Now Reading
Stages of a Breakup and How to Deal With Them

Stages of a Breakup and How to Deal With Them

Updated on May 28, 2022 | Published on January 14, 2020
Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW, Certified Relationship Coach
Stages of a Breakup and How to Deal With Them

We meet someone, our frequencies match, we resist ourselves at first from falling in love in the fear of heartbreak or stages of a breakup but we eventually get habitual of having them around.

We start and end our days with them, and we share our deepest secrets and darkest sides with them. Slowly, we start to build memories with them and we begin to love the feeling of being in love.

This is how almost all love stories begin. But people rarely like to accept each other the way they are.

Especially nowadays, love stories are much more complicated since people end up imposing their insecurities on one another, willingly or unwillingly.

Due to the wrong handling of relationships, umpteen expectations, and sometimes just because of compatibility issues, people break up. And, to be honest, it hurts like a hurricane.

When breakups are mutual or due to very practical reasons, people cope up fast. But, in the rest of the cases,  people have to go through various stages of a breakup to recover and heal. And, it’s never easy. 

Stages of a Breakup Infographic

7 Stages of a Breakup and How to Deal With Them
7 Stages of a Breakup and How to Deal With Them

When was the term “stages of grief” first coined? 

In the year 1969, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist wrote a book called ‘On Death and Dying’. In her book, she spoke about the stages of grief for people who were ill.

However, later, these stages were used to express many kinds of grief such as the death of friends and family, breakup, loss of any kind, illness, etc. Her observation and theory later became the Kübler-Ross model.

The 5 stages of grief according to her are referred to as DABDA – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Based on her theory, many people came up with their own expressions.

When it comes to breakups specifically, 7 stages are more common. These are a little different from her version.  

7 Stages of a Breakup Grief and How To Deal with A Breakup?

Breakup recovery is not a linear process. Something as brutal and difficult as breakups require a lot of time and patience to heal from.

Different people opt for different coping mechanisms but commonly, most people face 7 main stages while going through breakup grief.

Some of these stages are natural reactions to breakup grief. People don’t necessarily realize which stage they are in.

It requires a lot of self-awareness and consciousness to know exactly what they are feeling, which people actually lack when they are hurt and heartbroken, However if one visits a therapist, counselor or relationship expert, they can understand the flow of their emotions.

By understanding your stage of grief or emotion,  you can cope up with breakup in a much better way.

Here is a detailed description of each stage so that you can bounce back from the pit that you are in or help a friend who is broken-hearted –  

Stage 1 of Breakup – Need for answers 

The first stage consists of three emotions which are – confusion, shock, and pain. When your partner first tells you that they don’t want to be with you anymore, you feel shocked and confused.

You don’t understand the reasons even when the answers have been in front of you for very long.

Maybe the breakup was approaching, maybe it was too obvious, maybe it was bound to happen or maybe it was communicated to you in some ways but still, it is pretty difficult to wrap your head around it.

Thus, you look for answers while sulking in pain. Some breakups are so difficult that the other person doesn’t even want to give a full-fledged closure.

In such cases, it gets even more difficult for you to comprehend what’s happening. Eventually, you want answers in this case too.

The need for an answer gets so desperate that it makes you restless and unsettled. It creates anxiety and pain that can sometimes manifest in physical pain too. 

Examples – “What did I do wrong?”, “What about all the good memories that we had?”, “What about the time we spent together happily?”, “Will you just forget everything in one day?”, “How is it so easy for you to end this?”,”What could I have done differently?”, etc. 

What can you do?
Try asking only rational questions. You deserve to know everything that led to the end of your relationship but do not become frantic. Give yourself a break, talk to someone who can bring back the balance in your life. 

Stage 2 of Breakup – Denial

First, you find the answers and you go through pain and anxiety then you develop a denial mode. You do not want to accept that someone has decided to leave you.

The brunt of rejection hits all of us from each side. As a result of which, you begin to tell yourself that maybe it is a phase, maybe they are just upset, maybe they don’t mean what they are saying or maybe they are just angry.

You begin to almost force yourself upon them and continue to message or call them. You continue to go to places where you know you would find them. 

Denial mode sometimes makes you put your ego and self-esteem aside. It makes you forget the pain that they are putting you through or the mistakes that they have committed in the relationship.

You are maybe doing this to save yourself from a flood of other emotions and you just don’t want to accept that the thing that you have nurtured for so long, suddenly won’t exist and you will have to live without it.

You don’t want to accept that someone who claimed to love you and care for you, doesn’t care anymore. 

Examples – “They don’t mean it.”, “They are just angry.”,”They must be going through something personally.”, “They love me enough to never leave me.”,  etc. 

What can you do?
It is important that you don’t remain in denial mode for long and become aware. If your partner says something and makes you feel something, believe them. Do not create a hypothetical situation in your mind. See the situation for what it is. This is possible only when you distance yourself and talk to someone who you trust and can observe the situation from afar. 

Stage 3 of Breakup – Bargaining 

When the denial mode doesn’t work and your partner continues to reject everything you say, you start to bargain.

In some cases, it is almost pleading. You say sorry for things that you never did wrong, you try to fix things that you never broke and you want to take responsibility for making the relationship work on your shoulder alone.

You are ready to go to any length to make it work one more time and you keep your own pain aside and put theirs on the forefront. Suddenly, they become the drivers of your life and you sit in the backseat.

This stage feels like walking on egg-shells because you don’t know if what you are doing will work or not.

So, you are constantly under fear and threat. You are also insecure. You even start to tell them that you would change certain things about yourself if they come back.

These thoughts obviously don’t come from a place of rationality. It makes you question yourself, your existence and your worth. 

Examples – “I will change myself.”, “I will do what you want me to do.”. “I will make it work all by myself.”, “I will never hurt you again.”, “Maybe it’s me, maybe I was not good enough, maybe I can do something differently.”, etc.  

What can you do?
When you are in this stage, you should try to remind yourself that a relationship doesn’t work one way. Both people have to make equal efforts to make it work. If it has come to a point where you alone have to do all the work, then it is probably not worth it. Bargaining can be stretched for as long as you want but you will only be wasting your time because a partner who makes you plead, probably doesn’t feel for you anymore, unfortunately. 

Stage 4 of Breakup – Anger

Once you have made multiple requests and your partner has not moved from their decision, you feel anger. Anger at least reminds you of your worth but it also brings a lot of ego.

You may feel irrational and impulsive. You may even feel like destructive. Anger can make you want to hurt the person physically or emotionally.

It can make you want to spoil their other relationships, their personal or professional lives. Anger can manifest itself in any dangerous situation.

You can also feel angry towards any other person but your partner. You can feel angry about giving the other person so much power over you. But, anger also reminds you of your own expectations and the fact that you deserved better.

In a way, anger is not so bad. It is empowering if it has not manifested itself in any physical way. 

Examples – “I do not deserve this.”, “I will not let him or her live peacefully.”, “I will take revenge.”, “I won’t suffer because of someone else.”, “Someone can’t make me miserable.”, etc. 

What can you do?
Channelize your anger. Do not let it manifest in any physical way. Do not take it out on people who did nothing wrong to you and in fact, love you. Let your anger remind you of your worth and let it help you go further in this trajectory of recovery or moving on. Let the anger provide you a new direction that goes anywhere but towards your ex. 

Stage 5 of Breakup – Depression 

When you move on from anger and start to live day to day life, depression kicks in. Anger has helped in giving you a new direction. You now don’t message or try to call your ex and have decided to focus on yourself.

You resist missing them and try to destroy any memory of them. But, in this process, you begin to see flashes of the times you spent with this person.

You begin to become existential and want to live for yourself except you don’t know how to begin.

You had become habitual of that person, you had become used to of their approval and validation and you simply had shared every happy news with them first.

This is one of the most difficult phases to be in. This also lasts longer than any other phase. It makes you want to not get up from your bed and do things that you always loved doing.

You feel frustrated for becoming this person who has forgotten what he or she was before they met their partner. 

Examples – “I don’t want to get up.”, “I don’t enjoy things that I used to enjoy because they remind me of my ex-partner.”, “There is no point in anything.”, “I don’t have the energy to go out and carve out a new life for myself.”, etc. 

What can you do?
First, you need to evaluate the extent to which you feel depressed. Some people need medical help to deal with their trauma or depression, while others can bounce back with some support from friends and family. Try talking to your loved ones about what you feel. See how long this feeling persists. If it takes longer, do seek medical help such as therapy. 

Stage 6 of Breakup – Acceptance

After the depression, you finally manage to get back up because you begin to accept things. Acceptance is the positive stage of a breakup.

They say time can heal anything but in reality, you begin to make new memories and the old ones begin to fade away.

Time doesn’t make you forget anything but it only gives you a chance to create memories that can fill the void.

Even if you are not consciously making good memories, every day counts. You begin to accept that you deserve better.

It is almost like the smoke clears and you begin to see everything as it is. You do not see the relationship or your ex-partner with rose-tinted glasses anymore.

You begin to accept that what has happened, has happened for the greater good. Slowly, you begin to carve out a fresh life for yourself.

For some, it is almost like a rebirth. People come out stronger when they accept things. They also realize what is healthy and unhealthy for their emotional and mental health. 

Examples – “Everything that happens, happens for good.”, “I deserve much better.”, “It was not meant to be.”, “Better things are waiting for me.”, “It was actually a toxic relationship and I am glad I am out of it.”, etc. 

What can you do?
The acceptance stage is a positive stage. However, you don’t need to stay in it. You have to move from here so that you can entirely become unaffected by your past. Acceptance still leaves someplace for recovery. You should become aware that you are accepting things better than before and then continue working towards making your life better. 

Stage 7 of Breakup – Hope

After acceptance comes hope. During the depression, you lose your hope in the world, in relationships and sometimes, in yourself too.

Hope is life force. It keeps all of us moving and running. It makes us want to wake up every day and live life with passion.

Without it, we feel depleted. After breakups, hope vanishes but only to return. Hope is the last stage of grief. You want to live again and give life one more chance.

You wish to invest yourself in new things and try out new things without feeling the fear of failing. Again, you feel love inside yourself that you can share with someone.

You don’t think about the painful experience anymore, instead, you talk about the lessons it taught you.

Hope ensures that you don’t feel the emptiness in your life because it fills your life with other things that you enjoy doing. It makes you want to live for yourself too.

It reminds you of all the things that ever made you happy but doesn’t involve your ex. 

Examples – “I want to try out new things.”, “I can give love one more chance.”, “Maybe this time things will work out for me.”, etc. 

What can you do?
Make the most of this stage since it kickstarts a good life for you. Do not get consumed by it but also make use of it to enjoy small moments with your loved ones. Hope itself is a gradual process. Be patient with yourself and give yourself as much time as you think you need. Do not rush. 

Take-home Message

When you are hit by a breakup, your life suddenly pauses for some time, only to change significantly in the coming months.

The idea is to not get consumed by your emotions. 7 stages of a breakup are a gradual process. Some people can even swing back and forth but one should always be aware of his or her thoughts.

Awareness is the first step to recovery and healing. Grieving is a natural process, it occurs in everyone’s life and thus, you must remind yourself that you are not alone and it will indeed pass, rather smoothly, in retrospect. 

How To Deal with A Break-up: FAQs

How long should you wait after a break up?

Most commonly, there are 7 stages of a breakup. These stages generally take about 1 to 3 months of a person’s time. However, depending on the type of breakup, some people can take much longer to move on and start a new dating life.

What is the 3 month rule?

3 months rule after a breakup and at the time of starting a new date really means giving yourself a time of three months to actually take someone seriously. Before you take your new relationship to the next level, you must wait for 90 days to get over.

Do breaks help relationships?

Breaks indeed help relationships as they give some breather to both the parties involved. Make sure you and your partner first have an open discussion about taking a break and then, happily agree to process the bre

Do couples get back together after a break?

During the break, some couples realize that they can’t stay apart while others realize that they should break up. It depends on the relationship you have had with your partner.

How to not let a breakup affect you?

To not let a breakup affect you, you must try to give yourself new things to look forward to. You should begin a new hobby or an interest that you can pursue in your free time. Ensure a healthy and strong emotional support system for yourself.

We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Privacy Policy