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7 Stages of a Break-Up

Breaking up is a hard thing to go through. It feels like torture. And almost everyone, who has had their heart broken, has undergone the 7 stages of a breakup.

If you are finding it difficult to recover from a breakup, firstly go simple on yourself. Just like losing a beloved pet, in breakups, deep emotions are experienced which further transforms into grief. This is completely alright and you may want some time for yourself to deal with grief.

Knowing what to expect in every stage of the breakup recovery method will make it easier for you to facilitate yourself and others through the recovery process. You may have known somewhere deep inside that this breakup was coming, even for months or years, and you were still blindsided. But now, you must push through this pain to become a better version of yourself.

Here is a look at 7 stages of a break-up based on the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model of grief which she had discussed in her book On Death and Dying’.

Stage 1. Shock: Initial Paralysis upon receiving the news

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Shock is the mind’s natural process of protecting you against pain. It may be too fearsome, too lonely, too puzzling.

There is no going back, you need closure. It is hard to process the emotions which you have to deal with and overcome that. It cuts deep into your flesh.

The breakup event or conversation may seem foggy. This phase will not last long but how you respond to the situation can make a difference to your mental state. Every phase has its ups and down and it depends on the choices you wish to take.

Try thinking this way:

  • You are out of the situation which may allow you to think forward now.
  • It may be the best time to change the things within you which you wanted.
  • You can take a fresh start.

Do not try and make sense of everything right now. Go with how much is necessary for your growth further.

Stage 2. Denial: Trying to avoid the inevitable

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An individual going through the denial phase would keep themselves distracted or simply avoiding any conversation around their break-up.

It is the phase when you don’t accept what is happening is true. You give yourself the reasons and mold situations according to what is acceptable to you.

It appears like you’ve placed everything into this relationship and you are left with nothing. It has been your world, your life for so long that it was a part of you which got away. You are not able to accept the fact that the relationship is over.

You pour everything into saving it, even at the expense of your well-being and self-respect.

Denial may lead you to lose all sense of self. You are no more yourself, you are completely changed in a negative way.

Accepting the truth that your relationship is over or that your partner doesn’t wish to be with you is the only way to find peace.

Try thinking this way:

  • Try acknowledging that it is over by getting a reality check while talking to your partner.
  • You may talk about it with your friends and family ones.
  • You can even maintain a journal and write it down to clear it.

Do not stick to being in denial even after knowing that it is all over. It will affect you even more.

Stage 3. Anger: Bottled up emotions come out as a result of frustration.

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Let yourself be upset! Breakups can make you feel powerless, and anger can help you gain a sense of getting that power back.

Your heart may go from sad to raging mad. You are filled with rage or anger towards your ex-partner or yourself. You may find yourself doing things like keeping the ex-partner’s stuff. You may start blaming yourself or your partner in order to understand the reasons for the breakup. This “why” involves you so much in this breakup that it affects the other dynamics of your life. Your anger may burst out in some wrong place and in front of the wrong person. Your relationships with other people begin to suffer.

The deeper desire in this stage is trying to determine whose fault it is, whom to blame. Even if the anger is towards your own self, you may feel like “I deserve this”. This kind of anger results in self-disgust that “I am not good enough”, “I am stupid” or “useless” etc.

Try thinking this way:

  • It may be unfair and unjust, but it is a reality and you need to move on.
  • You have so much energy which you can use to direct yourself to move forward past this breakup.
  • Utilise this energy to realise your dreams and visions.

Do not give away your identity in the process of asking yourself “why” it happened.

Stage 4. Bargaining: Seeking a way out but in vain.

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Negotiating a new normal is important when you go through a loss. This is more about getting your ex-partner back any way possible.

The thought of being without your ex-partner is very intolerable. You may find yourself desperate to negotiate to let him/her back in your life. You cling on to any hope of being with them. Everything that has been wrong, you take it on yourself and You try to make it right. You are willing to accept any demands just to make this pain go away at present. You tend to forget that the pain will return later on if you simply try and fit it the relationship when in reality, it is over.

It is the first conscious effort to fight with denial and anger. You think about all the if’s and but’s. You take up big firm decisions in this stage. You make promises to yourselves in order to avoid the situation later.

Try thinking this way:

  • Think about the pros and cons of getting back into the relationship.
  • Think how can you add vision in your life, a goal to achieve that you never have to bargain again.

Do not bargain your way in the relationship, it will create more fuss.

Stage 5. Depression: Final realisation of the inevitable.

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Pain is an inevitable component of loss, but being present and validating your experience will help you get closure.

The magnitude of loss becomes overwhelming. You may find yourself in deeper sadness than before which converts to mild depression. You may regret the decision of being with your ex-partner. You may try to recall your earlier life when you were not in a relationship.

You should understand that you cannot undo a part of your life. The best that can be done is to reform yourself.

You may feel difficult to get out of the bed or feel hopeless. You may even feel physical pains and aches. This stage may last a little bit longer than usual. You will eventually get out of this stage in a while. Keep fighting rather than giving up.

Try thinking this way:

  • It is perfectly normal to be in such a stage and you will get better with time.
  • Consider taking time off to change the current environment.
  • If you surround yourself with your loved ones and, it will help a lot.

Do not put yourself in a position from where you will find it difficult to come out from – binge eating or substance use.

Stage 6. Acceptance: Finally finding the way forward.

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Acceptance means understanding the fact that you are no longer associated with that person in the same way. It is the case when you tell yourself, how should I move ahead instead of feeling dysfunctional emotions which come your way and stops you from going ahead with your life.

This stage makes all the other stages worth being in. You realise that there is no point in going back to the situations how they were before. This is a huge accomplishment. This means that you will give your energy and time in changing which is better for your growth.

While acceptance is important, it is equally important to move on – which is the very next and final stage.

Try thinking this way:

  • A little bit of more effort put in this stage can help you be out of this situation completely.
  • You are in control of yourself and your emotions.

Do not be surprised and feel low if you still have some moments of sadness. It is okay to have that. Just stay on a positive path.

Stage 7. Moving On: You are finally out of it.

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You are finally free and can breathe again. Remember the benefits of reaching this stage. You have accepted the loss of your partner and learned to be yourself. You have overcome the pain and negative emotions. You have reconnected with the self that is even better than before.

You have recognised and acknowledged what has gone wrong. You have forgiven your ex-partner and yourself for the mistakes that have been made. You are thankful for the experiences which helped you to reach till here.

This marks the new beginning, so celebrate!!

Top Tip:

  • If at any stage, you feel that it is hard for you to deal with the situation, it is best to consult a therapist.
  • If you still don’t feel like consulting a psychologist then at least go to the person you trust the most and express what you are feeling.
  • You can create your own mantra to deal with the situation more effectively using if-then statement. It can help you to restructure your thoughts in a way it is useful.

An example can be –
A common thought is: “After this break up, no one will accept me in future.”
Change it to sentence: “If I think of my break and no one accepting me in the future up, I realise everyone has a past and the right person will accept me as I am.”

If you work as a therapist or psychologist and want to learn more about if-then statements and other skills to help clients with repetitive thoughts and emotions, visit this link.

“Closure happens right after you accept that letting go and moving on is more important than projecting a fantasy of how the relationship could have been” – Sylvester McNutt