Written by Contributor Writer Layla McKinley 

Just like when you lose a loved one, there are 9 stages to grieving. Grieving during a breakup can be similar but the 9 stages are a little different. Who know breakups could be so technical? In order to fully move through a breakup, you should take your time but flow through the following stages.


Shock is the initial reaction. This stage tends to leave people speechless. There are no words to describe the initial surprise when someone says that it is over. If you are the one ending the relationship, the stage can still happen. It comes in the form of the shock that you just had that conversation or the true realization that you ended the relationship. If you are the party breaking it off, this stage still has less of an impact than when you are the one with the bad news being sprung on you. Regardless of what part you play and how awful you may feel, recognizing this initial stage will lead you on the path to healing.


Denial tends to come in the form of “it did not happen,” “there’s no way.” It can also come in the form of “it’s just a break” or “it’s just a stage he/she is going through, they’ll come back.” Denial is the basic way of putting off grief. It is a natural response in order to protect oneself. Denial is a pivotal stage that people tend to get stuck. They have to recognize it is over and over for good before they can move on. More often than not, they cannot deal with it and therefore get stuck in an endless stage of denial and wishful thinking.

Needing Answers

Once someone has passed through denial and has recognized that the relationship is truly over, they begin to want to know why. Some people get their questions answered while others don’t. But this stage is important because people want to know if the breakup was due to a character flaw of theirs or an issue related to the other partner. Is it something they can change or work on? Is it because of something they said, the way they behave in general and their lifestyle or life goals? This stage typically involves talking to your friends and speculating why the other partner ended it and the various reasons as to why that is a dumb decision or an unnecessary reason to end the relationship. But the truth is, no matter the reason, the relationship is still over.

External Bargaining

This stage is often the point where the person asks for the ex back. If they will just take them back, they will change this or that. They will lose weight, spend less time at work and take the trash out. Whatever it may be, external bargaining is when one person tries to make a deal with the other partner in order to get them to change their mind about the breakup. Regardless of the success of this stage, one partner trying to fix the relationship in one way or another tends to just leave both parties further hurt and unsatisfied.

Internal Bargaining

Internal bargaining is when a person plays out the “if only’s” in their head. If I had done this instead of that things would be different. If I wasn’t this way, he or she would not have left. The “if only’s” are a losing game because they focus only on the past and on things that a person cannot change.


One relapses in the sense that they try once, twice or thrice more to get back with their partner. This only wards off the pain and the idea that the relationship is lost for a longer period of time. Sometimes people relapse in the sense that they get with another person instead. But it has the same effect; they avoid dealing with the loss of the relationship and stave off the fears that come with being single.


Initial acceptance occurs when someone finally accepts that the breakup is over. They begin having moments of understanding and knowing. That person also begins putting mental boundaries in place to ensure their awareness and acceptance of the breakup. They know it happened for a reason and that the couple is not reuniting and they build these strongholds in order to avoid slipping back into relapse or any of the other previous stages. It is not unlikely that they do though because grief and acceptance kind of go hand in hand. Imagine brief periods of crying over the loss but still knowing it is for the best or that something better is coming in the future.


Even after one has accepted the breakup there are still lingering and damaged feelings about it. Those feelings tend to lead to anger. This is the stage where a person relies heavily on the idea of karma- “they’ll get what is coming to them” or “his new girlfriend is fat and ugly, serves him right.” This stage can sometimes include trying to seek vengeance or making the ex jealous.


Once a person has gotten past being angry, eventually they see hope. They have hope in finding another. They have hope that they will become a better person through this experience and they have hope that things will be better. Hope is the most important and final step. Once a person has hope after a breakup, they can move swiftly towards healing themselves totally. Remember though, there is always hope. No matter how dark and damaged you may feel from a breakup, there is always hope. There is a new tomorrow and you never know what God has in store.