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Heartbreak Grief Stages and How to Deal With It

Updated on September 5, 2020
Marissa Raymond profile image

I love writing because it helps me share my knowledge and insights on different issues and also it allows me to help out other people.


Nothing prepares you for an heartbreak and the stages of grief that follow suit, definitely not the rom-coms and certainly not the sitcoms, most especially when the person who broke your heart has been a part of your life for a very long time. It feels like you are losing someone who has consistently been in your life, it hurts and at that point you think you cannot move pass it. Although, some heartbreak can be quick and without any pain whatsoever, while others can be gut-wrenching and nerve-racking and it hurts to be at that state, but what can you do when you are stuck at that grief state and you can’t seem to get your act together, when you can’t stop thinking about that person who broke your heart, how do you even move on? when all your life, you’ve been told that there are more fish in the sea; you’ve literally seen them but you can’t stop asking yourself that single question, why is it just so hard to get over a girl or a guy that broke your heart?

However, to become the best version of yourself you’ll need to put in some work. For self-care is the key to happiness. You might be vulnerable but you aren’t broken. Just like losing a loved one, heartbreak bring up deep emotions that can include grief. This is totally normal, and you might need to give yourself plenty of time to grieve to really get over it.

Making yourself aware of what to expect in each stage of the recovery process can make it easier to ask for help from friends and family when it’s needed and could remind you to be gentle with yourself. Getting over an heartbreak is a process, and as you’re putting the pieces of your life back together, you may have experienced one or more of these heartbreak stages by now. In each stage, we would look at how you can identify the stage you are in and how to deal with it.

Stage One: Shock and Denial

This is the first stage you get to experience after an heartbeat, especially if the heartbreak was not something you had seen coming. At this point, it feels like you have being in an accident; you feel that something happened to you, but you're just numb and unable to comprehend the consequences. Shock is your body’s natural protection against pain, therefore when your relationship comes to an end, you may not want to deal with what’s coming next.

At this stage, you can't make sense of what is happening exactly. It may be too scary, too lonely and too confusing for you to deal with. This phase typically lasts for a few days (sometimes hours) and leads directly into the 'denial phase.'

However, denial is just your psyche’s way of protecting you from being emotionally overwhelmed when the hurt is still ravelling. Denial is a useful coping mechanism. During this stage, you fully understand that the relationship is over, but you don’t want to believe it, you start hoping that things would still work out, you reject the reality hoping that one day you would reunite.

Are You in Shock and Denial Stage?

You will know that you are in the 'Denial Phase' if you can answer most of the following questions with a 'Yes'

  • Do you write texts, E-mails, and letters to assure them of your love?
  • Are you constantly waiting for your phone to ring or checking texts and their social media status?
  • Do you spend most of the day thinking back to your happy moments together and wish things could go back to the way they were before?
  • Do you pretend as if the breakup doesn't hurt when your heart is literally aching with pain?
  • Are you intentionally withholding the breakup from family and friends?
  • Are you constantly thinking 'he/she will come back If I can just wait a little bit, things will be again as they were before.' ?
  • Do you put in so much effort than normal to appear extra attractive in order to make them regret their decision?

If you answer yes to all these questions, then you are still in denial phase. Not to worry; Denial is just a temporary coping mechanism, it would pass, leaving you with all the time and space to gather your strength for something you know that you must face very soon. Which is the next stage of grief.

How to Deal With Shock and Denial Stage

'Dos' During Shock and Denial Stage:
⦁ prescribe yourself calming cures like meditation or long walks;
⦁ open up to a journal or trusted friend to begin unleashing fears, identifying unreasonable thoughts and more.

'Don't' During Shock and Denial Stage:
⦁ freak out. You will make sense of all of this;
⦁ minimise the situation by pretending your breakup doesn’t have to be dealt with will lead to emotional numbness and leave you stuck.


Stage Two: Anger

At this stage all your pent up emotions is released which in turn leads to anger. Your heart goes from denial to raging mad quickly. It becomes fuelled with anger towards your ex for whatever his part in the heartbreak was, and/or toward yourself for your part. During this phase, you may find yourself burning pictures of him, deleting pictures you took together, throwing out his/her stuff, slandering him to his/her friends or even worse posting bad things about him/her on social media. If you are angry with yourself, you may do a lot of self-talk, regretful thoughts and angry conversation with yourself.

You may even be angry about circumstances that led to the breakup. At this point, be free to let out all the pent up anger you stuffed in during the denial stage. Release all the pent up emotions. If you need to visit a rage room to let out your anger, by all means. Let yourself feel, get out all your anger and smash objects to your heart’s content if that’s what works for you, as long as the venting is not done through violent acts or in a way that can hurt you or others around you.

How to Deal With Anger Stage

'Dos' During Anger Stage:
⦁ feel, write or talk about your anger;
⦁ visit a rage room.

'Don't' During Anger Stage:
⦁ post your breakup on social media, you don't want to be that person who posts things that bashes the ex you were just gushing over a week ago or few months ago;
⦁ act on the anger you feel in a violent way;
⦁ make an impulsive decision because it can turn into something bigger, much bigger than you can imagine;
⦁ seek out a previous ex to get over the pain a new ex has caused you;
⦁ turn to anything that would numb those emotions.


Stage Three: Bargaining

This can be the most excruciating and most difficult stage, basically because it involves looking for ways that the relationship could still be saved. It's entails different tactics to get your ex back. Other times, it could be about absolving your own guilt if you did something wrong that caused the breakup, hence your heart break. At this stage, you would stop at nothing to get your relationship back on track even if it seems impossible to achieve.

Are You in the Bargaining Stage?

You will know that you are in the 'Bargaining Stage' if you can answer most of the following questions with a 'Yes'

  • Are you begging/pleading to give your relationship another try?
  • Do you tell yourself, 'I’ll negotiate anything with him/her, I’ll turn myself inside out if need be, but I can’t go through this?
  • Are you constantly trying to seduce your partner in order to win them back?
  • Are you trying to make your partner jealous in order to win them back?
  • Are you trying to guilt talk or threaten them into coming back to you?

Bargaining to get your ex back is just about making the current pain go away. Most especially when you feel you can't do without them, which leads to the next phase. This happens when you do not get them back after all your tactics has failed you.

How to Deal With Bargaining Stage

'Dos' During Bargaining Stage:
⦁ create a self-love list complete with what makes you happy and things you want for your future;
⦁ pay attention to yourself rather than thinking of how to get your ex back into your life.

'Don't During Bargaining Stage:
⦁ text your ex;
⦁ stalk them.


Stage Four: Depression

At this point, you realise the magnitude of your loss in this stage of grief, and it can feel all too overwhelming that you wind up in a state of deep sadness that can even resemble mild depression. In others, it could be severe.
Also, this phase is characterised by intense emotional pain, self-doubt, guilt, deep desperation, and overwhelming loneliness. You experience a deep feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness and you feel like these feelings will never end. It's almost like being on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

Are You in Depression Stage?

You will know that you are in the 'Depression Stage' if you can answer most of the following questions with a 'Yes'

  • Do you feel hopeless?
  • Do you feel helpless?
  • Do you experience difficulties in performing your daily duties?
  • Have you lost interest in everything in life?
  • Do you feel that you will never be happy again?
  • Do you often wish that you just could lie down and die or at least sleep for the whole day?
  • Do you feel unloved and abandoned?

Although, friends and family can support you during this stage, it’s important to seek help if your symptoms are severe or unrelenting. Immediately connect with a counsellor or therapist.
How long you stay in this terrible stage is determined by your ability to accept what has happened and stop seeing your ex as the ultimate solution to your problem. This leads to the final stage.

How to Deal With Depression Stage

'Dos' During Depression Stage:
⦁ surround yourself with positive people and lots of sunshine;
⦁ cherish yourself.

'Don't' During Depression Stage:
⦁ for any reason neglect your physical health after a breakup;
⦁ fall victim to unhealthy behaviours such as binge eating or drinking;
⦁ spend time hating yourself. Love is still out there for you.


Stage Five: Acceptance

The 'Acceptance' stage is the first significant step toward recovery. At this stage you start to realise that things won't get back to how they were before and you are okay with it that way. Bit by bit, Day by day, you can find yourself coming to terms with the end of the relationship.
However, don't be surprised if you still feel moments of sadness from time to time; it’s normal. Just keep on your positive path and with time you will see that the whole grief stage was worth it. Mainly because you are no longer stuck in grief and you start to feel like yourself again, ready to move onward and upward.
Here is a guide to help you recognise if you are now in the 'Acceptance stage.'

Are You in Acceptance Stage?

You will know that you are in the 'Acceptance Stage' if you can answer most of the following questions with a 'Yes'

  • Do you feel much more hopeful that you can get over them?
  • Have you experienced a welcome sense of exhalation?
  • Have you acknowledged and accepted that the breakup happened?
  • Have you given up hope of a reconciliation?
  • Are you showing more interest in events and in other people?
  • Do you feel you can start to move forward with your life?

If all your answer is yes then you would realise that you feel better, although not quite out of the woods yet, but there is significant relief.

How to Deal With Acceptance Stage

'Dos' During Acceptance Stage:
⦁ celebrate getting through your breakup.

'Don't' During Acceptance Stage:
⦁ give up on love and don’t stop loving yourself;
⦁ be surprised if you still feel moments of sadness from time to time. it is normal. Just keep on your positive path.

Once you have truly accepted that the relationship is over, you can finally move to the next stage which is the letting go and moving on phase.
If you have gone through the all stages of grief that comes after a breakup, you might want to try out the following practical steps that can help you truly move on with your life.

Below are simple practical tips that you can follow to help you with the moving on and letting go phase as your best self awaits to be let out.


Don’t be quick to suggest you stay as friends, if they do, tell them that you need time to think about it.

Tip One: Remaining or Staying as Friends May Not be a Good Idea

There is always a possibility that you might want to act so chill, seemingly acting as if you don’t really care too much about the breakup. Even when you are so chill and destabilised at the same time that you could barely catch your breath and it seems as if your heart isn’t beating. It’s pertinent to note that, it can be hard to tell whether you would be able to cope by staying as friends at least not when the pain and heartache is still there. You might want to give yourself time or take a step back and clearly see if staying as friends would be the best option for you at that point or even later.
Whatever you decide, bear in mind that one person might want to be friends and the other wants to be more. You are never sure with these things, which is why you have to work that out before you can have a healthy friendship.
Telling them that you can’t stay as friends does not mean that you are admitting to defeat, it just shows that you are doing the best thing for you at that point in time. You can be friends later but not at that point, you need to heal first.


Don’t stalk to get them back, work to get yourself back.

Tip Two: Stop Stalking Your Ex

When you have been in a relationship with someone for a long time, you start to consider them when planning your daily routines. When you break up, it becomes almost impossible to adjust and to do without them anymore looks difficult.Hence, You pick up your phone to text them about how you miss them, hoping they would come back. This never helps and it only keeps you stuck and makes it almost impossible to get over them.

If you find yourself in this dilemma, you might want to block them from all your social media accounts, if the temptation to see if they’ve been paying attention to your stories and feeds is too much or you find yourself stalking them on social media platforms, block them. That way when they post or share their day to day activities again you won’t feel the urge to text them because you won’t even be able to see what they post. It looks petty but it works like magic.

You could try this to help you with this step

  • Set up an “Emergency Contact List” that contains all your friends and families phone number so that when you are tempted to call your Ex and beg for a return relationship, you call and talk to your friends and close family member instead.

  • Pick an activity that you can do to replace the desire of texting/calling/stalking your ex, look for something handy you can do right away like watch your favourite Netflix show or read new books.


Tip Three:Talk to a Therapist

You might want to talk to a therapist that could help you through the process and get your mental health back in shape especially if you are getting out of an abusive relationship. Friends and family can be there for you to support you but it’s vital to seek help if your symptoms are severe or unrelenting. It’s especially important to reach out for help when you start to feel depressed, having thoughts of hurting yourself or others or you keep trying to contact your ex or think about contacting them often. Connect and talk to a therapist or domestic violence advocate that can work you through the process of recovery and eliminate those toxic emotions you might have stored up from your previous relationship.

Reflect and learn from it.


Tip Four: Do Not Blame Yourself

When you are going through the whole process of getting over someone after a breakup, it’s easy to put blame upon yourself and you start to think of what you could have done better or what you shouldn’t have done. It can be so easy for you to turn yourself into a pity party when you begin to think, ‘if only I had visited him/her more often during weekends… if only I had worn better makeup on date nights… I should have given him/her more time and love…’

When you start to think along those lines, remember that it takes two to tango. The problem wasn’t just you, it was you two as a couple, which is why it is pointless to blame yourself. instead, try and look at the relationship from the outside, try to look at the situation objectively, even if you didn’t agree to the breakup. Maybe you would have a clearer look as to how you both contributed to the breakup.

Don’t over-analyse what could have been different. There are infinite should-haves and could-haves, and thinking about them will cause you to spiral. When your action mattered was when you were in that relationship. They don't anymore. Your mission now is to get to the place where you aren’t battling with yourself about the way things are. Do this with compassion and don’t beat yourself up.

To help yourself with this process you can try this:

  • Clear out all the things that would recall your memories with your ex. Make things out of sight, out of mind.

  • Constantly tell yourself it’s over now and it’s time to move on and start a new chapter of your life.


It takes time to move on.

Tip Five: Give it Time

As with everything in life is a process, so also is getting over someone. When you’re ready to authentically have fun again, get your girlfriends together and go out. Go dancing, go shopping, go on a roller coaster. Do something that makes you smile, laugh and feel good inside.

Chances are, you lost a piece of yourself in the relationship. Now is your chance to find you again and this can be fun. This is one of the positives to your break up, so embrace it . At this point, take time to rediscover yourself, if you have a job; give it your best and accomplish something for yourself. You could get involved in a program to help develop yourself, get some good books to read if you are the bookworm type.

Overtime, you start to forget about all the good memories you have with that person. After a while, you just stop having feelings for them because you are occupied with other new things and meeting new people. One day, you would wake up and finally realise that the person you were once stuck up on and you didn’t think you could live without is no longer in your thoughts anymore.

Recovering from a breakup grief stage takes time, probably more than you would like. However, try to remember that things will get easier as time goes on but in the meantime, be gentle with yourself and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need support.

You Will Have to Answer Most of the Following Questions With a 'Yes' to Know that You Have Successfully Dealt With and Gotten Over Your Breakup Grief Stage and Moved on With Your Life:

  • Have you disengaged yourself from your ex?
  • Have you have forgiven your ex and do not look back in hate?
  • Have you forgiven yourself for the mistakes you might have made?
  • Have you learned to be alone without feeling lonely?
  • Have you re-connected to the person you really are?
  • Have you started to love yourself more and more?
  • Do you feel that you can trust people again?
  • Have you learned what to expect from a future relationship?
  • Do you set yourself goals for your job and private life?
  • Have you stopped being a partner and you've begun to be your self?

If you have answered yes to all the questions above, congratulations! You have successfully gotten over your breakup grief stage by dealing with it. Give yourself a pat on the back. Wish you all the best in the world. You have definitely earned it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Marissa


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