Every person will experience a breakup in a different way, but there are stages that we all go through. Breakups are hard, I know, and when you’re in the thick of it it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, these emotions will not last forever and with time, things will get better and you will get to the other side of heartbreak.
As an expert specialized in love and relationships, I can tell you that the stages of heartbreak go hand in hand with the stages of grief, so I wanted to go over what to expect in the period following a breakup. When you are able to put a label on what you’re feeling, you have an easier time guarding against destructive behaviors that prolong this painful period.
I will go over the stages of heartbreak for a person who was broken up with, but also for a person who chooses to exit a relationship. At the end of this article, I will provide you with some tools to help you bounce back from this painful breakup.
The breakup: Why does it hurt so much?
After the end of a relationship, the pain a person feels can be comparable to the feeling of mourning. You are in fact mourning the death of something that was precious to you and your hopes and dreams of a future with this person. When you’ve spent so much time and energy on something, it’s perfectly normal that the loss of it would hurt this much.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that the person who chooses to end the relationship doesn’t suffer as much as the person they left, but let me tell you that the pain is felt on both sides. Both of you lost something and are experiencing disappointment in love.
Dealing with heartbreak is hard, but understanding the stages of heartbreak can help. So let’s take a look at what to expect when someone breaks your heart.
Stages of heartbreak: 1. Pain
This pretty much goes without saying. When your relationship ends and you lose the person you love, the initial emotion is pain, often accompanied by a side of shock. The pain starts to swell as the shock subsides and this is when you find yourself having trouble fighting back tears and a profound sense of hurt and sadness.
Fortunately, it’s good to cry and release these emotions so at least nothing is being pent up inside. With time it will become easier to keep the tears at bay and you will find yourself crying less and less often until one day you realize that you didn’t cry at all. it takes some time but changes do come.
Out of the five stages of heartbreak, the first is the hardest one so keep in mind that it only gets better from here on out.
Phases of healing: 2. Focusing on other things
When the initial sting of the breakup begins to wear off, you will find yourself trying to distract yourself from the pain. When you’re too busy to think about the breakup, then you are less likely to feel the negative emotions that go along with it.
This is when people will dive into work or personal projects, and will start going out with their friends to take their mind off things.
Distraction is good when you’re getting over a broken heart, but it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you’re ready to do. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a fantastic way to heal, but it shouldn’t be a source of added anxiety. Similarly, be careful to avoid going to places that are going to conjure up painful memories if the breakup is still feeling fresh. Of course once you’ve gone through all the phases of healing, these places will no longer serve as triggers – you’ve just got to tune into what you’re ready for.
Dating during the stages of loss
The time will eventually come when you feel ready to start meeting some other fish in the sea. Many people step into rebound relationships at this time in an attempt to help themselves move past their heartbreak.
These work well for some people but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you open yourself up to meeting people, you will meet many. It’s important to keep in mind that you might not meet the love of your life at this stage and it’s important to be open to just enjoying the present moment.
The more fun you allow yourself to have, the faster you will heal from this breakup.
Stages of heartbreak: Nostalgia/ Withdrawal
I said that it will only be uphill after the Pain Stage, but there is a possibility that you will experience a surge of emotions again. It usually happens when something triggers it. For example, you are disappointed by someone you had been seeing or you run into your ex, or worse still, you run into your ex and his or her new partner.
This is when you thought that you are almost over it but you realize that it’s still tender. It’s rough, but it’s only temporary. It is also what usually brings about the last stage of heartbreak; Loving yourself.
The stages of heartbreak for men and women are all the same, but not everyone is able to channel this pain into personal development. And personal development is actually the key to bouncing back and coming out on top.
When we work with clients post breakup, we focus on helping them to heal from the breakup while becoming the new and improved versions of themselves, whether or not their end goal is to get back together with their ex partners.
Stages of grief following a breakup
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that the stages of heartbreak are comparable to the stages of grief. While you’re experiencing the stages I outlined above, you will be experiencing the 5 stages of grief as well, regardless of who chose to pull the plug on the relationship. The five stages are as follows:
This is a phase of heartbreak that will be felt when the breakup is fresh. You will have trouble believing that the relationship is actually over. You’ll still be feeling hopeful about things changing even though the relationship ended. This is often when people try to reach out to their exes to talk things over and maybe even try to get them back.
This is when the frustrations around the entire breakup surge up and fill you with rage. It’s not fair, how dare they do this… Sometimes the anger is directed towards yourself because of something you did that has lead to the heartbreak pain you’re feeling right now. When you’re angry at your ex, it’s easy to badmouth him or her to your friends and family or send him or her angry messages.
During the third stage of a breakup, you’ll experience bargaining. It comes in the form of trying to negotiate with your ex to try to make things work, and it can be either through offering solutions or even threats. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to higher powers during this phase and promise to become better people if they could just get their ex back…
The depression that follows a breakup can be debilitating. It can make a person feel like they have no will to live their lives. They just want to stay at home in isolation, they’re constantly tired, and it seems like nothing brings them joy. When you’re in this stage of grief, you become very vulnerable so it’s important that you are careful to make choices that are not going to have a negative impact on your future happiness, even if it might feel like a quick fix in the moment.
When you reach this phase, you feel like you’ve finally come to terms with the end of the breakup. You’ve accepted that it’s happened and you begin moving forward. It’s not going to happen overnight, the process takes time and there will still be an element of sadness related to this breakup, but it’s going to become more and more bearable. You’re going to feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Phases of heartbreak when you chose to break up
Someone recently asked me, “What are the stages of heartbreak for the person who ended the relationship?” While they’re slightly different than what the person who is broken up with experiences, they are also various stages of grief at play.
The fist emotion that a person who ends a relationship feels is relief. They’ve finally done the thing that has been looming in their minds for some time, and they are finally on the other side of the “hard part.” They expect to be much happier now and only see the bad in the person they left. They’ll often point the finger and blame all of the issues of the relationship on the other person (even though relationships are a two-way road).
2. Switching things up
They’ll be feeling a sense of joy that makes them feel excited about starting over on their own and being free. This time is usually spent going out with friends, meeting new people, and getting into new projects and hobbies.
Unfortunately, because they are distracting themselves from the breakup and on a subconscious level might even be trying to reassure themselves that they made the right choice in breaking up, they might badmouth their ex at this phase of the breakup.
3. Missing their ex
This is where the states of grief and heartbreak between the dumper and the dumpee begin to resemble one another.
As time goes on, the person who decided to end things will start to feel a pang of nostalgia. The bad memories are going to begin to fade and the positive memories will start to make their way to the forefront of their mind. It will conjure up feelings of remorse, and it will also make the person begin to compare anyone new to their ex.
The people that they meet and start to interact with romantically speaking will have to meet the bar that was set by their ex. They start to recognize the things that their ex did right and will start to realize that there are things they miss about them.
They will begin to draw comparisons between how things were when they were together vs how it is now to be apart and single (or with a new partner).
At time goes on, the person who ends the relationship will begin to feel a sense of neutrality towards their ex. They will no longer be angry or bitter, nor will they feel the pangs of regret and nostalgia. When a person feels completely neutral, they have almost finished healing in the last stages of heartbreak…
…But then there is another wave of sadness about the breakup. They will realize that they played a role in the breakup as well and they will miss the good times they shared with their ex. Once this stage of heart break begins to take precedent, the person who ended the relationship will have no choice but to face the 5 stages of grief that I went over above.
What to do if you’re hoping to get your ex back
If you know in your heart that this is the person that you want to be with, I want you to know that there are things that you can do to get him or her back.
It’s important to understand that you’ve got to take your time with this and you’re going to have to allow yourself to heal from the breakup. This means that when you’re in the most painful and vulnerable stages following a breakup, your focus is going to have to be on yourself and not on getting your ex back. It is when you have healed and have become the new and improved version of yourself that you are going to be able to win this person’s heart back!
The key to getting an ex back is showcasing that you’re able to change and evolve as a result of this breakup, that you’ve been working on becoming a new and improved version of yourself, and you’re able to focus on improving your own life.
You have to lay a solid foundation so that you can ensure a new relationship that is much more solid than the last. I often remind my clients the the hardest part is not getting your ex back; it’s keeping them.
The key ingredient for making your ex want you back is to inspire him or her to want to be a part of your life again. This means that you can’t place your ex at the center of your universe. You have to have your own things going on and make it clear that you are making yourself very happy. Get active at the gym or switch up your work out routine, freshen up your closet, spend ample time with your friends and family, and fill up your schedule with things that bring you joy.
Pursue your personal and professional projects, and start trying out new things. Think about activities that you’ve always wanted to try! In addition to this, make time for your old hobbies that got put on the back burner while you were in the relationship. This is a powerful tool for helping you to get through the stages of a broken heart.
There is a point to all of this… And it is to prove to yourself that you can make yourself very happy and therefore bounce back from the breakup. The other thing that starts to happen is that you begin to remind your ex of the person he or she fell in love with in the first place, and show them that you’re becoming a new and improved version of yourself.
Think about it this way, when your ex sees that you are the 2.0 version of the person he or she fell in love with, you become irresistible in their eyes! The key is to be prepared for when your ex enters the stage of heartache when they begin to feel nostalgic and miss you.
As each situation is entirely unique, I’m sure you have questions so please don’t hesitate to leave any questions in the comments section below. We are here to help you from A to Z, whether you want to get back together or bounce back from the breakup.
Feel free to get in touch with us for one on one guidance by clicking here, and we can give you a customized action plan to fit your goals!
Wishing you all the best,
Your coach when you’re working through the stages of heartbreak