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7 Emotional Stages of a Breakup (3 Broke My Soul)

Let’s talk about the stages of a breakup!

We know that breakups can be heartbreaking, no matter how they play out. One minute you’re talking about plans for the future with you two as a couple, and next thing you know, you’re left with visions of those plans crumbling around you.

Going through a breakup can be as devastating as grieving a death because we’re basically losing one of the most important relationships in our lives. The grieving process can feel like an emotional roller coaster, where you’re dealing with waves of confusion, anger, sadness, regret, anxiety, guilt, and loneliness, interwoven with moments of hope, relief, and acceptance.

Sometimes you go through these emotional stages of a breakup one by one; other times you repeat them or go back and forth between different emotional states so quickly that it gives you whiplash.

When it comes to breakups, you can experience loss, resentment, and anger all in the same breath, but at the end of this painful road, there’s growth and acceptance, so hang in there!

Let’s talk about the emotional stages of a breakup and analyze each of them.

stages of a breakup
Photo by Gladskikh Tatiana from Shutterstock

Stage 1: Ambivalence

A million thoughts run through your head, and you deal with lots of feelings immediately after a breakup. At this stage, your head and heart play tug of war with your emotions, tugging you in different directions.

You’re at the start of what will be several stages of a breakup, so it’s normal to be in shock and feel overwhelmed. In this first stage, there are some behaviors and thoughts you may deal with.

Chances are, you’re wondering if you did the right thing. Sometimes, you’re sure of the fact that the breakup was the best thing to do. Other times, you may be asking yourself if maybe, just maybe, the relationships could’ve worked.

During the different stages of a breakup, you may also find yourself playing out all the scenarios. You keep picturing all the different “what-if” scenarios: “What if they had done that? What if I had said this? Would we still be together then?”

At this first emotional stage, it’s normal to get emotional whiplash. One moment you’re feeling confident, imagining your future with them, and the next, you’re in a chapter of your life where nostalgia plays the leading role.

Stage 2: Shock and Denial

Shock tends to strike soon after a breakup. This is one of the stages of a breakup where we’re in denial. According to experts, denial is a coping mechanism that eases the pain as we slowly deal with a shifting reality.

You’re probably thinking that this can’t be happening to you. You’re hoping that things can go back to the way they were. Basically, you’re avoiding painful emotions, and that’s normal.

Instead of facing the pain head-on, some people engage in certain behaviors after a breakup to avoid thinking about it. The most common approach is to distract yourself with work or other responsibilities.

Another sign that you’re in denial is when you continue to call or text your ex as though nothing has changed, consulting them about your life as though you’re still together. You may also not have told your loved ones about the breakup yet because you’re not ready to face reality, and a small part of you is still hoping that perhaps you’ll get back together.

As one of the first stages of a breakup, this one is a mix of overwhelming feelings, but it’s totally normal because, in the end, it will help you adjust to your new reality.

Stage 3: Anger and resentment

Following a breakup, you may feel intense resentment and anger toward your ex. You may feel hurt by their actions, and this hurt can manifest in the form of anger. You may find yourself thinking, “How dare they hurt me or leave me?”

Similar to the first stages of a breakup, this one happens for a reason: you’re hurt, so you’re trying to find coping mechanisms to protect yourself from the heartbreak. That’s why some people may direct their anger toward the person causing the pain. You may blame your ex and act out in reactive ways, such as saying things you don’t mean and picking fights with them even after the breakup.

This anger may also manifest in physical ways, making you destroy or discard items that remind you of your ex. Your anger can color your view of life, making you feel cynical, bitter, and resentful toward others.

Keep reading to discover other stages of a breakup!

stages of a breakup
Photo by Antonio Guillem from Shutterstock

Stage 4: Negotiation and bargaining

According to experts, the bargaining stage is where we negotiate with ourselves and our exes about ways in which we can change things in order to regain the relationship. Compared to other stages of a breakup, this one is more about hoping things can change. You may find yourself wishing for a second chance, or you may promise your ex that you’ll change.

This often comes together with the willingness to compromise and negotiate relationship terms. You may try to compromise with your ex by agreeing to go to a couples therapist, for example. It’s common to also renegotiate relationship terms with your ex; because you don’t want to lose them, you may propose friendship.

While stages of a breakup happen so you can eventually get over it, sometimes they may lead to things that may hurt you more in the end. Because you’re willing to compromise, you may do that within your personal boundaries, values, or lifestyle choices to try and make things work again with your ex. Don’t compromise the values that are important to you. Keep in mind that you can find someone who shares your values.

Stage 5: Depression and sadness

Going forward with the emotional stages of a breakup, the next phase is the one where the sadness is so painful that it can even lead to depression. You may feel low and sad all the time, which can make it hard to function. You may find yourself crying frequently, triggered by reminders or memories of your relationship.

According to experts, this often comes with a sense of hopelessness about the future. Some common thoughts at this stage include: “I’ll be single forever,” “I feel lonely,” “I can’t handle this all alone,” “I’ll never love again,” or “I’ll never be loved in the same way.”

Chances are that this state of being may lead to social withdrawal; you may find yourself away from family and friends, as socializing can feel emotionally exhausting. You may also experience changes in sleep patterns and appetite.

If you’re going through a breakup and need a bit of extra help processing everything, this book that comes with a journal may help you.

stages of a breakup
Photo by simona pilolla 2 from Shutterstock

Stage 6: Acceptance and healing

Once you’ve been through these stages of a breakup, it’s time to heal and accept the loss. This is when you embrace the new normal. You’re ready to recognize that the relationship has ended. This enables your emotions to be more stable, and you’re also less likely to experience anger, sadness, or regret.

In this stage, you’re finally able to understand and accept the reasons why you and your ex are no longer together. This understanding gives you the closure you didn’t think was coming and helps you grow as a person. As one of the most important stages of a breakup, this phase is when you’re able to forget yourself and your ex, letting go of your resentment and anger.

The idea of moving on may have seemed impossible when you first parted ways, but now you feel more ready for it.

Stage 7: Growth and moving on

Eventually, the painful stages of a breakup will come to an end. You’ll reach a frame of mind where you’re ready to move on and learn something. You may start to regain your self-esteem, feeling more sure of yourself.

You may also start to reconnect with your friends and engage in more social activities. Eventually, you’ll be ready to go on the dating scene again and be open to the idea of a new relationship.

If you liked our article on the stages of a breakup, you may also want to read 7 Ways to Check if Your Partner Is Dating Someone Else Online.

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