Loss appears in many forms. Whether you are negotiating the tricky territory of a breakup, the death of a loved one or a major life change in your career, you will need time to process your feelings.This can lead to unrealistic expectations about the amount of time it takes to get over loss or heartbreak. Friends and family may urge you to be strong.
You fought to hold on to the relationship to the point of being all-consumed. You don’t want to believe it’s actually ending. Even if the relationship was awful, even unbearable at times, the idea of living without it is unacceptable. Still, it’s becoming clear that the two of you aren’t going to make it. You are finally starting to compute that it’s over. You’ve gone from, “Don’t leave!” to “Okay, I give up.”The moment you leave each other’s space, you experience withdrawal, and you are hit relentlessly by the reality of the loss. It can be a brutal process, and it can take a long time until you feel deserving of investing in your own independent, reshaped life path.
Following are some of the stages you can anticipate going through—they often occur all at once, or in varying orders at varying times during the process of letting go:
- Desperate for Answers
The drive to know is consuming and can come at the expense of rational thoughts and behaviours. You must try and understand why this happened. You fixate on things your ex said at various times that you see as contradicting the breakup, and you hold onto them now as if they are gospel. Yet somewhere within, you have moments of clarity, too. You likely swing back and forth between foggy disbelief, the daily, moment by moment rediscovery of the magnitude of your loss, and flashes of painful clarity that of course it’s over.The desperation to make sense of something so jarring compels you to debate friends, family, coworkers, even strangers, about why the relationship ended, while you justify to them the reasons it shouldn’t have, as if convincing them it is equal to convincing your ex.
Denial is the often the first reaction to breakups. It is why so many of us get back together with our exes only to repeat the same mistakes and breakup again.It can’t be true. This isn’t happening! You just cannot be without your ex. It feels like you’ve put everything you are into this relationship. It’s been your world, your life.While you may be convinced your separation is only temporary, recognise this may be a defence mechanism. You funnel every last hope into saving it, even at the expense of your well-being. In doing so, you temporarily derail the grieving process by replacing it with unrealistically inflated hope that the relationship can still be salvaged.
Bargaining often goes hand in hand with denial.You are willing to do anything to avoid accepting it’s over. You’ll be a better, more attentive partner. Everything that’s been wrong, you’ll make right. The thought of being without your ex is so intolerable that you will make your own pain go away by winning him or her back, at any cost. In many ways, it’s an attempt to regain control. “If only I had seen the signs” or “If only I had tried harder” are common re-frames during the bargaining stage. We make a promise to ourselves or partner in an effort to delay the inevitable.However, during this phase, when you promise to fix all the problems between you, you are placing the entire burden of repairing, maintaining, and sustaining a relationship onto yourself.You can’t possibly take responsibility for everything. Somewhere inside, you know that.
Because the pain is so intolerable, you may actually be able to convince your ex to try again.However, despite your best efforts, you will not be able to carry the relationship solo. Well nobody can. That is why you need two individual in a relationship. You can’t be in a relationship with yourself right? 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. And is a real pain everywhere.
As denial wears off, reality begins to emerge. Instead of confronting the situation, anger becomes a third buffer. Anger can manifest in many different ways – anger at your ex , anger at God or the universe, anger at people or situations associated with the break-up 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?”). Emotions are deflected from the most vulnerable parts of our psyche and become expressed as anger. You may fly off the handle, throw away clothes and old photos.We may play the blame game, especially if our partner was unfaithful or the relationship was not ended by choice.
It can also remind you that you deserve more. Even anger at yourself, as paralysing and self-defeating as it may be, is still part of the grieving process. The fact that you are on the trajectory of grieving the loss is a sign that you are working through. It indicates that somewhere within, you are creating enough internal discomfort to help shift your perspective about how the relationship has actually been, and it can compel you to make proactive changes, if you are ready to let it.
It’s normal to feel down just before or after a breakup, especially if you were with the person for many years. You may feel sadness or regret. This is kind of initial acceptance, when it happens early in the process, can feel more like surrender. 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 nuclear bomb) hopelessness. Over time, this type of depression eases as you find solutions. Either you or your ex has developed enough awareness and control at this point to recognise that you are not meant to be.It’s preparing to say goodbye to the relationship, the good and bad and laying memories to rest.
You were levelled by the breakup and have had difficulty letting go, in part because it shattered your relationship with hope.With acceptance comes peace and even what may seem like withdrawal. Withdrawal means retreating from an unattainable situation. In the case of a breakup, it may mean deleting your ex’s number from your mobile or no longer taking his calls. 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.As acceptance deepens, moving forward requires redirecting your feelings of hope—from the belief that you can single-handedly save a failing relationship to the possibility that you just might be okay without your ex.
Regardless, hope is somewhere in your reserves and you will access it again as you continue to allow some meaningful distance between you and your ex. Happiness comes later, but acceptance and the peace that comes with it is the first sign of a new chapter. You are making room for a new life and possibly a new person.
Coping with the stages of breaking up is never easy. It takes time and space. It’s normal to mourn a relationship for many months, even years. Grieving is like digestion: there is nothing you can do to hurry it along. It takes time and the only thing you can do is try to get through it.However, every relationship is different and there is no fast rule. 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.
These are my views that I shared. Please do like, comment, share and subscribe so that I don’t lose my confidence to write here ( You never know when I start to grieve…). Do share your views with me below in the comments.