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The 5 Stages in Broken Relationship Grief

Updated on October 23, 2012

Understanding the 5 Stages of Grief

Understanding the 5 stages of broken relationship grief can help when you are going through the aftermath of a relationship breakup.

I want to cover the five stages of grief with you, so that you will know where you are at and that the grief you are experiencing is normal and finite.

The Grief Process

Grieving is a process and this process works through five distinct stages. Going through the stages of broken relationship grief is much the same as going through any other kind of grief, and knowing about it can help give you the relief you need that you will get through it, as difficult as it may seem to you at the time.

For some people, just knowing that what they are feeling is normal and natural, is enough to alleviate the fear that this dreadful feeling will not go away, nor will it seem so much like a tunnel with no light at the end of it. Knowing the different stages can help grieving people mark their progress and reassure themselves that they are making headway and that the end of this experience is one step closer. It also helps them identify any stage where they may get stuck and when to seek professional help.

So what are the 5 stages of broken relationship grief?

They are -

Denial or numbness

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance or resignation

- and here is what to expect during each stage:

Denial or numbness

When a major event happens, generally it is something that you did not expect and it takes you by surprise. So, the first reaction to something like this is denial or a feeling of this is not quite real. You find it hard to believe that it, whatever it is, has occurred and you feel nothing, or numb, or your mind won't accept that it has happened.

When it is a sudden broken relationship, it just does not sink in to begin with and you may still have the full expectation that your partner will be home after work, and then you get the realization that they won't be back, and perhaps this may happen several nights in a row. Because you have not caught up with your feelings, you don't cry, you don't feel mad, you don't feel anything; everything seems the same but surreal, different from before, never to be the same again.

If you stay in this stage or you know someone who is stuck here, get help.

Anger

Eventually your emotions and feelings thaw and you feel the pain of the change. This is where those feelings of pain, of sadness and disappointment, of rejection, can cause you to feel really angry. Anger is believed by some to be a secondary emotion usually signalling a very strong emotion underneath that the person is unable or unwilling to experience. It masks what is really happening and how you are feeling, so if you are feeling angry look for the underlying feeling, the reason that you feel angry so that you can deal with it.

One of the most common questions a person might ask themselves right now is, "Why ME?!"

This is also the time when a relationship has suddenly ended that you may feel tempted to get back at your partner for leaving you and hurting you this way, and it is important that you don't.

Remember that whatever you do at this point, you still have to live with later.

Bargaining

It is normal for anyone going through the grieving process to feel desperate to have their life back the way it was and stop the pain. It is at this stage they will attempt to bargain with their lost partner or with God or the universe, or 'fate,' that they will change whatever they have to in order to have a reverse in their circumstance and have things back the way they were.

It is also the time when the grieving person may sink into the 'if onlys' and blame themselves irrationally for their misfortune. This is when they find their attempt to change things is futile and sinking into the next stage can be inevitable.

Depression

When a grieving person experiences the intense feelings of pain, sadness or anger after a major event, it is common then to sink into a period of depression. No-one can stay in a heightened state of intense feelings for long periods of time without the brain needing to temporarily shut down for some time in order to help the sufferer cope without burning out. Unfortunately this is a phase where the sufferer may feel worthless and rejected, and it is the time where friends may be concerned for their welfare. This is the stage where instead of thinking of getting back at their partner, they may think of harming themselves with thoughts of not wanting to live or having nothing to live for. If this happens or they stay in this phase for too long, it may be wise to seek professional help.

Acceptance

As the grieving person comes through these phases they begin to see that life is not so bleak and that there is a hope for new things and new relationships.

They begin to come to terms with their loss; the loss of their relationship, the companionship of their previous partner and the dreams they once shared together. This is the final stage and each person gets here in their own time. It is a time of accepting that the relationship is over and that their partner is no longer a part of their life, that they still have worth in their own right and a life after the pain. Healing takes place fully when a grieving person gets to not only accept that their partner is gone but can wish them well and let them go.

Friends and Family

Your Support Network

These stages may seem to follow some kind of logical order but the different stages of grief can be revisited in any order, sometimes you may get all the way through to the last stage only to find yourself back at the angry stage or the bargaining stage again, but these 'relapses' should shorten and lessen over time.

The most important thing to remember through all this is not to lose touch with your family and friends. If they love you they will want the best for you and will be more than willing to be there to love and support you through this time. The other thing to remember is that even though this ending is hard to deal with, every person who comes into our lives enriches it in some way or another, and hopefully after healing, you will be able to remember the good times you shared with them, without hurt but with some fondness instead.

If you do find that you struggle to come to terms with your grief and cannot or are unwilling to impose on your family and friends for help, don't be afraid to get some help from a professional counselor, who can be the sounding board you need to express your thoughts and feelings over this major event in your life. They are trained to help and guide you to a place of healing within yourself, so that you can face your future from a position of strength, learning and hope.

The one thing to tell yourself is that you can survive this, and there are many others who have endured a similar experience, to grow through it and eventually meet someone who they were able to build an amazing future with. It is a matter of finding the right person at the right time, and perhaps also being that right person as well.

Once you have reached this point, a good thing to do would be to look at yourself and perhaps what went wrong in the relationship, and find out what you can learn from it and how to grow from it as a result.

Helpful Resources from Amazon

Sometimes getting help from a professional is not what you need. Learning more about how healthy relationships work or reading about techniques that help you get on top of your relationship woes may be all you need. Education is important in relationships as in anything you wish to do well in life and a wise person is a student always.

Please feel free to let me know about how you coped with a broken relationship, and please share any tips you found to be useful in getting over it, you may be able to help others going through this...

Reader Feedback and Comments

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    • profile image

      monica 2 years ago

      After being in relationship with him for 7 years,he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the spell caster, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together happily again. Since then, I have made promise that anybody I know that have a relationship problem, I would be of help to such person by reffering him or her to the only real and powerful spell caster who helped me with my own problem and who is different from all the fake ones out there. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster He also help me to win lottery, his email:

      drehijelespellhome1@gmail.com you can email him if you need his assistance in your relationship or anything. CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT YOU SIR HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS:drehijelespellhome1@gmail.com CONTACT HIM NOW FOR SOLUTION TO ALL YOUR PROBLEM

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 3 years ago

      @markjames-herniman: Yes, they would, because you also have suffered a loss. Give her some space to do some healing and thinking and perhaps if you are willing to be honest and open with her, she may give you the opportunity to explain further down the track. Perhaps finding someone experienced in relationship issues to talk to would help?

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      markjames-herniman 3 years ago

      I am on the other side, I am the one who has caused the break up of a 20 month relationship, my partner found out I was married/separated and also I was banned from driving for drink driving and I didn't want to tell her either for fear of losing her and now she's found out I've lost her. I feel that I can't grieve as I have caused it all. This article has given me some insight into how she is probably feeling and I just want to see her and somehow explain but she won't. I love her and I'm struggling to cope, would these stages apply to me as well

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 3 years ago

      @Kadona: It sounds like you have moved on and are realizing that you deserve better than someone who doesn't really love you. He wouldn't keep doing it if he did.

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      Kadona 3 years ago

      Hi! This is so interesting, when I apply it to my situation its kind of confusing me. My long time boyfriend has been cheating on me repeatedly, and always I forgave him. For the past 3 years he was cheating on me with the same girl, at first I couldn't believe it when I heard the news, as time went on I got mad at him and gave up on him, later I forgave him and we got back together,,I thought forgiving him was going to make things feel normal between us, but I've noticed that recently i feel as if I'm just with a roommate not a boyfriend,no intimate feelings either, he can go on a trip for days I won't miss him at all.. When I read the 5 stages I feel that I went through all that but I'm kind of confused somehow, Could this be accepting that he will never be faithful to me no matter how forgiving I wil be or what is this really happening to me? Please I need help!

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Anne,

      I am sorry to hear about your loss (and it is one).

      Can I encourage you to be your own best friend for awhile and think about how you would care for someone you love if they were going through something really rough...take care of yourself by beginning to eat a little more and drinking a little less...perhaps get into a bit of a routine and regulate your meals and bedtimes.... these little tricks can help you settle by introducing an external framework to your day and taking care of your physical needs, which in turn, helps your body cope better, and therefore your emotions become easier to manage... sometimes to get through some of the roughest parts of grief, becoming 'mechanical' can help you to at least function and get through the day when you need to.

      I hope that you start feeling better soon. Be gentle with yourself when you need to, and be firm when you have to.

      Wishing you love, Jo

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for this article. I can't quite determine what stage I am at. My husband of seven years ended our marriage and then I discovered that he was cheating on me for a few months before hand. I knew things weren't right but you know what they say about love. It's blind until you're outside looking in. Anyhow, I think I might see some sort of counselor because at times I feel very angry and then I feel like I just want it all to stop and then... I get very depressed. It's said that grieving for more than six months is not healthy. But I'm so confused about my own feelings. I'm trying to heal and I have just severed all ties with my now ex husband. Still.... I have bigger and better things to do and all of these emotions are becoming tiresome. Do you have any suggestions?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for this article, it has really helped me understand my emotions and that what I'm feeling isn't wrong or unusual. My 6 year relationship has recently ended unexpectantly due to him being unfaithful. I feel like I'm still in the denial and numbness stage very much and the depression stage. It says if you stay in the numbness stage for too long seek help but how do you know what length of time is too long? I feel extremely exhausted and have to force myself to get out of bed and tend to drink a lot of alcohol and not eat enough food, even though I know what I'm doing in bad for me and alcohol is a depressant, I can't help it. My friends and family have been great but I also don't want to burden them with my problems as they have their own lives. My situation has been made worse by my partner not contacting me and I feel that not only have I lost a partner but my best friend whom I told everything to and was in constant contact with. It is comforting to know other people are going through the same thing and I realise that in time I will be better off without him but it seems like there is far too much time at the minute

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 4 years ago

      @anonymous: If you can find a counselor that you are comfortable with then they can certainly help you. You mentioned that someone told you that if you are feeling like this for more than 6 months then perhaps you need to seek help... I agree with that only in that if you get stuck in a particular stage. Some people can take up to 2 years to finally get over the break up of a relationship or get through a major grief experience, so be kind to yourself. You will feel angry, you will feel like you want it all to stop, but hopefully those times will come further apart and less intense, and you may even begin to experience times and days when you feel happy and you forget about him...and that is okay too. (You may even feel a little guilty about that, but don't...it means you are making progress)

      Go see a counselor and talk it out. It will help you find solutions and lessen the intensity of your feelings, allow your family and friends to support you, find new interests that you enjoy and give yourself permission to really enjoy them... you will get there. I can tell because you said you have bigger and better things to do...

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi, very interesting and spot on reading. I'm going through the stages at the moment, my partner left without warning on Dec 12th...feel I'm at the acceptance stage at times then find myself in dinial, anger, and barganing again all in 1 day. Family over the New Year was a massive help, but..yes..alone again and back at work in the New Year...revisiting the plans we had made...makes it difficult to cope...but your piece here does give me hope. Best wishes for 2013.

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      m-ali-hafiz 4 years ago

      Great Insight. what makes some people recover fast and other take too much time is actually how long they stay in the bargaining stage.

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      JohannaBaker 5 years ago

      @kokomagne: It does not make it better but it can help the person going through it understand what is happening to them; that it is a process and they will get through it... so I see it as a way of offering hope of a better tomorrow. Thank you for your comment

    • profile image

      kokomagne 5 years ago

      the lens is quite interesting. It's feels really good reading it, but it doesn't make the experience better, good to know though.

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      sheezie77 5 years ago

      interesting lens! thumbs up

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 5 years ago

      @crstnblue: Thanks for stopping by. It is a painful topic and hopefully with the healing comes strength to move forward. Perhaps that strength will help someone else in their hour of need in the future, so some good comes from that painful experience...

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      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Very nice lens on a painful topic! :)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • JohannaBaker profile image
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      JohannaBaker 5 years ago

      @Glenn619: Thanks for your comment Glenn. No, unfortunately it doesn't get easier if you go through more than one...But no matter how painful, our broken relationships still have an opportunity to enrich us if we let them

    • Glenn619 profile image

      Glenn619 6 years ago

      Nice overview of broken relationships, i have been through two :( and trust me it really hurts. Good job with the lens