Breakups. They’re never easy.
Anyone who’s been through a breakup can tell you what a difficult and painful experience it is, leaving you feeling a range of painful emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, and despair.
Going through a breakup is challenging to say the least, but understanding the stages of the healing process can make it a little easier. This article aims to provide an overview of the different stages of getting over a breakup, to help provide some clarity in this traumatic time.
By understanding these stages, you can have a better understanding of the healing process, and can take steps to move through it in a healthy way. Each stage has its own set of challenges and difficulties, but by understanding them, you can take an active role in the healing journey, and work towards emotional well-being.
Understand the stages of healing, and be empowered to move forward in a positive and constructive way.
First, let’s get the basics out of the way.
Table of Contents
What is a breakup
In the context of romantic relationships, a breakup refers to the ending of a partnership. This happens for a variety of reasons, including: differences in values, goals or aspirations, growing apart, infidelity, or simply falling out of love.
Breakups happen in both short-term and long-term relationships, and can be initiated by either one or both partners.
They’re a difficult and painful experience for everyone involved, as they involve the loss of a significant other, as well as the loss of a shared future and the sense of security and belonging that comes with being in a relationship.
It's worth noting that breakups don't only occur between romantic couples, it can happen with friendships, family members or any other kind of close relationships. The process of healing may vary based on the nature of the relationship, but the feelings of loss and grief can be similar.
Why are breakups difficult to process
Breakups are difficult to process for a variety of reasons. One major reason is the loss of a loved one and the feelings of loneliness that can follow. This can be particularly difficult if the relationship was long-term and the individual has invested a lot of time, energy, and emotions into the relationship.
Another reason why breakups can be difficult to process is the sense of rejection that comes with being broken up with. It can be hard to accept that the other person no longer wants to be with you, and this can lead to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.
Another reason can be feelings of trauma, some people can experience intense emotional reactions and may relive the relationship and the breakup over and over again. This triggers feelings of abandonment, loss and insecurity.
Additionally, breakups can be difficult to process because they can disrupt our sense of identity and our sense of security. When we're in a relationship, we often define ourselves in part by the relationship, and when the relationship ends, it can feel like we've lost a part of ourselves.
Studies have even shown that losing a partner in a breakup has the same impact on the brain as abstaining from cocaine after being addicted. The same signals are being triggered as if you were going cold turkey off of drugs. This is serious stuff.
If you’ve invested your future dreams and planning with your partner, the sudden end to the relationship can impact on your mind and be difficult to process.
Now, let’s get down the the five stages of getting over a breakup.
5 stages of getting over a breakup
Denial is a common initial reaction to a breakup and is characterized by a refusal to accept that the relationship is over.
This stage can be difficult to recognize in yourself. After all, you’re denying the thought of the relationship being over.
For example, an individual in denial may continue to reach out to their ex in an attempt to get back together, or may refuse to believe that the breakup is permanent. They may think this is just another fight that they’re having, and things will be back to normal soon enough.
During the denial stage, an individual may also find themselves clinging to memories of the relationship, and may find it difficult to let go of the idea of reconciliation. They may also continue to engage in behaviors that were associated with the relationship, such as listening to songs that remind them of their ex, or continuing to wear items of clothing that the ex gave them.
Denial is a powerful coping mechanism in the immediate aftermath of a breakup as it allows the broken-hearted to avoid the reality of the situation and may help protect against feelings of pain and sadness. However, this stage can also prolong the healing process and make it more difficult for an individual to move on in the long term.
It's important for people in this stage to understand that this is all normal, and not to beat yourself up for still having these thoughts or actions. This stage may last for a short time or longer and that's okay.
However, eventually you’ll need to accept the reality of the breakup, and to take steps towards healing and moving on. The sooner you do this, the better. This can include seeking support from friends and family, working on yourself and engaging in self-care activities, and finding healthy ways to process and express feelings.
The anger stage is usually the next natural response to a breakup, and it’s a powerful emotion that can manifest in a variety of ways. Expect feelings of frustration and resentment towards the ex-partner, fueled by a sense of injustice or betrayal.
During this stage, you may find yourself asking "why did this happen to me?" and may blame the ex-partner for the end of the relationship. You could also feel a sense of resentment towards the ex-partner for moving on, as you’re still struggling with coming to terms with the breakup.
Some people may also express this anger through social media or to friends and family, which can lead to more regret, and self-criticism. Everyone processes these emotions differently, so expressing anger is normal, but it's important to be careful of how we express it, and try to avoid actions that we’ll come to regret later down the line.
Going through the anger stage is a natural part of the healing process, as it can help you to process these feelings and begin to make sense of the breakup. But prolonged anger can be a consuming emotion and which prevents you from moving on.
Find healthy ways to express this anger and to let it go, instead of holding on to it, which can prevent healing. This could include talking to a therapist, friends, or family, practicing mindfulness, writing in a journal, or engaging in physical activities like exercising or taking up a martial art. Find a balance, don’t suppress the anger but also don’t let it control your life.
The bargaining stage is characterized by an attempt to negotiate with the ex-partner to get back together. This stage can be triggered by feelings of regret, longing, and a sense of unfinished business.
During this stage, an you may replay past events in your head and try to find a solution that would have prevented the breakup. You might also make deals with yourself or with the ex-partner, such as promising to change certain behaviors or attitudes in exchange for a chance to reconcile.
The bargaining stage is where you cling onto the hope that the ex-partner will change their mind and decide to give the relationship another chance. This can lead to a sense of uncertainty and can make it difficult to move on.
It's important to remember that bargaining is a normal part of the healing process, but it's unlikely to change the outcome of the relationship, and can prevent you from moving on. If you’ve been broken up with, no amount of begging or telling your ex that you’ll change is going to get them back. The only chance at reconciliation is to build yourself back up again, and fulfill your full potential as a human being.
Focus on self-improvement and self-care. Exercise, journaling, practicing mindfulness, and seeking support from friends and family is all vital at this stage.
Of all the stages of getting over a breakup, this is usually the toughest.
The depression stage is a natural response to a breakup and is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, loss, and sadness. During this stage, you may feel a sense of emptiness, and may have difficulty with day-to-day tasks and activities. You may also withdraw from friends and family, and struggle to find pleasure in things that you used to enjoy.
Depression can be the hardest stage to navigate, as it can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. An individual may find themselves struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or may have difficulty concentrating on work or school. They may also experience feelings of guilt and shame, and may blame themselves for the end of the relationship.
During this stage, it's essential for an individual to engage in self-care and self-compassion. Remember that it's normal to feel sad and to grieve the end of the relationship, and that healing takes time.
Engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep are all necessary during this stage of the breakup. These are the things that will help you on your road to recovery.
Acceptance is the final stage of the healing process and is characterized by the recognition that the relationship is truly over, and a willingness to move on with your life. During this stage, you may experience a sense of peace and begin to take steps towards closure and self-improvement.
During the acceptance stage, you’ll start focusing on the present and the future, rather than dwelling on the past. You may also find new hobbies or activities that bring pleasure and fulfillment. This is when you realize the breakup is an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.
During this stage, it's important to continue engaging in self-care and self-compassion. You should also avoid jumping into a new relationship too soon, and take time to focus on your own needs and desires. You can be completely selfish with your time, and do exactly what you want.
Acceptance doesn't mean forgetting the past or the feelings, but rather making peace with it. It's important to remember that healing is not a linear process, and that it is normal to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, or longing, even after reaching the acceptance stage.
During this stage you can also take time to reflect on the past relationship and learn from it, without beating yourself up. Everything we do in life can teach us for the future.
Reaching this stage takes different periods of time for everyone. Be gentle with yourself and seek support from friends, family, or professionals if needed.
What is the hardest stage of a breakup?
The difficulty of each stage of a breakup can vary depending on the person, and the specific circumstances of the relationship. Different people will find some stages more challenging to process than others. However, some stages are commonly seen as more difficult to get through.
Most people will find the depression stage to be particularly difficult. During this stage, you can feel overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, loss, and sadness. This makes day-to-day tasks very difficult, and it’s easy to withdraw from friends and family.
The bargaining stage can also be challenging for some, as you start to beg with your ex not to move on and make promises that you’ll be the one to change. During this stage, you’ll replay past events in your head, try to find a solution to fix the relationship, or cling to the hope of reconciliation.
Everyone processes emotions differently and may find different stages more challenging to go through.
How long do breakup stages last?
Measuring the stages of getting over a breakup isn’t an exact science.
The duration of each stage varies depending on the individual and the specific circumstances of the relationship. Unfortunately there’s no set timeframe for how long each stage should last, and it's normal for the process to take different amounts of time for different people.
Some take weeks, some will take months.
If you’re lucky and the breakup was mutual, you can progress through the stages quickly, while others may find that they cycle through the stages multiple times before reaching acceptance. It's also normal to experience different stages simultaneously, or even to revisit stages that were previously processed.
Remember that healing is a continuous process throughout life, and the more you take care of yourself and level up, the more you can learn to cope with life events, including relationships and breakups.
If you’re struggling to move through the stages, it can be helpful to seek professional help such as a therapist or counselor. They can provide guidance, support, and strategies for coping with the emotions that come with a breakup.
How often do exes come back?
After a while you may find that your ex reaches out after the breakup. This isn’t uncommon.
But how often it happens can depend on a variety of factors, including the nature of the relationship, the reason for the breakup, and the dynamics between the individuals involved.
Sometimes, ex-partners may reach out to one another out of a sense of nostalgia or longing for the past relationship, or because they miss the companionship and connection that they shared. However, this does not always mean that they want to rekindle the relationship or that they have had a change of heart about the breakup.
We’ve put together this handy guide for reading the signs about your ex missing you.
In some cases, ex-partners may reach out with the intention of getting back together.
Ultimately, how often ex-partners come back depends on the specific circumstances of the relationship, and it's important to remember that communication and honesty are essential when navigating contact with an ex after a breakup.
The importance of self care during a breakup
Self-care and self-improvement are extremely important as you progress through the stages of getting over a breakup. Going through a breakup can be an emotionally and mentally draining experience, which is why it’s so important to take care yourself.
We always recommended physical exercise, and anything else that promotes emotional well-being, such as healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. These self-care activities help to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost overall health and well-being.
Self-improvement, on the other hand, is the process of working to better oneself and make positive changes. This can include setting personal goals, working on personal growth, learning new skills, and engaging in personal development activities. Taking the time to work on yourself during a breakup can help to shift the focus away from the past relationship and onto your own needs and aspirations, and can also help to build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Additionally, self-care and self-improvement are related, as they both involve taking an active role in taking care of yourself, which is crucial during this difficult time.
It's also important to remember that self-care and self-improvement are ongoing practices, not just something to do during a breakup. Incorporating them into one's daily life can help to build resilience and improve overall well-being in the long-term.
If you’re struggling with a breakup right now then check out our guide on how to deal with a breakup.