How Do the Stages of Grief Apply to Breakups?

The 5 Stages of Grief

Though a breakup is not technically the same as death, for those in the midst of a failed relationship, the pain and suffering involved can feel quite similar. Learning to recognize the Five Stages of Grief, as determined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, can help play an important role in the recovery process for anyone undergoing a painful breakup.


In this stage, a person is unwilling to admit that the relationship is indeed over. In the same way that a person facing the loss of a loved one through death may still set a place at the table for that person, a jilted lover may refuse to acknowledge the fact that her partner no longer wishes to be in a relationship with her. She may feel that her partner is not completely serious about ending the relationship and continue to call, visit and pursue the other person despite his wishes to be left alone.


In the anger phase, the reality has set in that the relationship is over, and the person who was dumped may feel extreme anger at himself as well as the person who broke up with him. He may demand detailed answers as to why the other person wanted the relationship to end. This phase can make a person feel as though life is simply not fair because the entire universe is conspiring against him. He may also lash out at well-meaning friends and family who only want to help him.


Once anger has passed, a person may resort to tactics like groveling in order to win back the affection of her former partner. This stage may involve making outrageous claims of things they will "never do again," such as, "If you'll just take me back, I promise I will never ever disagree with anything you say again." Though these promises would be impossible to keep, the person who wishes to reconcile may not recognize that, should the romance be rekindled on the basis of these terms, it would likely end again very quickly.


When it becomes apparent that bargaining will not be successful, a person may appear to give up all hope and fall into a deep depression. She may have no interest in eating, sleeping, socializing or participating in any of life's daily tasks. Some will lose focus at work, let their homes fall into disrepair and let their appearances go downhill.


In the final stage of grief, the jilted party has finally come to terms with the end of the relationship and is now ready to begin healing and moving forward with life. He is aware that things will not suddenly be better and he will still have rough days, but he is tired of being stuck in limbo with a person who no longer wishes to be with him.

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