In this blog we will explore the multiple stages of a broken heart.
Along with discussing the various stages one goes through after a break up we will also discuss the stages of healing after a break up.
What are the stages of a broken heart?
According to Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D., A contributor for Psychology Today, the various stages of a broken heart that a person goes through after a break up include the following:
- Desperate search for answers
Let us briefly look into all these stages more closely and try to understand the various stages of a broken heart as one moves towards healing and moving forward.
Desperate search for answers
The first stage that a person goes through is the result of absolute confusion after one’s heart has been broken.
This is usually for the case of the person who has been broken up with where they are consumed with the desire to know why they have been left heart broken and this often occurs when there is no clear closure.
This desperate search for answers can come at the cost of their well being, all rational thought and behaviours, and can consume their lives. For example, a person might stay awake the whole night trying to figure out why their partner has left them.
At this stage the person becomes fixated on things that could have gone wrong, things that could have been done better, as well as other small things that have happened that have led up to the break up.
During this stage, it is likely that the person moves from clarity to confusion multiple times as they grapple with the magnitude of their loss.
During this stage there is disorganisation of thoughts and confusion and it is all one can talk about with their friends and loved ones- often this desperation to make sense leads one to debate with others as you try to justify why the break up should not have happened.
This constant justification often arises due to one’s desire to convince their ex of the same thing but are unable to do so.
Now, after the initial confusion has abated and you gave come to a point where you realise that the break up has happened for whatever reason, the next stage of the break up often involves denial,
Here the main thought is “It can’t be true. This isn’t happening!” You are unable to accept the fact that this is happening and this is one’s way of holding on to the hope that one can save the relationship.
So as you deny, you postpone coming to terms with it and accepting the fact that it has happened because it is too painful and too disorienting to consider that you no longer have a future with this person.
The next stage, after you have come to a point where you can clearly see that the break up has happened, you seek to bargain with your partner or whatever higher power that you be given a second chance.
Here you are willing to do anything to avoid the thought of never getting back together- so you might bargain with them that you will be a better partner, that you will do anything to have them reconsider the break up.
This often happens because the thought of breaking up for good is so painful that you are willing to do anything to make the pain go away by winning back your partner.
At this stage, the individual is not being logical and the desperation of wanting their partner back tends to consume their life- often impacting their ability to reason and make logical decisions.
When the bargaining stage has ultimately failed, you begin to realise that you matter too and as a result fear and anxiety of never being with this person again is replaced by anger for what you have been put through.
Oftentimes this anger arises from the feelings that one has been slighted by not being given a chance to defend one’s self, or because as you struggled your way through the stages you lost sight of yourself.
Depending on your temperament, life, and family experiences, as well as the break up itself, your anger could be directed towards your ex, your situation, or yourself.
This anger that one feels can either be a negative and destructive anger however it has the potential to be empowering for the person who feels it.
If the anger is towards yourself, it can be challenging especially if you add guilt into the grieving process. However, as you allow yourself to grieve- through anger, sadness, and guilt as well- there is hope that it will move you in a direction that is positive.
This positive direction can encourage you to look at the break up in a new light and consider the various possibilities that you have with the new found freedom of singlehood.
The first kind of acceptance that one might feel post a break up often comes in the form of surrender and the acceptance of one’s defeat.
Here, this acceptance means that you stop bargaining as well as let go of whatever anger you might be feeling and instead choose to play out your part in the break up- you let your partner go.
At this point you might recognize that you are not meant to be with this partner and so, you let go of your partner as well as the dreams and hopes you had for the future you envisioned with them.
Over time and with effort, your initial form of acceptance begins to develop into something more of a conscious choice as you realise that holding on to your partner is not good for you.
So this form of acceptance is the starting point of you moving forward and taking steps to carry on your life, on your own terms, and for yourself.
Part of what makes breakups so painful and difficult is that your hope for the future that includes both you and your partner has been shattered.
The last stage of a broken heart involves finding new avenues of hope and discovering the possibility that you just might be okay without your ex- that you can build a new future for yourself.
This finding of new hope and new optimism can take time- months, years even- however as you allow one’s self to move forwards in acceptance it is likely that your broken heart can begin to invest itself in a whole new direction.
It could be towards a new partner, a new career, a new found vision towards one’s self etc. as you build on acceptance and choose to be more proactive and self-protective it is likely that you will be able to see the break up as a new beginning.
How to heal a broken heart?
Here are some of the things that you can choose to do to heal a broken heart:
The best thing you can allow yourself to do after a break up is to give yourself grief. This will involve you taking effort to acknowledge your emotions and your feelings no matter how painful or vulnerable you might be feeling.
You will also need to accept the loss of the relationship and the pain you’re feeling instead of pretending that you are unaffected.
Take time out of your day to grieve, let yourself cry, get angry, and experience all the uncomfortable feelings that you are feeling without judgement- write about it if you want to, use art to express how you feel.
Spend time with loved ones
Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones.
Talk to them about how you are feeling, allow them to get distracted while doing fun things together. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them.
Seek out professional support if you need it
Talk to a professional if you think that you are not getting enough support and guidance from your friends and family.
Meeting a professional to talk about your depression, grief, and loss of the relationship is something that you can give yourself as an act of self-love and self-care.
Get in touch with a therapist or a psychologist and take effort to work with your emotions, grow towards self-acceptance, and move towards rebuilding yourself and your resilience.
Invite yourself to engage with your new found freedom
Another thing that you can incorporate in your life is to do things for yourself and engage with your new found singlehood. This might need a little bit of reflection and soul searching.
Choose to engage yourself in activities and groups that you enjoy but could not engage in because of the relationship- this could mean moving for that job that you were being promoted to, or going on a solo trip that you had dreamed of doing before you met your ex.
By engaging in these activities that bring you joy and allow you to have fun, rediscover yourself, you can build yourself up for a new future that is entirely your own.
BetterHelp: A Better Alternative
Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.
BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.
In this blog we have explored the multiple stages of a broken heart.
Along with discussing the various stages one goes through after a break up we also discussed the stages of healing after a break up.
FAQ related to Stages of a broken heart
How long does a heartbreak last?
According to Glamour, six weeks is on average the longest heartbreak can also be. However this timeline can differ according to the context of the breakup, the length of the relationship, and the investment of the person in the relationship.
What is the hardest stage of grief?
According to writers at TalkSpace, the hardest stage of grief is the bargaining phase that goes hand in hand with guilt, because of the desperation one feels to hold on to what was even if there is no hope.
How do I accept the relationship is over?
The first step towards accepting that the relationship is over is to allow yourself to grieve. The best thing you can allow yourself to do after a break up is to give yourself time to grieve what has been lost- your partner, your realtionship, your hopes for the future.
This will involve you taking effort to acknowledge your emotions and your feelings no matter how painful or vulnerable you might be feeling.
Lindenfield, G. (2021). Your pocket self-esteem guide: Increase your confidence; transform your life. HarperCollins Publishers.
Kendall Coffman. Overcoming Heartbreak: 7 Stages of Healing. Good Therapy. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/Overcoming-Heartbreak-7-Stages-of-Healing
Suzanne Lachmann. The 7 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 3rd April 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/me-we/201406/the-7-stages-grieving-breakup