what has happened and you aren’t yet feeling any of the difficult feelings that you will soon be facing. It might sound like staying in denial would be better than going through your grieving process, but it isn’t because if you get stuck in denial, you can’t focus on healing from a breakup.
When you are experiencing anger as one of the stages of grief in a breakup, you feel, well, angry. You may be angry at your ex, angry at yourself, angry at whomever you blame for breaking the two of you up, or you may even be angry at God. However your anger shows up, know that it is important for you to feel it. Note: I said “feel it,” not “act on it.” That’s a very important distinction! Acting on your anger can cause you more problems for your future and usually isn’t helpful for getting over a breakup. But allowing yourself to feel your anger is an essential step to healing. Find healthy outlets to express your anger such as taking a boxing class, going for a run, journaling about your feelings then tearing up the paper, or talking to a therapist.
In the bargaining stage of grief in a breakup, you want to go back to the past and fix or change what has happened. You might promise to never yell again if only you could have the relationship back as it was. Or you might wish your partner would just change his/her mind and come running back to you. In this stage you might also feel guilt and regret and wish that hindsight wasn’t 20/20.
After you realize that bargaining didn’t work, you go into the depression phase – one of the hardest stages of grief in a breakup. This is different from Clinical Depression because what you feel in this stage is a normal reaction to the loss of a relationship. You might feel sad or lost or just not yourself. You might have difficulty eating, sleeping, or enjoying activities in this stage. You’ll likely spend a lot of time wondering how to get over a breakup, and wondering when you’ll feel normal again. Even though it feels like this stage will last forever, know that it won’t. In fact, none of the stages of grief in a breakup last forever. And, they aren’t linear either. Your grief will likely jump around from stage to stage before finally settling into the final stage.
In the acceptance stage of grief in a breakup, you begin to accept that things have changed and that the relationship you once enjoyed is not part of your life anymore. While you may not feel happy about this change, you can accept that it is true and learn to focus on other positive aspects of your life. This is also a great time to take a look at yourself and any areas for personal growth. Maybe you can finally learn French or take up gardening. Or perhaps you could learn what it’s like to date yourself for a while and just focus on you.
Moving on From The Stages of Grief in a Breakup
After a breakup is a great time to start therapy or go on a retreat. Though getting over a breakup is hard as hell, it can also be the beginning of a breakthrough for those that choose to do the inner work and reflection.
Are there areas you could work on to be a better partner? Are there areas in which you could grow to become the type of person you want to attract? Would working on how you communicate concerns to your partner help you uncover red flags sooner than you have in the past so you don’t waste time with partners that are not a good fit?
Even after you have gone through the stages of grief in a relationship, reached acceptance and done the inner work, know that anniversaries, birthdays, or other important events may bring up old feelings. Or feelings may just show up out of the blue for no reason. Grief is one heck of a roller coaster =(
Though these stages of getting over a breakup give an outline of what you may feel, there is definitely a wide range of possible reactions to losing someone. And figuring out how to get over a broken heart is different for everyone.
So, whatever you are feeling, know that it is okay and it eventually will pass. If you need help getting through the hard times or are ready to do that inner work, contact us to set up a free 30-minute consultation.