Grieving the Breakup or End of a Relationship

Posted by on Jun 15, 2020 in Healthy Separation and/or Divorce Counseling | Comments Off on Grieving the Breakup or End of a Relationship

Grief is a normal response when someone dies. However, it is also normal to grieve after all kinds of losses; a job, a move, or experiencing a serious health condition. The end of a relationships falls into this category as well. Even though no one dies, it’s still understandable to grieve after the end of a relationship. Here’s what to do when a relationship is over:

The Five Stages of Grief

The Kübler-Ross model of grief describes five stages of grief.  Here is what they look like:

  1. Denial:  Someone may deny that the relationship is over and refuse to accept or believe that it has ended.
  2. Anger:  Once it dawns on someone that the relationship has indeed ended, they may experience anger or even outrage.
  3. Bargaining:  This is when someone tries to convince their former partner to come back to the relationship. They may beg God, some other deity, or even the universe to intervene on their behalf.
  4. Sadness:  Once someone realizes that they are not going to get back together with their partner, sadness sets in. They feel weighed down by the loss of their partner and what could have been.
  5. Acceptance:  Eventually, they come to accept that the relationship is permanently over and that they are not going to reconcile things with their former partner.

The Complicated Path of Grief

Many people experience the stages of grief in this order. However, it doesn’t always work this way. In fact, someone might start their grief cycle with anger or sadness. Also, just because they went through one stage doesn’t mean that they couldn’t experience it again. Or, they might go through several stages at the same time. For example, switching back and forth between anger and sadness. This means that the stages of grief is a very fluid model and is not meant to be a rigid framework for grieving.

Grieving Differently

While each person in a couple grieves at the end of a relationship, they differ with who does the grieving. The initiator of the breakup has already done much of the grief work already before the relationship ends. Yet, the partner on the receiving end of the breakup must begin that work after the breakup occurs. They may not have even wanted the relationship to end at all. The danger here is that they will get stuck in their grief instead of working through the stages to reach acceptance.

Tips for the End of a Relationship

  1. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Granted, it’s not a comfortable thing to experience. Yet, it’s important to allow yourself to feel those feelings as they come. Otherwise, they will likely fester and come out in other ways over time. 
  2. Avoid the temptation of trying to get back together. The relationship ended for a reason.  Set aside those thoughts and desires; you can process them in the future when you are not quite so emotionally raw.
  3. Allow yourself time to go through the grieving process. Don’t rush through it. Express your grief through healthy emotional and cognitive outlets like exercise, journaling, and talking to friends or family.
  4. Fill your time in meaningful ways. Stick to healthy lifestyle choices that will allow you to grieve and then rebuild the emotional resources that grieving has depleted.
  5. After some time has passed, it helps to reflect on what went wrong.  Avoid blaming the other person. Own your mistakes. Identify any patterns that you recognize could be problems in future relationships.

The end of a relationship is a painful experience for both partners. Each must grieve in their own way. With time and reflection, it is possible to move forward from what you have lost.  However, if you are still struggling with your grief over the end of your relationship, read more about divorce and separation counseling, then ask for help from a therapist who understands the impact of breakups and the end of relationships.

Online Therapy Available NowRead More