How to Grieve a Breakup

Health Information Relationships

But that doesn’t mean you should bottle up these feelings and hope they go away. Here are some ways you might be able to channel your anger while you work through this stage:

Give yourself permission to be pissed. 

“You might have to find a reason to be mad at the person until you’re ready to deal with the feelings of vulnerability and rawness that come with rejection,” Dr. Dardashti says. Maybe you replay the relationship in your mind to uncover all the red flags you ignored in the past, or decide that your ex was a commitment-phobe. What’s important is that you’ve formulated a story for yourself to make sense of the breakup, even if it’s not necessarily the complete picture, Dr. Lewandowski says.

Move through your anger in a productive way.

Sharing your feelings with someone in your support system, channeling them through an intense workout, or rage-writing them in a journal can all be helpful ways of working through your anger. (Maybe you’re even lucky enough to have a “break room” in your area where you can go to physically smash printers, small plates, and more.) On the other hand, if your anger—or any other emotion during a breakup, for that matter—is overwhelming and you can’t seem to get control of it, seeking advice from a therapist, if you’re able, might be your best bet for moving through your feelings and finding peace.

3. You might feel like you’ll do just about anything to get your ex back.

If you’ve ever promised to become a totally different person in a series of screen-length texts or have been playing The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” as your personal anthem, you’ve experienced a rough grief phase called the bargaining stage—in which people’s inability to accept their painful situation may lead them to act out (sometimes out of character) to win back the object of their affection.

This phase is also known as the protest phase, according to Dr. Fisher. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Neurophysiology, she and her colleagues studied the brains of 15 participants immediately following a romantic rejection. The researchers found that, when presented with photos of their exes, participants had increased activity in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, which plays a significant role in pleasure and joy. This brain activation may explain why dumpees will often ruminate about their exes and try to find ways to reinstate contact against all odds. If you feel stuck in this phase, try one of these tips instead:

Ask yourself, What’s the goal of my behavior here? Is this going to make it harder for me to let go?

Dr. Dardashti advises that having a balanced outlook might help you avoid acting on your impulses and going to extremes. Desperate attempts to win someone back may seem like a good idea in the moment, but, much like lashing out, they often leave you feeling regretful and ashamed in the future, she says.

Or maybe ask a friend that question.


Theoretically, you can ask yourself how you think you’ll feel about a particular win-them-back move a year from now before acting. But since heartbroken brains are in survival mode and have higher priorities than your future remorse, you may be better off asking your support system what they think before you decide to leave an eight-page love letter under your ex’s doormat.

4. You may feel so, so sad—or empty inside.

While, again, there’s not necessarily a sequential order of breakup stages, when protesting and bargaining don’t work, many people react by slipping into a phase some researchers call resignation (akin to the depression phase in the Kubler-Ross model), Dr. Fisher says. Here, she explains, you may experience feelings of sluggishness, hopelessness, and depression due to a decrease in dopamine.

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