The 5 Stages of Grieving A Relationship

The 5 Stages of Grieving A Relationship
Moving Through The Difficulties of A Love Lost

Breaking up with someone you love so much is always hard. How many sleepless nights have you been through since the day you said goodbye? How many painful days have you been through since the day you fell apart? How long have you been trapped in the past and unable to move on?

You want to forget. And you want to forgive. But you just can’t.

You thought you had forgotten the best memories of the past. But whenever you walk past the place where you two first met, the good old days pop up in your mind again and you just can’t help but burst into tears.

You thought you had forgiven them for everything they did to you. But whenever you see his/her face appearing on your Facebook news feed, you find your heart is filled with a complicated feeling of melancholy and anger.

Letting go is never easy. But here’s what we can do with the grief and loss.

The 5 Stages of Grief And Loss

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying (1969).[1] The model was initially inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. But now it is also widely adopted to explain the behavior of people who experience grief and loss. After all, facing death and facing the death of a relationship share so much in common.

1. Denial: This CAN’T be happening

The first reaction to the loss of a relationship is to deny the reality of the situation. This is a defence mechanism to stop you from dealing with painful feelings.[2] You try to pretend everything’s alright but deep down in your heart, you know it is not.

When you have the feeling that you’re denying the loss of a cherished one, try focusing on accepting the truth, albeit brutal:

  • Remind yourself things have changed every day.
  • Stop texting or making phone calls as you used to.
  • Allow yourself to cry whenever you feel the pain.
  • Stay with someone who can help you recognize the truth.
  • Keep a diary to write down how you feel every day.
Denial stops us feeling and acceptingTry focusing on accepting the truth, albeit brutal. Image:Jacob Pilatoe

2. Anger: How Could He/She Do This to Me?

As time goes by, the reality becomes less blurry and you will gradually feel the pain of heartbreak. The pain is sometimes redirected and expressed as anger. You need someone to blame for causing you pain: your ex, people around you, the universe, or even yourself. Rationally, you know they might not be the one to blame but you just can’t control your emotions.

What you need here is to forgive:

  • Know that both of you share the responsibility for the breakup.
  • Forgive yourself for any inadequacies, no one is perfect.
  • Realize that you are not the only one who suffers the pain.
  • Admit that you are not functioning at your best right now.
  • Distract yourself through exercise.

3. Bargaining: Can’t We Just Give it One More Try?

When you realize that the reality is pushing you towards the edge of a cliff, you panic and strive to survive. You would do anything and everything to reverse the situation. You look for any possible way to win him/her back; perhaps through negotiation or threat. You just don’t want to feel the pain.

But most of the time, things don’t happen as you wish. Therefore, it’s better to let it go:

  • Avoid direct contact temporarily.
  • Stay away from social media where you might be reminded of him/her.
  • Reassure yourself that you two are not getting back together.
  • Don’t try to win him/her back again and again.
  • Realize that you are independent enough to be single.

4. Depression: It’s All OVER

When you finally realize you can do nothing to alter what you are experiencing, you may find that you feel really depressed: feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything, avoiding friends and family, losing appetite or overeating, suffering from insomnia or sleeping too much. The hopelessness makes it feel hard to move on.

Nobody says it is easy but you should regain your mental and physical health before it is too late:

  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Take a break from work.
  • Talk to someone who is willing to listen.
  • Go to countryside and breath some fresh air.
  • Listen to sad songs (believe it or not, this can make you feel happier!)
Taking care of yourself helps you let goIf we properly take care of ourselves in these times, we can more easily let go. Image: Cris Trung

5. Acceptance: Okay, I’m Trying

Now, you are almost there. When you begin to accept whatever happens to you, you will gradually be able to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t guarantee happiness, as you are still in one of the stages of grief, but you will be less emotional and begin to find some light along the road. And the light will eventually guide you home.

Things that evoke memories might still trigger your emotions but you can prevent self-absorption again:

  • Put the old photos in a place where you can’t easily reach.
  • Keep yourself away from places that trigger you.
  • Focus on the benefits of letting go.
  • Only reconnect with him/her when you are ready to be friends.
  • Believe that everything is going to be okay and it is just a matter of time.

Letting Go Makes Us Stronger

We always want a long-lasting relationship. We want someone to stay with us whatever happens in life. We want to hold on. But sometimes what makes us strong is letting go. In the future, when you look back, you will be surprised at how much you have grown from this experience.

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[1] ^ Psychology Today: The 5 Stages of Grieving the End of a Relationship [2] ^ Psych Central: 15 Common Defense Mechanisms



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1 year ago

Thanls for this article.In the 34th year of my marriage I found that my husband age 61 has an affair with a 29 year girl from work although he said he was tempted as he has never done that before as far as I know we are born again Christians and me I am a Lady Pastor he is suppoting me about the God’s Work I am doing and he is apologising all out as now we are attending councilling sessions .This happened in February 2020 but till todayI can’t stand the pain I am feeling.sleepless nights.crying.feeling unloved.
As now we are trying to fix our marriage but to me the pain and imaginations come and go..Can I give my marriage a chance or to let go and divorse .But my worry is abour our kids 34years boy.32twin girls andt 30 years boy.They are aware we called them but they are also not oky for a divorse as an option.WHAT FURTHER CAN I DO..This is really painful and I can nit even talj to any family member as we see this as an embarrassment. Thank you just to share with you..

1 year ago

One of the most painful experience in my life. It took me almost a year to recover from a breakup. It exactly happened the way you described it, but sometimes you just feel trapped in a circle!

1 year ago

Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back down the road.
I want to encourage continue your great writing, have a nice weekend!

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