We sat and had the talk, my mind was all over the place, it is happening, the talk of breaking up. To think that 5 years ago I thought this was the best thing that ever happened to me, this was different, we were a match made in heaven or so we thought, but there was something in her tone and facial expression that said, I am done. After a breaking up it is important to know the stages of a breakup.
All relationships no matter how beautiful it is appearing to us will go through ups and downs and if you are not ready, could result in a breakup that could throw you so far down that you may never recover.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), outlined the phases of grieving experienced when one learns that they are dying. Her stages have since been aptly used to describe the process of grieving the death of a loved one. A similar thing happens when grieving the end of a relationship. The following are Dr Kubler-Ross’ stages of grieving applied to a breakup. (The pronouns he and she can be used interchangeably.)
In this phase, our heart rather than our head rules our belief system as we try to adjust to the idea of life without the person we’re losing. Even though we know the relationship is over, we really don’t believe it. Against the better judgment of everyone around us, we can’t help but entertain fantasies of things somehow working out. We see hidden glimmers of hope buried in clear indications that it’s over. Yes, this is the phase where we are most susceptible to late night texting.
Anger can manifest in many different ways – anger at your ex (“How could she do this to me? Why can’t she stop being selfish?”), anger at God or the universe (“Why can’t anything ever work out for me? Why am I cursed?”), anger at people or situations associated with the break-up (anger at the other woman; anger that your partner lost her job, because that is when she “changed”), and anger at other people who don’t agree or stand with your anger (“Can you believe George and Jane still want to be friends with him after what he did to me?”). This is the phase where we think it’s a great idea to tell anyone and everyone what a psycho-crazy vixen our ex was. This is also when we think it’s crucial to send our exes hateful emails because we don’t want him thinking he got away with anything. We even start psychoanalysis their background, “her father died when she was young and so she cannot bond with men”. Stages of a breakup are important for the person to have a knowledge of what they are experiencing.
Bargaining often goes hand in hand with denial. Bargaining can be looking for any possible way to make the relationship work through negotiation, threats, and/or magic – for example, telling your ex that you will change, or move or go to therapy, or telling him he is hurting the children, his family, your family, and the dog by leaving. And, of course, this phase is not only limited to bargaining with your ex. Many people bargain with The Powers That Be, promising to be a better person if only the ex will come back. During this stage, you may take a new interest in doing something different, going to the gym, changing hairstyle, doing your makeover, anything that would encourage a second chance. This is also when we attempt to enlist all friends and family to “talk some sense” into him, for us guys, maybe just a good friend.
Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms, for example feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything but lay in bed, feeling disconnected from people even when you’re with them, being on the verge of tears most of the time, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of appetite or overeating, increase in drug or alcohol use and (the big one) hopelessness. Hopelessness is pervasive and debilitating, it is the thing that leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different from it is right now. Hopelessness makes it feel like you will never move on and that nothing will ever work out for you in the future, and those stupid love songs!
Because the pain is so intolerable, you may actually be able to convince your ex to try again (this may not be the first breakup with this partner). You will temporarily relieve the agony of withdrawal. However, despite your best efforts, you will not be able to carry the relationship solo. I’m sorry to say, it probably won’t end well this time, either. Unfortunately, you may need to go through this process of breaking up and reconciling more than once before you’re absolutely convinced it’s time to let go. You may not even get back together but when you feel you are finally over her, something reminds you and the anger, bargaining and depress feeling is back, and you ask the question, will this ever past?
Finally, this is the phase in which we are able to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t always come on suddenly; it often happens gradually, little by little, interspersed with some of the other phases. Acceptance doesn’t always involve harmony and flowers – there is almost certain to be lingering sadness. Acceptance entails making peace with the loss, letting go of the relationship and slowly moving forward with your life. Sometimes it feels like this phase will never come, which usually means you’re still struggling in an earlier phase.
The stages of grief that follow any trauma, breakups included, can happen over the course of minutes or even seconds, across days, months, or years, and then switch around without warning, leaving you feeling without foundation, especially in the beginning. It is amazing how the mind works, for years I thought no one could love me the way I wanted to be loved, my self-esteem took a beating and it was not even so great, to begin with. Knowing that you are not alone can help you ride it out.
Your grieving is part of the human condition—without it, we would not be wired the way we are to handle the many pains and losses that occur in our lives. As the grieving process progresses you will begin to see your way through to a point at which you can let go in a more proactive and self-protective way—a way that you may eventually come to understand as a new beginning. Now that you know the stages of a breakup, I am sure you are feeling less anxious.
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