Grieving is universal. In every person’s life, at some point, there will be at least one encounter with grief.
It may be from the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or any other drastic change that alters your life.
It can also be very personal. It doesn’t follow any rules or schedules. You could cry, become frustrated, withdraw, feel empty inside. None of these things are unnatural or wrong. We all grieve in different ways, but there are some commonalities in the stages and the order of feelings we experience during grief.
The five stages of grief we’ll go over in this article are based on Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ theory applied to a breakup.
She first introduced it in her book “On Death and Dying”. Her stages have since often been used to describe the process of grieving the death of a loved one.
A similar thing happens when we grieve the end of a relationship.
And now we’ll take a look at Ross’ 5 stages applied to a grieving breakup:
In this phase, our heart instead of our head rules our belief system as we struggle to adjust the idea of living without the person we’re losing. Even if we know the relationship is over, we cannot believe it. Against the logical judgment of everyone around us, we can’t help but nourish fantasies of things somehow working out. We see hidden glimmers of hope in clear signs that it’s over.
These delusions cause us to do stupid things in attempts to reconnect with our ex.
It is critically important to cut off communication and not give in to temptations of texting or calling them late at night. It’s not going to help. You’ll be tempted to jump on Facebook just to catch a glimpse of their smile, but what good will that do you?
As denial fades away, emotional pain manifests itself in the form of anger, which will be channeled in a number of different directions.
You will be angry with them, blaming anything you can for why the relationship didn’t work out. You might be angry at the world being unjust to you.
It’s natural and inescapable to feel this way. But you need to channel your anger productively. You have to avoid bottling it up and unleashing your rage in an inappropriate way.
Instead, take it out at the gym. Beat up the boxing bag for a couple of rounds. Go for a run. Find ways to release it from your system that won’t involve you spending a night at the local police station.
There’s a scientific component at play here. Research has shown that rejection from a romantic partner activates parts of the brain that are associated with addiction.
Similar to a drug addict, you become physically addicted to love. You need that warm, lovely feeling triggered by a release of dopamine. When your brain is deprived of that stimulation, you go into a type of withdrawal, which makes you feel crushed.
You begin hypothesizing on different ways that you might have been able to make it work. You are ready to do anything to avoid accepting it’s over.
But what good will do to you to call or text at this point? If you don’t hear back for a day, will that not drive you insane?
You must start thinking about yourself now.
There is very little benefit from staying in touch for the time being. Thoughts will rush through your mind as to what they’re doing and why you’re not getting an answer back. Don’t reach out. Focus on yourself.
Like anger, depression also surfaces in many different forms, for example, a constant feeling of tiredness, not wanting to do anything but stay in bed, feeling disconnected with people even when you’re with them, being on the verge of tears most of the time, difficulty in sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of appetite, increase in alcohol or drug use, and of course – the big one – hopelessness.
Hopelessness leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different than it is right now.
The most important thing to do in this phase is to acknowledge that these feelings don’t define you.
Reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues you haven’t spent much time with. It’s easy to lose sight of important people in your life when you feel beaten down by a hard breakup.
Just as important as reconnecting with the right people, it’s equally vital to keep bad influences out of your personal ecosystem. If you have a pal that suggests getting out and partying your butt off to hammer through depression, resist that temptation.
Focus on strengthening your body through exercise and a healthy diet. Feeling better physically will impact your mental well-being as well.
Start writing your thoughts in a journal. It’s therapeutic to release the feelings from your mind onto paper. Understanding and accepting what you’re going through is the first step to being able to overcome negativity.
Eventually, your heart, mind, and soul will accept that this phase of your life has come to an end. It is now time to move on. You will finally see a light in the tunnel, which will feel incredibly liberating and inspiring.
Make peace with your loss and accept that your relationship is no more. Accept the fact that there is a bright future ahead for you, and you’ll eventually be able to forgive your ex. The time you had together was not a waste but a learning experience. It helped define part of who you truly are. Be grateful – not resentful.
Once you’ve reached inner peace and self-love, you’ll naturally put forth that awesome energy and attract someone much more connected to your heart and soul.
Familiarizing yourself with the phases of grief can help normalize your break-up experience. It’s important to know that there is nothing you can do to hurry it along. It takes time, and the only thing you can do is use your inner strength to get through it. Take heart in the fact that this, like everything else, will eventually pass.