7 Stages Of Grief After A Breakup And How To Move On

Grief does not disappear overnight and it's okay to take as long as it needs to recover.

Reviewed by Joy Nwokoro, Relationship Coach Joy Nwokoro Joy NwokoroRelationship Coach facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MA (English Literature), Certified Relationship Coach Shivani Chandel MA (English Literature), Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
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There is not even an iota of doubt that breakups hurt and can be hard to deal with. The stages of grief after a breakup are painful and can cause a major emotional breakdown. Breakups can happen instantly or after enduring toxic behavior for a long time. Either way, it is believed that breakups are almost as traumatizing as losing a loved one to death. Pain is inevitable, and some find it too overwhelming to deal with. Even if you have agreed to have a mutual understanding with your partner, it does not lessen the intensity of the grief.

It takes time to get over a breakup, but you have to ensure that you deal with it in a healthy manner. Be it your own breakup or your friend’s – the fact is you cannot, in fact, you should not try to avoid the feelings as it will only lead to more confusion and regret. Instead, embrace the pain but do not let it win over you. In this article, we will delve deeper into the topic. Swipe up for more details!

The 7 Stages Of Grief After A Breakup:

Woman feeling angry after breakup
Image: Shutterstock

The stages of grief after a breakup  can be divided into seven steps. These stages are Shock and the state of Denial, Pain and Angst, Guilt and Bargaining, Depression, Upward Turn, Reconstruction, and Acceptance. Let us understand these 7 stages better below to deal with breakup grief and loss:

  • Shock And The State Of Denial:“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare,” opines Mary Renault. Yes, indeed. We are not ideally prepared to encounter sad events. We are always hopeful and trying our best to overcome difficult situations. That’s why breakups often lead us to a state of utter shock, pushing us to switch to a denial mode almost immediately. And it is usually in this stage that people desperately wait for their ex’s messages or calls, fiddle with the phone, spending hours viewing those selfies taken during the happy times, and the list is endless. In the case of losing someone to death, people also take a significant amount of time consoling themselves, saying, “He’s not dead. He’ll come to me; he has to.”

But while going into a shock is barely in our control, being in denial is an attempt we make to shield ourselves from the pain that breakups bring. It is one of the many coping mechanisms we adopt the moment we are shaken by a breakup. However, it is natural to be in denial with time; we manage to let go of it; and if we can’t, we can always work towards shedding off this defense mechanism.

  • Pain And Angst: Once you have gotten rid of the denial stage and come to terms with the reality, you are bound to feel the pain the most, and it is perfectly normal. This is when you accept the truth and realize that the loss is real, and this realization breaks you. There is going to be a lot of anger for being left by yourself by the person who just broke up with you. Even if it’s a grief for losing someone to death, there are chances in abundance you might be angry at the person who died, thinking they left you alone forever. This is humans’ reaction to loss. It is marked by fear, vulnerability, and self-doubt. At this stage, you find yourself wishing bad things for the person who broke up with you and highlighting the dead man’s carelessness towards themselves that led them to leave you forever. You will try to find all possible ways to blame them for your loneliness and miserable situation.
    • Guilt And Bargaining: Relationship breakup grief brings forth a lot of guilt and bargaining tendency. We begin to feel that we were entirely at fault for the breakup. Being on a guilt trip, we start making a lot of “what if” as well as “if only” statements wondering if the outcome could have been avoided. “What if I had not gotten angry at her, today, she would have been with me,” “If only I had spent more time with him, he would not have felt the void and left me,” or “If only I had taken her to the hospital right away, she would have survived today,” are some of the situations we tend to create in our head. It is another form of defense mechanism where a person uses self-blame to delay the grief or cope with the unsettling situation. Another coping mechanism you may indulge in here is living in nostalgia for the past to avoid dealing with the pain of the present.
protip_icon Quick Tip
It is common to reach out to your ex during this stage of a breakup as you will try to use your guilt to negotiate a way back into the relationship. However, it is during this stage that respecting yourself and analyzing why the relationship did not work becomes more important. You also must think if it truly is possible to rekindle the lost sparks, and what kind of work you both would need to put in to rebuild the relationship.
  • Depression: Entering into a depressed state of mind is common too while dealing with breakup grief. In this stage, a person usually becomes quiet and alienates themselves from the rest of the world, hoping to cope with the loss better. This is also when they take a pause from being actively angry at the person with whom they broke up or hopeful about having them back into their lives. With this sense of hopelessness, people in this stage feel gloomy and fail to see the light of day. Also, as a result of this overwhelming feeling, the daily routine gets messed up big time. Sleep deprivation, anxiety, and eating disorders are some of the signs seen among people who are experiencing depression due to the loss.
  • Upward Turn: This stage is like that door to a brighter avenue one must take after all is said and done. Once the anger, guilt, and hate die down, this is when people find themselves in a much calmer and relaxed state. At this stage, people try to cheer themselves up and dust off all the toxins they have been dealing with during their breakup grieving stages for a better and happier life to lead.
  • Reconstruction And Acceptance: Once taking that much-needed relaxation after a breakup, at this stage, people try to pick up all the broken pieces and move ahead with their lives. This stage is the new beginning and allows them to learn from their past and better themselves if required. People develop firmer skin for themselves that can withstand all the ups and downs in life and make necessary changes to untangle the intricacies that may reside in different relationships. With this reconstruction and acceptance, people gain back their lost hope and look at the brighter side in life ahead.

How Long Does Grief Last After A Breakup:

How long does grief last after a breakup
Image: Shutterstock

Well, when it comes to grieving after a breakup, a person can feel the loss until they really decide to stand up and walk the path of moving forward. Also, once they find solace in a partner later, their hearts gradually heal, and the breakup grief period ultimately ends. If you have just had a breakup, the grieving period for you has just begun. Having said that, the grief of a person who broke up a year ago is not lesser.

If a person just broke up from a toxic relationship, the grieving period could be less comparatively. All the pent-up grudge and wrath that get accumulated tend to burst out during the breakup scenes, and one feels relieved after the relationship ends.

On the other hand, when a breakup happens as a consequence of the death of the loved one, the grief comes and goes depending on the situation the person is in. While most people mourn deaths for 6 months or a year or two, the period sometimes fails to cease if the mind finds it difficult to reconcile with the shock of loss during the death itself.

How To Overcome Stages Of Grief After A Breakup?

Sad woman thinking how to overcome stages of grief after breakup
Image: Shutterstock

In a way, the duration of grief clearly depends upon the grieving person because the affections do not end with the end of the relationship. There is no switch we can turn on to stop grieving over losses. These stages of grief after a breakup is a gradual process and usually takes its own sweet time to meet its end.

But, being acquainted with these seven stages of grief post breakup can always ease the pain. You can prepare yourself for the journey and learn to tackle the situation smartly instead of inviting the risk of going astray, unable to handle the pain.

Therefore, taking into consideration the psychological conditions, the closeness shared with the lost person, and also the kind of support system one has around, grieving over a breakup or a loss can be less complicated than it really is.

What is more, apart from introducing yourself to the stages of grief after a breakup, you can also adopt various healthy practices to cut short the grieving period. Meditation can help with emotional healing. With regular meditation in your routine, you will be attaining a state of calmness and coping with breakup grief well. Other than this, you can also give more time to your long-lost hobbies. They will keep your mind busy and leave you with almost no time to dig into your past and feel remorse and anger.

And most importantly, talk to your loved ones and supportive folks. With their affection and extra care in place, dealing with this sadness becomes easier. In no time, you will find yourself out of the grief period and in a much healthier environment. Their positivity will surround you with happiness too and eventually, it will allow you to think much clearer later.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Consider seeking therapy if you find yourself experiencing depression for months and showing signs of deteriorating physical or mental health. This is especially important if you are grieving the loss of a toxic or an abusive relationship, as such relationships can cause deep emotional scarring and psychological trauma.

Banuel Dogayman, a blogger, recalls his personal experience of enduring a breakup and the painful aftermath that follows. He shares that it was a tough phase for him and he had lost all hopes. Soon, he realized that life has its ups and downs that can be dealt with positivity, belief in the good, and moving on for better to come. He concludes the blog by saying, “Believe in the process, believe in yourself, love yourself anytime, even on your bad days, and remember that they are just temporary (i).”

Infographic: Stages Of Grieving A Breakup

Breakups are really hard. The pain of not seeing that special one anymore cannot be put into words. However, one must understand this grief in order to handle it in a better way. Check out the following infographic to learn about the various stages of grieving a breakup to help you deal with your broken heart and move forward.

stages of grieving a breakup (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Breakups are never easy to deal with. They can cast a dark shadow on an individual’s mental health, with emotions running high and a barrage of negative thoughts constantly storming the mind. The grieving period starts immediately after a breakup, and how long it lasts depends on the grieving person. Knowing the above-listed stages of grief after a breakup helps you live through them strongly. Embracing meditation, talking to the near and dear ones, and getting busy with your old hobbies may help keep your attention away from the negative thoughts and cut short the grieving period. But, remember: forgiveness is the only way to gain closure and start your journey of rediscovering yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did my ex move on so fast?

It could be a fight or flight mechanism where the inability to handle pain makes the person move on fast. Your ex must have moved on fast because they are hurt and avoiding the pain.

How do you know if you still love someone?

Holding on to memories and things associated with your partner, hoping to reunite with them, thinking too much about them and who they are with, and analyzing your relationship with them are all signs that you still love them.

Can a heartbreak traumatize you?

Yes, heartbreak can cause you emotional shock and traumatize you. It can cause stress and affect your mental well-being.

What is the no-contact rule?

The no-contact rule with the ex means cutting off all contact with them for at least 60 days. This includes no texting, calling, or following them on social media. It will help you move on, heal, and prioritize yourself.

What is the hardest stage of grief to go through?

Breakups are hard in general. We all go through the stages for different durations and may experience different levels of pain during each stage. The grief experienced in a particular stage is subjective and varies for each individual.
Some people find the initial shock and denial very difficult to go through, especially if they did not initiate the breakup. Some think that the final stage of acceptance is the hardest as you have to be very patient with yourself and let go of the past. Hence, be kind to yourself and understand that we all process grief and heal from our pain in different ways.

Key Takeaways

  • The healthy way to deal with a breakup is not to avoid the feelings.
  • These seven stages of grief are shock and the state of denial, pain and angst, guilt and bargaining, depression, upward turn, reconstruction, and acceptance.
  • Moving on is a gradual process, and one may take their own sweet time to meet its end.

Discover the journey after heartbreak with this informative video that shows the 7 stages of grief. Explore the emotional ups and downs of healing and find solace along the way.

Personal Experience: Source

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Joy Nwokoro
Joy NwokoroRelationship Coach
Joy Nwokoro is a Christian relationship and marriage speaker, counselor, and coach. Although she studied English and Literature at the Abia State University in Nigeria, she was called over a decade ago to help singles and married people build and nurture healthy relationships and marriages that will make them feel fulfilled and satisfied.

Read full bio of Joy Nwokoro
Shivani Chandel
Shivani ChandelBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Shivani Chandel is a postgraduate in English literature from Panjab University, Chandigarh and a certified relationship coach. She has four years of experience in copy editing and writing about entertainment, health, lifestyle, and beauty.

Read full bio of Shivani Chandel
Asmita De
Asmita DeAssociate Editor
Asmita De is an associate editor with over three years of experience. She graduated in English Literature from the University of Calcutta. She has collaborated with several digital companies and reputed publishing houses as an editor.

Read full bio of Asmita De
Sneha Tete
Sneha TeteBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Sneha has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hyderabad, a professional Relationship Coach diploma, and over four years of experience in writing. She writes about relationships and lifestyle.Sneha began her career as an instructional designer, shifted to freelance technical and research writing, and self-published a novella on the theme of adolescent mental health.

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