Falling in love and being in a relationship is among the best things that can happen to you. But when a serious relationship ends, the breakup grief takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions that you may find difficult to deal with. The stages of breakup grief can truly take a toll on your mental health.
Breakups may leave people so disheartened that they hit rock bottom while dealing with the stages of heartbreak. In fact, studies indicate that 26.8% of people who went through a breakup reported symptoms of depression. This is why it is important to know the stages of grief breakup and how to get through them. You need someone who can hold your hand through this difficult time and help you grieve the right way and heal faster.
That’s exactly what we’re here for. In consultation with emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few, we’ll help you understand the how to get through the different stages of grief after a breakup
7 Stages Of Grief After A Breakup And How To Cope – Expert Explains
When you fall in love with someone, you start believing that you will feel this way forever. Similarly, when you break up with someone, it makes you feel like your grief will last forever. But, as the Buddhist saying goes, “Everything is impermanent”, and so are the stages of grief breakup. Once you become aware of what these stages entail, you will understand that the pain that you are feeling is just one stage and it will eventually reduce with time. Here are the 7 stages of grief breakup and tips to move on, that might help you develop a better coping mechanism.
1. The first stage of grief breakup – Denial or an inability to process that it ended
When you suddenly lose something that is so valuable to you, it might come as a major shock to you. The very first breakup stage is not being able to make sense of what’s going on. Some people fall out of love and see it coming. But, if you get betrayed or cheated upon, then the breakup might hit you differently.
Drowning yourself in alcohol, drugs, sex, or work might distract you temporarily but it won’t fix your pain. The pain will come rushing back until you find ways to make peace with it. This holds true for the stages of grief breakup for guys as well as girls. The only way to shake off the denial is to feel all the feelings and cry it out.
Pooja says, “Acknowledge that you were right for each other, for whatever reason, or that it wasn’t meant to be. Make a list of all the things that they did to you or didn’t do that were abusive or harmful. Mistrust, disrespect, gaslighting, fear, shame, guilt – all these emotions are an inherent part of an unhealthy relationship. A healthy relationship enhances you while an unhealthy one diminishes and erases you.”
So, understanding “why” the breakup happened is very important for the healing process. In fact, research points out that having a greater understanding of the reasons for the breakup will prevent you from internalizing it or taking it too personally. Moving on is not something that happens in a day. But start by eating healthy and working out. Self-care might be one of the best ways to move on from a breakup.
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself After Breakup
2. Missing your ex all the time
Pooja says, “It is important to let go of someone toxic because if you keep trying to reform them, they will eventually become bad for your mental health and emotionally drain you completely.” But it’s not that easy to let go right? When you talk to someone day and night, you get used to them always being there for you.
It is not easy to break a habit or pattern, so this stage of breakup grief might give you feelings of withdrawal as you learn to come to terms with the absence of the person you once loved so very much. You might feel like unblocking them or texting them in your grieving process, just to momentarily feel better after a breakup.
This is when you should surround yourself with people you trust and can really confide in. You need friends who can help you establish self-control and listen to you grieve over your breakup. Talking about everything that’s bothering you can work miraculously well in this stage of breakup grief.
How to move on? Talk, talk and talk some more. Talk about your grief and get it all out of your system, until you come to a point where it stops triggering you. Make a journal, start writing in it…every minute detail. Burn it if you want. Expressing pain, instead of suppressing it, is an important tip for moving on.
Related Reading: 7 Stages Of Getting Back Together With An Ex
3. Trying to get back with your ex
This stage of grief after a breakup is pretty common. This is the point where people lose their self-respect and end up begging the person to return, at any cost. The feeling of attachment is so high that losing this person seems unimaginable.
You can use healthy coping mechanisms like yoga, meditation, and exercise to keep yourself busy and avoid overthinking during this breakup stage. You might feel as if you can fix everything and that this time it will be different, but remember that it’s a toxic loop that will keep repeating itself.
So, keep yourself extremely busy with productive activities so that you don’t get the time to stalk your ex’s social media. Pick up a new hobby or a skill. Sign up for an online course. Join a dance class. Learn a new recipe. Try making new friends. Do whatever you can to keep yourself distracted. Being busy is a key tip that can accelerate your process of moving on.
4. Experiencing anger/hatred/guilt
The feeling of love can quickly give way to negative feelings like anger and hatred. It is unbelievable that love can turn into hatred, but it sometimes does. You might feel extreme negative emotions for your ex and you might want to “get back at them”.
But taking revenge or hurting them won’t fix your pain or help you in getting over a breakup. In fact, acting on these impulses will only fill you up with regret and self-loathing. Avoid jumping into another relationship immediately or bad mouthing your ex everywhere you go. Grieving a breakup doesn’t mean losing your dignity and integrity.
Take all this anger and frustration, and channel it into your work and career. It will give you happiness, satisfaction and a sense of empowerment. How to move on? Make constructive use of your breakup grief by becoming professionally successful. Excelling in what you do might give you a kick that’s even greater than romantic love.
5. Feeling hurt is the fifth stage of grief breakup
The anger eventually boils down and paves way for the next stage of grieving a breakup that fills you with despair. You feel like your heart is broken and that you will never be able to trust someone or have faith in love. Your sense of self-esteem might take a hit because you feel you weren’t good enough. Don’t worry, this is a rite of passage, as you go through the 7 stages of grief breakup.
According to research, people who already have high anxiety suffer higher emotional distress during the stages of grief breakup. The study also points out that the extent of the suffering differs, depending on who initiated the breakup. So, the stages of grief breakup for a dumper would be quite different from that of a dumpee.
At this stage of grieving a breakup, remember to not internalize these feelings or take them too personally. Sometimes, things are just not meant to be and people are just incompatible. Also, keep in mind that your feelings are normal and it is totally okay not to be okay. You don’t have to pretend that you have got it all together and you don’t have to shy away from your scars.
Reconnecting with old friends can help you in moving on from this pain. Pick up your phone and have long conversations with people you have lost touch with. Attend all the social gatherings you get invited to. Invite people over. Tips to move on? Let people help you and love you through your worst. Let them share that burden on your shoulders that’s so obviously weighing you down. Let them be there for you. Hold tight, you’re already done with the 5 stages of grief breakup. The most painful part is over.
6. Accepting that it’s over
This stage of grief after a breakup is when you finally start accepting the possibility that it is over. This is when you realize that being by yourself might actually be better than being in a toxic relationship. Moving on is a long and gradual process and you don’t have to rush or force it. You have to go through the stages of grief after a breakup to be able to finally move on.
This stage requires a lot of patience and self-love. Channeling all your pain and vulnerability into something creative and worthwhile can help you tide through. Channelizing your pain into creation, be it in the form of painting, art, poetry, writing a book, or starting a new company, has worked out well for many legends. It’s called “Meraki” in Greek, which means “doing something with all your heart or with love”.
According to studies, the secret to moving on from a long-term relationship lies in a clear sense of self. How do you achieve this? Dedicate some time to self-care. It could be going on a solo trip, shopping alone in a mall, eating alone at a café, running with earphones on, reading a book, or drinking alone at some bar. Become your own best friend. Find your home in yourself. Learn to enjoy your own company.
Related Reading: First Breakup – 11 Ways To Deal With It
7. Moving on is the last stage of grief after breakup
This is one of the most important stages of breakup grief. Moving on, in its truest sense, means forgiving yourself and forgiving the person that you loved so that you don’t carry this pain and burden into your next relationship. Practicing forgiveness can get very difficult, especially if you’ve been cheated on, hurt, or betrayed.
And how do you forgive someone who has caused you pain? Try to remember all the times they made you feel good about yourself. But, remember to do this from a distance. Forgiveness takes its own time, so don’t rush it. Also, keep in mind that looking at everything that happened, with compassion and not grudges, is for the healing of your heart, you aren’t doing it for them.
Even though you are scared, take a leap of faith and learn to place your trust in people again. As someone said, “If you never heal from what hurt you, you will bleed on people who didn’t cut you”. Every person is different, so don’t project the pain of your past onto your present. Try to be open and try seeing the new people in your life from a fresh lens, instead of one tainted by memories. Don’t let that one event change your whole outlook toward life into a negative one.
Pooja points out, “It isn’t entirely in an individual’s power to attract a particular kind of relationship because every relationship involves two people. But one needs to be mindful of their deal-breakers and red flags, and take a step back. Maybe this shortlisting exercise will help you find the right partner sooner.”
Related Reading: 7 Things That Help You Heal Post A Breakup
Tips To Get Over A Breakup – Know From The Relationship Expert
Counselor Ridhi Golechha previously told Bonobology, “One of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors is holding yourself responsible for everything. Practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion. The more you forgive yourself, the more you are at peace. You need to look at the two sides of the coin, where you acknowledge your mistake along with the need for you to move on.
“There is nothing wrong with you if you are struggling to get over someone. Without hating yourself, allow your thoughts to come and go like clouds. Break out from the pattern of self-judgment. Know who you are. Celebrate yourself for the person you are.” Here are some more handy tips on how to get over a breakup:
- Come out of the denial stage and see things as they are
- Write down facts about how this relationship has altered your equation with yourself
- Avoid drowning yourself in drugs/alcohol/cigarettes to ease the pain
- Meditation and exercise can help you to get your life together after a breakup
- Opt for healthier coping mechanisms like performing better in your work/developing new hobbies
- Seek professional support and lean on trustworthy people for support
- Learn the lesson that your self-respect has to be stronger than your feelings
- The healing process will happen naturally, in its own sweet time; don’t force anything
- The first stage of breakup grief is all about shock/disbelief
- Share your grief with trustworthy people in the second stage
- Keep yourself busy so that you can follow the no-contact rule in the third stage
- Avoid jumping into another relationship/bad mouthing your ex in the next stage
- It’s natural to feel hurt (your self-esteem will also suffer); be patient with yourself
- Use these stages to know yourself, love yourself and forgive yourself
A breakup can be extremely overwhelming and traumatic, and breakup grief can even feel akin to that of losing a loved one to death. But, addressing the 7 stages of grief after a breakup can help you heal and become an emotionally available partner to the next person you date. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety during/after breakup stages, don’t shy away from seeking professional help. Licensed and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel have helped a lot of people in similar situations. You too could benefit from their expertise and find the answers you have been looking for.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could”. – Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
The hardest stage differs for different people. It also depends on the reason for the breakup. For example, the initial days are very difficult in the stages of grief breakup after cheating (because of the shock/betrayal). But, in case of the stages of grief breakup for a dumper, the latter phases might get overwhelming (because it hits them later).
Coping up with the signs of grief after a breakup requires you to not fight your feelings and talk about them instead. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things (so don’t force yourself to move on). For example, the ways to deal with the stages of grief breakup for a woman might be different from that of a man.