Going through a breakup can be a challenging and emotional experience.
Like the grieving process after losing a loved one, ending a relationship often involves working through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Understanding these typical stages can help you cope healthily with this major life change.
The 5 stages of grief after a breakup are based on the Kübler-Ross model initially developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe emotional responses to loss.
It can be tough to come to terms with the outcome of failed negotiations. We often feel a sense of sadness and loss as we try to process everything that’s happened.
Just like grieving a death, breaking up with a partner you still care for can feel like losing a piece of yourself. This “death of a loved one” sparks a rollercoaster of emotions as you work to accept that the relationship has ended.
It’s normal to experience emotions, and it’s essential to recognize and accept them as a part of your healing process. Remember, it’s all a part of the journey towards recovery.
Denial in Breakups: Refusing to Accept the End
The first stage of a breakup is usually denial. When a relationship ends suddenly, it’s common to feel blindsided. Our mind resists accepting this sudden change, so we pretend nothing is wrong. Signs of denial include:
- Refusing to talk about the breakup
- Avoiding dealing with shared belongings
- Pretending you’re still together on social media
- Continuing contact against a partner’s wishes
Denial helps us briefly avoid the intense pain of loss. But staying in this stage stops mourning and acceptance. Gently confronting reality lets us start adjusting to single life.
Confide in friends and family, cut contact per a partner’s wishes, and untag photos. Accepting the relationship has ended is essential for moving forward.
Feeling Anger: Frustration Over Losing Your Partner
As denial fades, anger often rises to take its place. We feel irritation, rage, and resentment over the injustice of it all. Common anger signs include:
- Lashing out at ex-partners
- Starting fights over the breakup
- Feeling jealous seeing them move on
- Blaming them for the relationship failing
Don’t suppress this anger or take it out on others. Healthy ways to process these feelings include journaling, exercising, or confiding in a support system. Anger helps us acknowledge the loss but clinging to bitterness stalls healing. Get support managing angry urges constructively.
Bargaining stage: Negotiating to Get Your Partner Back
After anger comes bargaining, where we try negotiating to avoid grief. People attempt bargaining by:
- Promising change to get back together
- Apologizing for perceived mistakes
- Blaming external factors like work stress
- Suggesting couples counselling
Bargaining helps us feel in control during distressing uncertainty. But repeatedly making deals that fail reinforces helplessness. Avoid bargaining unless you and your ex mutually want to reconcile.
This stage ends when we stop fantasizing about an alternate past. Accept that the relationship is over for good.
Depression: Intense Emotional Pain From the Loss
When negotiations fail, it can be challenging to accept the outcome and move forward.
It’s common to experience sadness and grief as we process what has been lost.
Depression symptoms include:
- Constant crying spells
- Losing interest in activities
- Withdrawing from friends
- Changes in eating and sleeping
- Fatigue and lost motivation
Depression hurts but helps us detach from what we’ve lost. Combat dark thoughts via counselling, hotlines, or clergy.
Share feelings with loved ones, giving you a higher power to deal with the roller coaster feelings during this stage.
Prioritize self-care and know you won’t always feel this bad. Depressive stages ease with time.
Acceptance: Finally Coming to Terms With the Loss
The final stage is acceptance, where we come to terms with the breakup. We acknowledge that the relationship has ended, stop fighting it, and start looking ahead. Signs of acceptance:
- Thinking about exes without pain
- Imagining life without them
- Pursuing new relationships
- Rediscovering old interests
- Feeling ready to move on
Acceptance means peacefully letting go and not forgetting the past relationship entirely. Bittersweet memories remain, but overwhelming grief fades. We realize we can start new chapters.
Give yourself plenty of time to process each stage fully. There is no set timeline – acceptance comes when you are ready.
Getting Support and Practicing Self-Care
Healing from a breakup takes time and energy. Be patient and care for yourself throughout the process. Recommended self-care practices:
- Spend time with supportive friends and long-term relationships
- Maintain a routine with proper nutrition and rest
- Avoid risky behaviours like substance abuse
- Try counselling or support groups if needed
- Practice relaxation techniques to manage stress
- Reflect via journaling or expressive arts
- Prioritize your mental health to find new coping mechanisms
Breakups cause intense grief, but these feelings won’t last forever. Trust your ability to heal. If you find yourself stuck at any stage, don’t hesitate to get professional support. With time and care, your broken heart will mend.