The Seven Stages of Grief
BLOG POST #5:
Based on LC Episode 241 (The Stages of a Breakup)
LC Episode 95 (Emotional Rollercoster)
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler Ross identified the five stages of grief in her award-winning book, On Death and Dying. This revelation of the grieving process truly set the stage for the discussion of grief as a profoundly personal but necessary response to loss. Although death is not chosen while breakups are (for at least the dumper), breakups are inevitably traumatic. They result in loss, and with that loss can come a vast array of emotions and responses. As a result, let’s review the seven stages of a breakup.
Stage 1 = SHOCK
This is the stage of utter disbelief. What just happened? Where did this come from? You were on cloud nine not too long ago, and now you’re in fight or flight mode. Cortisol is pumping through your system as doubt and distress overcome you.
Stage 2 = DENIAL
It’s in this stage that you’re thinking it all can’t be true…this just can’t be happening! You can’t or won’t accept that things are over. Instead you tell yourself that everything is fine. Your ex will call you in a few days and then you’ll be back together. Avoiding the inevitable and believing the unlikely define this stage.
Stage 3 = BARGAINING
Bargaining is seeking in vain for a way out. The pain becomes so intolerable that you’ll do anything to bring them back, even if that means sacrificing a part of yourself as “payment”. During this stage, some of us may even temporarily get back together or try again with our ex in an effort to relieve the agony of withdrawal…and it almost never ends well.
Stage 4 = ANGER
This stage tends to be the result of emotions repressed in prior stages boiling over. The good news in that your anger can ultimately empower you! The bad news is that most of us tend to use our anger destructively rather than constructively. It can be hard to control what to do with anger of such emotional severity, but eventually this stage signals a major shift in the grieving process. You now have enough internal discomfort to rethink and redirect your perspective on how the relationship and breakup have actually been.
Stage 5 = DEPRESSION
Depression is realization of the inevitable. It has happened, you’re broken up. Although it often does, depression doesn’t have to mean sadness. It can translate to feeling pushed down, depressed, blunted. You may even feel less range of emotions. Something positive about this stage is that it can ultimately provide direction and create a feeling of awareness in a world that has become anaesthetized by loss.
STAGE 6 = THE UPTURN
This is the beginning of hope. You start to realize that there is a way forward. Maybe life won’t be horrible if you don’t get them back. You acknowledge that you can’t change how they feel, so you begin taking steps forward and focusing on yourself. You start living again. You finally believe that things will be okay.
STAGE 7 = ACCEPTANCE
If the stage of acceptance happens early in the grieving process, it can feel somewhat like you’re surrendering. When you’ve developed enough awareness and control to recognize the breadth of your emotions and experiences, however, acceptance instead is realization that the relationship is just not meant to be. As this acceptance deepens, your feelings of hope are also redirected away from saving a failed relationship to acknowledging that you ARE and WILL BE okay without your ex. The breakup is no longer able to destroy you.
Remember, you may not go through all the stages of a breakup. You may certainly not encounter them in the order presented. The most important thing you can do to pass through the stages is experience them. Feel how you feel. Go through the motions while experiencing the emotions. Just don’t deny them – that will only make the process longer.
Dr. Laura is the newest addition to The Love Chat team and will be writing our blog.