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The 5 Stages of Breakups and How to Deal with Them

The 5 Stages of Breakups and How to Deal with Them

You’ve probably heard of the 5 Stages of Grief, commonly referenced when someone is suffering the loss of their loved one in death. Theses stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While we’re familiar with their application in the context of mourning a loved one’s death, these stages are also very applicable to other types of loss–such as a breakup.

When we go through a breakup, we’ve also lost someone who was important to us, and it can be a struggle to process what’s going on in our heads and hearts. To help, I’d like to share with you the “5 Stages of Breakups,” and how to handle each of them as you move on to be a healthier, happier you.

Image from Pretty Little Liars via Warner Bros. Television
Image from Pretty Little Liars via Warner Bros. Television


The First Stage: Denial

The first stage of any loss is that of denial. You can’t believe what’s just happened, you never saw it coming, and it seems like you must be having an out-of-body experience, because it can’t possible have really happened. When applied to a breakup, it usually comes with a sense of false hope, a belief that this is just temporary and he’ll want you back.  You fantasize that the two of you can still work your issues out, somehow. This can’t be real, it’s just a misunderstanding.

How to Deal With It:

For some, coming to terms with the reality of a breakup can be the hardest part. In order to process what’s happened and stop denying what, deep down, you know is real, you need to look back over your relationship and recognize what got you here. Almost always, there will have been signs of an imminent breakup, and figuring out what those were in your case will help you to admit to yourself the reality of what just happened. Before you can start processing the rest of the emotions that come with a breakup, you have to accept that you’ve actually broken up.

GIF via Booklikes


The Second Stage: Anger

Now that you’ve accepted reality and faced the truth–it’s really over–all your emotions start to boil over. You’re angry at your ex for doing this to you. You’re angry at yourself for not seeing it coming and fixing things before it was too late. If there was another woman involved, you’re most likely angry at her for coming in between you and your man. This is the stage where you may find yourself doing things that are out of character – trash talking your ex to anyone who will listen, harassing him on Facebook, sending him hate mail, burning objects that remind you of him. The stage of anger can lead to reckless behavior, so dealing with it properly is especially important.

How to Deal With It:

Don’t give in to the urges you have during this stage. While bad-mouthing your ex to all of your mutual friends might seem like the best thing to do, it’s not. Don’t become a petty, psycho ex-girlfriend–it will just alienate you further from your ex and your friends. Observing your angry behavior, your own friends might start to think that your ex was right in leaving you, and the last thing you want or need right now is to lose your friends, too. Self-control is vital during the anger stage. There are better ways to handle your emotions, such as writing an angry letter to express your feelings–but never actually sending it–just be sure not to take out your anger on your friends or family.

GIF from Once Upon A Time via Pinterest


The Third Stage: Bargaining

Bargaining  is the stage where you will have thoughts and ideas about how to win your ex back. You will bargain with yourself. You might start thinking along the lines of, “If I lose some weight, or spend less time with my friends and more time with him, maybe he’ll take me back!” You may try to bargain with your ex as well, by offering incentives for getting back together or telling him how you’ll be different, promising you’ll do better. This is the stage where you could forego all self-respect and pride and actually beg him to take you back.

How to Deal With It:

As with anger, self-control is vital in dealing with this stage. Do not shame yourself by begging your ex to take you back–it’s not going to work anyways (trust me: been there, done that, still blush with shame five years later), and even if it did, your relationship isn’t magically going to be fixed. Instead, keep your self-respect and realize that it’s time to walk away. If you broke up on amicable terms and are hoping to remain friends, now is not the time to do so. Sure, exes can be friends, but not until you’ve gotten to the final stage of acceptance, so hold off on that for now. Otherwise, you’ll find it a lot harder to move on and may still cling to the idea that somehow, someday, you’ll be together again.

GIF via Rebloggy


The Fourth Stage: Depression

Depression–this is the stage where a girl’s favorite ice cream flavor and an endless parade of romance movies often come onto the scene. You’ve realized that no amount of bargaining is going to undo what has been done, and now you’re left feeling heartbroken. You’re devastated at the loss, and you don’t know what the point of even getting out of bed is anymore. Life as you knew it has changed, and you don’t want to face what life will be like without your ex.

How to Deal With It:

It’s important to be around people at this stage. While your instinct might be to push your friends away and wallow in misery alone, you need to have them with you as you move past depression. As tempting as it may be to stay home in your sweats and eat an entire batch of cookies on your own, you’d be better off going out with your girl friends and distracting yourself from your depression. Remember, though, that it’s perfectly okay to cry. Whether you’re alone or with your friends, crying is a healthy way to let out your emotions and may help you feel a lot better. Once you’ve let out all of your bottled up emotions you can move on to the final stage: acceptance.

GIF from Friends via Tumblr


The Fifth and Final Stage: Acceptance

You’ve gotten through the worst of it, and then some. When you reach the stage of acceptance, it means that you’ve let go of your past relationship. You’ve realized that it just wasn’t meant to be, and you’re okay with that. Maybe you made mistakes during the course of the relationship: you’re able to acknowledge that and use this knowledge to better yourself, learning from your past mistakes and bettering your future. There may still be a lingering sadness, but that’s okay–you’re moving on.

How to Deal With It:

Moving on means something different for everyone. For you, it might be dating someone knew. For someone else, it might be just taking some time to work on herself for a while. Whatever moving on means to you, just remember to go at your own pace. If you feel ready to start looking for a new relationship, go for it! But don’t let yourself feel pressured to do so by well-meaning friends who are trying to hook you up with someone. The stage of acceptance is all about you: do what makes you happy.

GIF from Pretty Little Liars via Essays Of Africa


When going through the five stages of breakup, it’s important to remember that everyone goes through each stage differently. You might spend more time in one stage than another, and that’s normal. We all heal differently, and there’s nothing wrong with that. One day, you’ll be able to look back on your past relationship with unbiased eyes, and use it as a learning experience. After all, that’s what life is all about–learning from our past and our mistakes so that we can improve our future!

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