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7 Stages of a breakup

Tristan is a love stylist who, through internal and external makeovers, guides her clients on all matters surrounding falling in like, falling in love and falling into bed. She is also the author of MENu Dating: Taste Your Way to the Mai...

From shock to acceptance

Breaking up is hard to do. Much like the passing away of a loved one, breakups have stages of grief. Here's an outline of the breakup process -- and how to get through it.

Breaking up isn't as hard to do if you understand that everything that is happening to your heart, your mind and your body is totally normal. That's right: Consuming endless pints of ice cream one day and being disgusted by the sight of food the next is normal under the circumstances. It is also normal to want to slash your ex's tires and want him back all at the same time.

What isn't normal, though, is to stay stuck in your confused, lonely or sad state. Breakups have stages of grief, as outlined below. These breakup stages may not be in order for you, and there is no telling how long you will stay in each one, but consider progress of any kind positive. Be gentle with yourself during a breakup, and don't stop reminding yourself that, no matter how dark the day, you will get through this.

1. Shock: "What the hell just happened?"

Shock is the body's natural protection against pain. And when your relationship first ends, you just might not want to deal with what's coming next. It may be too scary, too lonely, too confusing. A state of disbelief could last minutes, weeks or even months and likely lasts longer if you are on the receiving end of an unexpected breakup. Don't be surprised if you feel a sense of blurriness about the actual breakup scene, a literal loss of breath, or trouble sleeping.

Do/Do not:

  • Do prescribe yourself calming cures like meditation or long walks.
  • Do not freak out. You will make sense of all of this!

2. Denial: "This is so not happening."

Denial is rejection of reality and a storage of feelings. The thinking is that, if you don't accept the heartbreak, then it didn't really happen, thus leaving hope for reunion. During this stage of a breakup it is common to call, email or even Facebook-stalk -- anything that feels remotely "normal" about the relationship -- in an effort to put dealing with the heartbreak on hold.

Do/Do not:

  • Do open up to a journal or trusted friend to begin unleashing fears, identifying unreasonable thoughts and more.
  • Do not minimize the situation. Pretending your breakup doesn't have to be dealt with will lead to emotional numbness and leave you stuck.

3. Isolation: "I just want to sit in this all by myself."

Once you've recognized the breakup, you get into the dirty work: Dealing with the dissolution of the relationship. You may replay the relationship over and over in your mind, trying to pinpoint where it fell apart and how it could have been saved. Your thoughts may feel very scattered and disorganized. This stage of grief has you in withdrawal; you don't even feel like updating your Facebook status or checking your voicemails. You may draw your blinds and not even want to leave the house. Sitting in silence, darkness or a pint of ice cream feels better than going outside and admitting to the world that, yes, it's over.

Do/Do not:

  • Do take regular showers and create reasons to face the day (work, social activities).
  • Do not indulge in self-pity by letting irrational thoughts like "No one will ever love me again" take over.

Up next: Four more stages of a breakup >>

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