Stage 1: Denial.
No, we didn’t really break up, we are just taking a break. No, we didn’t really break up, we just had a really big fight. We can recover from this! No, he didn’t really pack up his things and leave… we moved in together, we can still make this work. Ah, denial. Sweet, sweet denial. Denial is most commonly the first stage of breakup grief; it helps us survive as our brains begin to process the unthinkable—the harsh reality of a breakup.
Stage 2: Sadness.
Why did this happen to me? What is wrong with me? How will I ever love again? As the reality of a breakup begins to settle in, overwhelming sadness may ensue. Endless tears, lethargy, sleepless nights, eating a tub of ice cream for dinner—breakup sadness is truly one of a kind. Not only do you mourn the past, you also mourn the future. The future both of you could have shared, but never will. Breakup sadness is crushing, alienating, and can be overwhelming. Watch the sad movie and eat the chocolate cake, then take a breath and remind yourself you will be okay.
Stage 3: Bargaining.
If he comes back, I swear we will never argue about his mother again. If he comes back, I promise I won’t make a fuss about his demanding job. If he comes back… The requests we make to the universe can be complex and full of overarching promises. Though tempting, don’t waste your time bargaining. You know deep down these are empty promises.
Stage 4: Anger.
How dare he break up with me; doesn’t he know how amazing I am? How dare he take my favorite cooking pan; he doesn’t even cook! How dare he go out on a Friday night; he should be grieving our relationship! My personal favorite breakup feeling is definitely anger. On a positive note, anger can make us feel productive; it tries to convince us that we are moving forward and on with our lives. However, when left unchecked, anger can spin out of control fast. Keep the anger to a moderate level and punch your pillow instead of the wall. Your hand (and the wall) will thank you.
Stage 5: Acceptance.
We were never truly right for each other, and that is okay. We are both still worthy of love. I will find love again. Acceptance is the final stage of the breakup grieving process—it reflects the moment you realize that you are okay and will be okay. It’s the moment you look at yourself in the mirror and smile for the first time in months. It’s the moment you stop looking at pictures of the two of you and finally store them away deep inside your closet. It’s the moment you snuggle up with your pup in bed, feeling at peace. It may take a while, and sometimes these moments of acceptance are fleeting. However, when they do happen, remember that despite the heartache, the complexity of grief, the relationship drama, and everything else that comes with a breakup, it was worth it. You fell in love, and it didn’t work out. But you gave it a shot, survived the unthinkable, and someday, you will love again.