The 5 Stages Of Breakup Grief


1. Denial

Your friends always seem to know it before you do, that he is slowly disappearing. Partly because they love you and partly because they don’t want to have to talk you through yet another post-non-relationship bereavement, they pretend not to notice. But there are signs and they see them and hint at them, only to have you deny it, although you see them too.

It starts with the panic that a text isn’t being returned in the right amount of time, whatever that amount of time may be, most likely established during the beginning of your courtship. You look at your phone, check it incessantly. Explain it away to yourself and then your friends when they notice.

Oh me? What am I doing? I’m just wondering what time it is, waiting for an email to come in, wanted to make sure that status update posted, did you hear something? Is that yours? Oh, it is yours. No I am not waiting, oh wait shhh I got a text. Oh dammit, it’s just JhoaJessSamNora.

This is followed by the irrational anger you have at the friends who are actually contacting you, so that every time they call or text or “like” something on your facebook the phone dings and in the time it takes you to hear the sound and look at your phone, you have gone through all the feelings: excitement, hope, unknowing, confusion, indifference, disappointment and finally rage. Don’t they know I think it’s him!

All because deep inside that place you are unwilling to listen to, you know that if he was really that into you, you wouldn’t have to wait by the phone or the computer or wonder if the next message or voicemail was from him. And your disappointment turns to anger as he pulls back and you no longer see him in person but only through the multitudes of technology, and he soon becomes a face you have forgotten the looks of.

2. Anger

After all of the waiting around and jumping to at the sound of any electronic device, you start to get a little pissed. It starts slowly, a simmer but it quickly turns into a rolling boil, anger that you can feel coming out of your pores. Your face shows it. People ask you what’s wrong, your body language speaks volumes more than you are willing to on the subject, because fuck him. You’re not going to waste the words, the breath. He doesn’t get to say the things he did and act the way he acted and then just not, because he is still there consuming your thoughts.

And you know he isn’t worth that. He certainly isn’t sitting there taking his time to figure out how he is going to make you want him, because you already fucking do, you stupid cow. (In the anger phase, there is a little self-hatred.)

And you also start to realize what a fool you’ve been. Your friends will tell you that you did everything right (and you may have) but you’ll still feel it in your core, the notion that you should have copped on, realized it was too soon, too much, too too and somewhere deep down you just wanted to hope that it wasn’t, that this was your lobster, that there are men out there who will call you up almost out of the blue and compliment the face you’ve always felt ambivalent about.

3. Bargaining

There are two variations of the bargaining phase. The silent arrangements we make as a potential partner to seal the deal and then the karmic bargaining you throw out into the universe as a hail mary.

As I get older and date more I have become truly aware of the power I give away in the early stages of a relationship. I make concessions that I know I am not comfortable with in order to keep some semblance of a relationship with this person. Sure I can be friends, sure I can give you space, sure we can have sex whenever you call me, but not when I call you. I have allowed these bargains to happen, I believe, because for too long I have thought of myself as some bargain basement item.

I am malleable, just love me. I am loveable, just call me. I bake delicious cupcakes, just say you’ll stay over. But in the end, none of this flexibility makes or breaks anything but me. And when they eventually walk away I just feel like I’ve given too much. Bargained myself out of well, myself. And that is too high a price to pay.

Then there is the karmic bargaining. Excerpts from the actual conversation I had with the universe. “I promise I’ll quit it with that guy that I occasionally let stay over because the sex is so amazing, if I can just have the chance to see if this thing with this other guy might be THE thing. I don’t need my beneficial friend. I don’t care if he is in my future, I’ll trade him in if I get another chance at something as unimaginably amazing as that first date.”

But even this kind of bargaining with the universe doesn’t work and after going through the remaining stages of relationship grief I was back under the sheets with my sometimes nothing.

4. Depression

This is the phase where you feel like you are living inside a Death Cab for Cutie song, all ominous lyrics and lullaby melodies. And you want to get up, you want to go out, feed the fish, put the dishes away but it all just feels so haard. And what’s the point anyway, you’re not going to let another man in this apartment because sadness. You’re never going to shave your legs again, because shaving symbolizes hope and you can’t be having any of that now, not while you are in your lowest wallow of wallows and every Taylor Swift song is like the most amazing reflection of your situation ever (that bitch speaks so much truth it’s dangerous). Hair washing, cooking food, cat petting, getting dressed all seems like the most uphill of battles. And you know its ridiculous that this person who you spent so little time with could affect you so much, but if you’re me it isn’t.

Because situations like this don’t come along all that often, they never have. I fit with like 1 out every 1,000 guys I meet. He and I fit, snuggly. So there was that, but it was also more than him. At some point in the depression phase, when you are three days too long into not getting out of bed on time or at all, you have that talk with yourself and realize its not about him at all, but about you…okay, well, maybe just a little bit of it is him.

5. Acceptance

After too many crying jags and glasses of bourbon, way past the point where your friends are done with you sharing your self-reflective epiphanies, comes acceptance. The point where you realize that no manner of well constructed emails or karmic bargaining is going to recreate that small expanse of time where you hoped that this time, this time things would be different. You delete the saved voicemails and unfriend on the Facebook, write emails that you never send to clear out the thoughts you never got to say out loud.

But if you want it to be worth something, all of that sadness, cookie eating, and smelly hair days, it has to be for a reason. You must remember what this feels like. Waking up from a sound sleep panicked, aching gut, with a vague sense of disappointment and yearning. Remember this. The anxious twist as your brain runs on a loop, replaying all of the things that were said and unsaid between you, that should have been forgotten and holed away in the tiny place inside your breast where you keep all the black thoughts.

Remember this the next time someone calls you beautiful and you start to feel that you don’t possess as much control as others, that you let the way you feel be your compass and not reason. Remember. And do it differently next time.

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image – 30 Rock