I wrote this half-post about a week after my ex broke up with me. I was able to analyze my initial emotional reactions to the breakup, and it was easy to map them onto the infamous stages of grief. But when I got closer to describing my present emotions, the categorization seemed much less clear. I think this is because I hadn’t yet processed these fresh feelings, so even putting a name to them was impossible.
Regardless of the reason, I abandoned the post, and it has been sitting alone in my “drafts” ever since. I don’t want to delete this record of my experience, so I figure I may as well post it.
Without further ado, I hereby present “The 5 Stages of Relationship Grief”
I am fortunate enough to have never had anyone close to me pass away.
So when I began to notice parallels between my feelings of heartbreak and the infamous “5 Stages of Grief”, I was reluctant to verbalize this or even validate it. What I am experiencing is “just a breakup” and is nothing compared to the devastation of losing someone.
When I met with my counselor last Wednesday, she provided me with the validation I denied myself. She told me that the brain reacts to breakups and grief in similar ways. I make no claims as to the comparative severity of my pain, as pain is subjective. I am only stating that my current struggle bears similarities to the grieving process.
I am currently experiencing my first heartbreak. What struck me about this process was that the pain existed in several “layers”. One painful feeling would pass only to be replaced by an emotion that was very different, yet equally painful. I feel like I am mourning several tragedies at once, never entirely sure which form tomorrow’s pain will take.
My emotions during this time align quite accurately with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Experts say that these stages are not experienced linearly. They are not consecutive levels that, once beaten, conclude with complete recovery. This is consistent with my experience. I move between the various emotions often and unpredictably.
So, here is a summary of what I have experienced since my ex-girlfriend broke up with me one week ago.
Surprisingly, my initial reaction to the breakup was anger. I immediately told my now-ex-girlfriend to gather her belongings and leave my house. I then proceeded to send her a slew of hateful text messages.I said things I am not proud of, consumed by a rage-fueled compulsion to inflict on her the pain she had just caused me.
The day of the breakup, I didn’t tell my parents. I cancelled our plans to have dinner with my mom the following day, but didn’t give a reason. My ex and I had broken up once in the past, and were back together within 24 hours. I did not desire to have the embarrassing “nevermind” conversation. I was constantly expecting a phone call, a knock on the door, a text message, some form of my girlfriend telling me she wished to reunite. That never came.
I began calling her obsessively, dozens of times in a row. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I would call her. When she blocked me on Facebook chat, I tried Google Hangouts. I sent her texts. I sent her e-mails. I couldn’t stop. In my mind, the woman who loved me and wanted to be with me was still there, and I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted that more than anything in the world.
When my attempts to contact my girlfriend went unanswered for days, I was forced to accept the fact that we would not be reconciling. This breakup was permanent. My anger returned, and so did the nasty texts.
At some point, I stopped caring about my ex. I resented the way she had handled our breakup, and I no longer wished to be with her. I felt empowered, and got excited about finding someone better.
One night, I became incredibly frustrated that I had not yet received a real explanation for the breakup. I knew I deserved this, and was going to get it.