Being in love is exhilarating. Breaking up is horrible. You never know how long you’re going to be in pain or how you’re going to get through it. I’ve been there! Six weeks later, eyes welling up with tears, asking my best friend, “Why am I still so sad?” after the mere mention of his name (I won’t mention it here). The truth is, you’ll heal, but it will take time. There are 5 stages of grief after breakup, and we’ll look at them today.
Everybody heals in their own way after a breakup. Sometimes it is more difficult and sometimes it takes more time, but ultimately, we all go through the same process.
The 5 Stages Of Grief After Breakup
These grief stages were adapted from the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying, written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD in 1969.
The end of a relationship can feel very much like the death of a loved one. Often, we grieve and heal in the very same way. Understanding these steps can help you know what to expect as you heal. It can also help you know that everything you’re feeling is quite typical.
As you try to adjust to life without him, you’re still hoping circumstances will change and you’ll get him back. You entertain fantasies that he’s going to realize she’s not as amazing as you are, and he’ll be back any day. Any minute.
You become angry with anyone and anything associated with the relationship or the breakup. “How could he leave me for her?! I’m funnier, smarter, and cuter. I hate him. I hate her. I hate anyone who likes him. But I love the cop who had his car towed last week…”
You begin looking for any and every way to make the relationship work. You may find yourself suddenly changing religions, and even doing voodoo rituals in hopes of a miracle.
The good thing about finally hitting the depression stage is, it usually means you’re out of denial. It typically means you’ve acknowledged the situation and you’ve realized it isn’t going to change. You may feel tired, have trouble sleeping, and loss of appetite.
Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completely moved on. You may still get sad from time to time, but you are still able to find a way to move forward. You are finally ready to let go of the relationship.
You may not experience these stages in order and you may revisit some of them multiple times, especially if something triggers you, such as seeing him out with her. Some of the stages might even intermingle. Bargaining and denial often go hand-in-hand, according to licensed clinical psychologist Jennifer Kromberg.
Why breaking up is so difficult
Human behavior researcher Dr. Helen Fisher has shown that everyone reacts to rejection like a drug addict going through withdrawal.
In the early days after the breakup, thinking about your ex activates areas of the brain associated with cocaine and nicotine addiction. There is also brain activity in a region that is associated with pain.
This is why breaking up is so hard to do. “Romantic love is an addiction,” said Fisher “When rejected, you’re still madly in love with this person. You’re”
- really craving them.
- obsessively thinking about them
- in physical and emotional pain
- feeling deeply attached to the person
- desperately trying to figure out what happened
So how do you begin to recover? If being in love is like a rush of cocaine, and breaking up is like going through withdrawals, you do it the same way addicts do… in stages. You won’t need the 12 steps, but you can count on the 5 stages of grief.
Tips for getting through it in one piece
Talk to someone
Even if it is “just a breakup,” don’t be afraid to seek help. Talking to a therapist can help you reach the acceptance stage faster.
Feel your feelings, but don’t wallow in them. Getting stuck in feelings like blame or anger will delay healing after a loss, says Kromberg.
Minimize physical symptoms
In addition to emotional pain, you might also experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches, and pains, insomnia, or even lowered immunity. Take care of yourself–eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t change your fitness routine.