Phases of getting over someone

The 13 Stages Of A Breakup, Plus How To Grieve and Move On

There’s no denying that breakups suck. Like, really suck. After all, the ending of a relationship, whether platonic or romantic, is a type of grief—and grief is never easy to get over.

“Breakups are difficult, in general, because it’s a change, transition, and loss of something that was once, in many cases, stable and consistent,” says Brooke Schwartz, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist and clinical social worker based in Los Angeles.

Not to mention, as relational human beings, we naturally crave and form attachments, so letting go of an attachment we’ve developed can be really difficult, explains Caitlin Cantor, LCSW, an individual, couples, and AASECT-certified sex therapist with practices in Philadelphia and New Jersey. As a result, breakups can spark a lot of shame, guilt, and fear about what the future holds for one’s relationship outcomes, she adds.

Even if the breakup was mutual and amicable, it can still trigger old attachment wounds, beliefs about oneself, and memories from past relationships or past experiences with attachment figures, says Schwartz.

TL;DR: Breakups are the worst. But luckily, the stages of a breakup are rather predictable, and expert-approved strategies can help you cope while navigating each stage.

Meet the Experts:
Brooke Schwartz, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and clinical social worker based in Los Angeles, California.

Caitlin Cantor, LCSW, is an individual, couples, and AASECT-certified sex therapist with practices in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania and New Jersey.

Ned Presnall, LCSW, is a therapist and clinical director of services at Plan Your Recovery in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nicole Arzt, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Soul of Therapy.

Beverley Andre, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of BeHeart Counseling Services.

Megan Harrison, LMFT, is a sex therapist and founder of Couples Candy. Carla Manly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend.

Worth noting: The stages of a breakup are not linear and may look different for everyone. You may bounce between stages, stay in one for a particularly long time and others more briefly, or go through them in a completely different order than below. At times, you may even find yourself revisiting a stage you thought you were for sure past when you least expect it, says Cantor.

TBH, there’s no right way to process a split, but hopefully, understanding these standard stages can help you mentally prepare—and get over your ex for good.

1. Ambivalence

Should you break up? Should you stay together? Can you really love someone who did X? But what about their redeeming quality of Y?

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“In the stage of ambivalence, a person has had both positive and negative phases in a relationship, but they are unsure which one is definitive,” says Ned Presnall, LCSW, clinical director of services at Plan Your Recovery in St. Louis, Missouri. Presnall explains that this roller-coaster stage is marked by both good days (like after couple’s therapy or make-up sex) and bad days (like during a fight). “Oftentimes, their partner isn’t aware of their ambivalence, which can make this stage even more painful,” says Presnall.

Presnall suggests talking to friends and family to unpack the pros and cons of your relationship. It may also be beneficial to take stock of patterns in this relationship and previous ones to see if you exhibited signs of ambivalence in other romantic partnerships. Since some people are inherently more ambivalent than others, reviewing any trends in your dating history may help you realize it’s not specific to your current S.O. In that case, “you may need to work on resolving this in order to have a successful, long-term relationship,” says Presnall.

2. Euphoric Recall

So, you've broken up. Welcome to the time when everything about your ex is all sunshine and daisies. Sigh, weren’t they perfect? Here, as you focus on the good aspects of your former relationship, you may gloss over the issues that led to your relationship’s demise, says Nicole Arzt, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Soul of Therapy. Sometimes, this stage can even create feelings of guilt or regret.

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That’s where reality testing comes in. “It's okay to reflect on the positive elements of a relationship, as doing so can help with feelings of anger or bitterness," says Arzt. "But write down the negative parts of your relationship as well." Like, "Did you feel disrespected? Did your partner put other people before you? Were you constantly fighting? It's helpful to remember why you broke up.”

3. Making Sense Of It All

This is when you feel like your brain cells are firing at a million miles per hour as you try to come to terms with your relationship’s dissolution. “People tend to analyze the explanation of why the relationship was terminated and obsess over the fine details," says Beverley Andre, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of BeHeart Counseling Services. "If the person is confused, they will over-analyze each aspect of themselves, ex-partner, and the relationship to understand why the breakup is happening.”

Until you feel like you have a solid grasp of why things ended, you’ll be trapped in this headspace. That’s why getting some kind of closure is so important when saying adieu to your (former) boo.

If you’re struggling with this phase of a breakup, Andre advises chatting with your ex about any unresolved questions. “Proceed with the knowledge that they may not be able to articulate their responses in a way that is satisfying to you,” says Andre, but it will at least help you express yourself.

If you don’t feel comfortable (or safe) speaking with your ex, you may want to consider writing a letter containing the above, and not sending it. Sometimes, the act of writing can be helpful in the moving on process, even if you don’t share your words with the intended recipient.

4. Numbness

“Not everyone experiences this phase, but the symptoms include detachment from reality and a sense of denial as to your current reality," says Artz. "Numbness can last anywhere from a few hours after the breakup to several weeks."

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To recover from this not-so-fun state, let yourself feel your emotions rather than blocking them out. “Scream. Journal. Cry. Talk to a loved one. Let those feelings out, even if they scare you. The more you can honor them, the more likely you are to heal and grow from the experience,” she continues. Punching a pillow works wonders too (IYKYK).

5. Denial

The denial stage is when you’re having a hard time acknowledging that your relationship is over. “It’s a common defense mechanism used to help numb the intensity of the situation,” says Megan Harrison, LMFT, a sex therapist and founder of Couples Candy. “A person in denial lives with the false hope that things will go back to the way they were before, and this person is ultimately unwilling to move on.”

Denial may show up as you reaching out to your ex-partner, not respecting their boundaries, and continuing to carry out plans that were in place when you were still together in an attempt to re-establish the relationship, adds Schwartz.

“Many people fall into denial when they feel a loss of identity without their significant other,” says Harrison. “Remember that you are your own person, with your entire future ahead of you. Be encouraged by the fact that new life ambitions, goals, and dreams will replace your old ones.”

Harrison recommends prioritizing self-care during this stage. Re-shift your focus to beneficial self-care activities like exercising, reading a new book, or pampering yourself with an at-home spa treatment.

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6. Anger

“During the anger stage, people are no longer denying what’s happened, so they’re looking back and feeling anger,” says Cantor.

In this stage, you may feel resentment towards your ex, frustrated about the breakup itself, or even angry at yourself for a variety of reasons. You may be frustrated at yourself for acting in certain ways, doing certain things, or initiating the breakup, even if it was the right thing to do, says Schwartz.

If your ex has moved on, you might be angry at them for finding someone so soon, says Cantor. You may even reflect back on earlier moments in the relationship and find yourself not necessarily angry about the breakup, but angry about something that happened six years ago, says Schwartz. Like, “Why did they do that? Or why did they say that?”

While anger isn’t a very comfortable emotion, it’s healthy to be angry and that anger can provide a helpful reminder of why the relationship ultimately had to end. Nevertheless, make sure to not let that anger consume you; instead, work to put that energy into self-care activities. “You could take a hot bath, smell a candle, or listen to calming music,” Schwartz suggests.

7. Bargaining

After the anger stage comes bargaining. During this stage, people tend to imagine ways they could’ve handled the situation differently to possibly have had a better outcome. “There are often a lot of ‘what if’s,’ ‘I should have’s,’ and ‘I could have’s,’” says Cantor.

“In some ways, it’s trying to undo what’s already been done,” adds Schwartz. For some people, it’s an internal reckoning of what they could have done differently, while for others, it’s external. They might directly ask their ex to make changes or they, themselves, might offer to make changes in order to salvage the relationship, she says.

"Remember that you are your own person, with your entire future ahead of you. "

If you find yourself bargaining, remind yourself of the facts, suggests Schwartz. Bargaining might look like compromising on previously-established nonnegotiables in order to maintain the relationship. For example, you think, “Well, maybe I could compromise and have kids if that’s what he really wants.” But if parenthood isn’t a goal for you, then stating that fact involves being honest with yourself about your wants and needs. Remember: In a true partnership, you won’t need to compromise on your core goals and values.

8. Sadness

Don’t underestimate your pain. “The end of a relationship can resemble the loss of a loved one," says Harrison. "A breakup is extremely painful and can be overwhelmingly disruptive to all aspects of your life." Remember: The end of a partnership not only means the loss of the person, but also your future hopes and dreams with that person.

Similar to the symptoms of depression, during this stage, you may find yourself withdrawing socially, sense some changes in your appetite or sleep patterns, and even become more irritable than usual, says Schwartz. And while symptoms like isolating yourself may be normal (and even healing for some) for a short period of time, if they start to prevent you from doing the things you would otherwise want to do, it may be a sign to consider seeking professional help, she adds.

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Nevertheless, while it’s extremely difficult at times to feel your feelings, Cantor recommends not being afraid to “go there” as a lot of growth and processing can happen in this stage. Allow yourself to cry, scream, and spend all day in your bedroom binging your favorite comfort show until you feel better (Sex and the City cures all, just sayin’).

FYI, you also don’t have to “go there” alone. If you can, lean on your support network—it’s harder to handle sadness alone. Talk to loved ones about what you’re going through, or enroll the counsel of a licensed therapist or psychologist. “Spending time with people who support and care about you will remind you that you are valued,” says Harrison.

At the end of the day, instead of fretting about the past and predicting the worst for the future—What if I never meet someone? What if we hadn’t gotten into that fight?—remember to ground yourself in the now, Harrison urges. “Mindfulness can help you step back from these thoughts and allows you to embrace the flow of life as it unfolds, without taking negative thoughts too seriously,” she says.

9. Social Media ~Changes~

Let's be honest, social media has made it harder to feel like you’ve fully moved on. First off, know it’s okay to take some time after the initial breakup before you tackle the process of deleting social media pictures, updating your Facebook relationship status, and the like. "Go on a social media sabbatical until you're emotionally ready to make changes to your accounts," says Andre. "There's no need to rush through your emotions."

In addition to updating digital networks, it’s now also time to part with physical remnants such as any clothes, gifts, or other items that remind you of your former partner.

Above all, remember that you don't owe anyone in your social network an explanation. “Create and enforce personal boundaries in order to protect your wellness,” says Andre. Marie Kondo-ing the ghost of your relationship past may even leave you feeling empowered and excited to start anew.

10. Relapse

Heartbreak can bring you back together, and in some cases, help you overcome issues that were previously holding you back. “Sometimes, this can lead to a more stable long-term relationship—the grief can act as a wake-up call and motivate the couple to focus on the positives,” says Presnall. “But sometimes, the relapse is just a relapse. There might be a moment of relief, but then the negative dynamics of the relationship become more prominent, and you breakup again. ” (Again and again and again, even.)

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If you decide to reconcile your differences and get back together, be sure to take time to reflect and work through what led you to break up in the first place...or you'll be back at breakup stage one before ya know it.

11. Acceptance

After being in anger, doing the bargaining, and feeling your feelings (and, yes, relapsing), acceptance is where you land when you are no longer resisting the breakup, says Cantor. In other words, you’ve made it to the other side.

In this stage, you’re beginning to build out your life again now that the relationship is officially over. And while you may still have your moments, you’re looking ahead towards your oh-so-bright future. “It’s a feeling I’ve heard described as inner peace,” says Schwartz. “It’s finally coming to terms with the reality of the relationship having ended, even if you’re not okay or happy with the end result. ” (BRB, just entering my villain era, a.k.a setting boundaries and living for me.)

12. The

Comparison Dating Phase

This part of the post-breakup journey reveals that you’ve made enough progress to begin your search for love again—congrats!—but are still having a hard time letting go of your former flame. Hey, it's a process!

“During this phase, you may go out with people, but you find yourself comparing them to your ex," says Arzt. "As a result, you continue to feel disappointed or let down. Even if you like the other person, you still feel fixated on your ex." This phase may last for a few months, years, or for those in a very long, serious relationship, even decades. Yeah, sorry.

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To break free, recognize that this behavior is completely normal. Then, try to track when and in what situations you compare a new love interest to your ex to help you uncover why you’re doing it. (Is it because that characteristic is something you love in a partner? Hate? Is it because you miss your ex’s friends group? Is it because they’re too similar to your ex?)

“Your ex was an integral part of your life—it makes sense that you use them as the barometer for your next relationship,” says Arzt. But consider chatting with a professional if this is getting in the way of your next ~love.~ "It's helpful to talk about these feelings in a safe place where you can discuss your fears or challenges."

13. Forward Motion

Hallelujah. You did it. You’ve emerged and are wholeheartedly ready to get on with your life. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be tough moments, days, or weeks ahead as you adjust to life post-breakup. “Straggling emotions and memories may still bleed through,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend. It’s perfectly normal to want to date again, even if it’s accompanied with some mixed emotions.

Continuing your work from the previous stages will serve you well. “By journaling, engaging in self-care, and continuing to increase self-awareness, the painful breakup energy slowly but surely dissolves,” says Manly. Phew, that’s a relief.

Now, get out there, tiger. You got this!

Perri O. Blumberg

Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily,, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She's probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she'll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober. com.

Naydeline Mejia

Assistant Editor

Naydeline Mejia is an assistant editor at Women’s Health, where she covers sex, relationships, and lifestyle for and the print magazine. She is a proud graduate of Baruch College and has more than two years of experience writing and editing lifestyle content. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrift-shopping, binge-watching whatever reality dating show is trending at the moment, and spending countless hours scrolling through Pinterest.

The 7 Stages Of A Breakup: How To Get Through & Move On

Breaking up with someone vs. getting broken up with.

If you're the person who was broken up with, it might take you a bit longer to accept what's happened. But it's also not easy to be the person who makes the decision to end a relationship.

For that person, there may have been a period of time when they were deliberating their decision and trying to figure out what they wanted to do. "It's still very painful to break up with someone," licensed clinical social worker Jordan Aura-Gullick, LCSW, explains to mbg, "and if you're the person who did the breaking up, you probably already resolved your reasons why." This can make it a bit easier to move through phases like shock and denial, but the breakup can still feel jarring.

Both parties will move through the stages at their own pace, which will look a bit different for everyone.

How long does it really take to get over a breakup?

There's no definitive answer to how long it takes to get over a breakup, according to both Gullick and clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP. "It depends on how long you were involved, how strongly you felt, how invested you were, and how important it was," Hallett notes.

She adds that typically, it's likely to be a couple of months, though if it was a very long-term relationship, it can take a lot longer. On top of that, where the relationship was at the time of the breakup is significant. Did everything seem fine and normal? Or was it becoming clear things were starting to steadily fall apart? It can feel easier to get over if both of you saw it coming but may take longer if it was a total surprise.

Gullick notes that how we relate this person to our own sense of self-worth and self-esteem will play into how long it can take to get over a breakup. Things like "how much each of you relied on the other for approval, acceptance, validation, identity, etc." are important to take into account. If you really believed this was your one chance for a soul mate, Hallett adds, it can make it feel particularly unsettling and painful.

And just as a note, Hallett says the idea that it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them is simply too generalized, and really, it's going to look different for everyone.


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Stages of a breakup:

Stage 1: Shock

This stage is particularly pertinent if you were the one who was broken up with and if you didn't see it coming. The shock of a breakup is all about pain, disorganization, and confusion, Gullick tells mbg. You may try to rationalize it and feel an immense need to understand what went wrong. "Often, it's bewildering," she says.

Hallett also notes that this stage comes with a lot of pain, and it will be very focused on the "why." Asking things like "Why did this happen?" or "How could they do this to me?" in an attempt to understand isn't uncommon. "People feel that they're desperate for answers, or they're looking for closure," she says. "They just don't understand it, and the question of 'Why, why, why?' keeps coming up. This is a first response."


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Stage 2: Denial

Shock and denial are closely interrelated, as you grapple with the reality of what's occurred. Hallett explains that as people move into denial, "they're looking for information—they tend to hyper-focus on things like, 'She or he said they'd love me forever, or they promised we were going on vacation. '"

In denial, people bring up all sorts of things their partner said that they thought indicated their relationship was going to continue. "They're arguing why that other person shouldn't have broken up with them," she adds, "and that tends to lead to a denial."

Denial can involve trying to convince yourself your partner didn't mean it or that they'll change their mind. "We're also trying to rationalize it with our logical brain, but things don't often make sense in the denial and shock phase," Gullick adds.

Stage 3: Bargaining

This is the stage that can lead to "relapse" or going back to your ex, Gullick says. In an attempt to make things better and/or make the problem go away, people may start to bargain—with themselves or with their ex.

Hallett notes questions like "What do I need to do differently?" and "Can we just have another chance and try again?" may be tempting to ask. We'll think about all the what-ifs, and we often blame ourselves for where the relationship went wrong. "In this stage, people care a lot about the 'if only,'" she notes, adding you may "put up with stuff you previously weren't OK with because you're feeling such a yearning to be with that person."

Until things have cooled down, some time has passed, and both of you have a chance to get some clarity and closure, it's best to avoid reaching out during this phase. Again, we aren't always thinking logically in these early stages, and if you want to be able to move on and heal, both of you will need adequate space.


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Stage 4: Anger

Once you've moved through shock, denial, and bargaining, the reality of the breakup will begin to set in, "And the person often does have a lot of anger about what's occurred," Hallett explains. This stage can come from a lot of different places depending on the context of the relationship.

Are you angry because your partner cheated? Angry because the breakup was out of the blue? Angry with yourself—or them—for not investing more in the relationship? It can even be a combination of these things. Gullick says things like jealousy and competitiveness can rear their head in this stage, whether these feelings are directed at your partner or at yourself. Ultimately, though, anger is often an emotion that surfaces before we can face deeper emotions, like hurt, disappointment, grief, shame, helplessness, and so on.

Stage 5: Sadness and grief

As the anger starts dissipate, the true grieving process will start to begin. At this point, you're slowly accepting the reality that the breakup happened, though you may not have necessarily accepted that it's truly over. To grieve a relationship is completely normal and to be expected. After all, not only did you lose your S.O., but in a way, you lost the person you were with them—or at least, the way the person made you feel.

Gullick notes you also are dealing with the loss of the certainty the relationship provided, as far as future plans, mutual friends, their family, and anything else you shared. She notes this can spur feelings of depression, emptiness, and apathy. Things like self-doubt and desperation can also creep in, as well as loneliness and abandonment.

This is a particularly difficult stage to move through, but the good news is, when you start processing these feelings of sadness and grief, you're able to start healing and moving on. Leaning on your support system, prioritizing your own needs and self-care, and even seeing a mental health professional can help you get through this difficult time.


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Stage 6: Acceptance

Ah, yes, the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. When you start to accept the breakup, things will start to feel more positive, and you may even start to recognize that the relationship wasn't the only one for you. Gullick notes that acceptance can be "anywhere from apathetic surrender to true hope and moving past that person."

It's important to keep this spectrum of acceptance in mind, she adds, because it's not always a linear path. "You can feel pretty resolved about it, and then other moments you're right back in denial or bargaining."

Nevertheless, you'll know you're moving through the acceptance stage when you find yourself letting go and disengaging mentally from this person. You're "thinking about yourself as an individual rather than considering or thinking about your ex," Gullick says. And as Hallett adds, you're able to "see new beginnings, hope, and the fact that there could be someone else out there—they weren't the only fish in the sea."

Stage 7: Moving on

Beyond just accepting the breakup, moving on is a bit of a different story. "You really know you've moved on when it's not just acceptance, it's true disengagement from this person," Gullick says. You're able to redirect your focus from the relationship and that person even more so than when you first started to accept it, and you're "really focusing on yourself, your own needs, and your own self-worth," she adds.

You've finally stopped checking their social media, you're not constantly thinking about them, and you wish the best for them, knowing you won't be a part of that. As you move through this phase, you may feel like you're ready to put yourself out there again and date someone new, which is great! Just try to be aware of whether you're "rebounding," or truly ready to start a new relationship.

Gullick says when you get to a place where you're OK with being alone, you're no longer caught up in your ex, and you can truly stand on your own emotionally, you'll know you're ready to give love another shot.

The bottom line.

It's important to note that these stages don't necessarily go in order for everyone, and you may jump around or backtrack throughout the grieving process. "Sometimes someone can be super angry right away, then a couple of days after being angry, all of a sudden it seems to hit, and then they're in denial," Hallett notes for example.

But however these stages look for you, she adds that all of them can be worked through. Breakups are tough and call for plenty of self-love and lots of support from your loved ones. It may feel awful, and it may take some time, but both of you will get through it and come out on the other side with lessons learned, and hopefully, a willingness to try again when the time is right.

Five stages of grief - truth or myth?

  • Claudia Hammond
  • BBC Future

Denial, anger, compromise, depression and acceptance. Is it true that a person experiencing the pain of loss goes through certain stages? Let's look at the research data.

image copyrightMilan Popovic / Unsplash

"Tosca is a place we don't know until we visit it ourselves. We realize that loved ones can die, but we don't know exactly what awaits us in the first days and weeks after losses".

These are the words of the American writer Joan Didion, who described her feelings in the first year after the death of her husband in an extremely emotional confession "The Year of Magical Thinking".

The theory of five stages of grief - denial, anger, compromise, depression and acceptance - is firmly rooted in popular culture.

Articles are written about her and remembered in serials, and the artist Damien Hirst created a series of paintings, calling them the acronym "DABDA" (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).

How long each stage lasts is not specified, but it is believed that all of them must pass in a certain sequence.

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    Researchers interviewed 22 widows and identified four stages of grief: numbness, searching and longing, depression and rethinking.

    The current classification was developed by psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who worked with terminally ill patients and asked about their near-death experiences.

    Kübler-Ross, by the way, radically changed the attitude towards palliative care and raised the question of the doctor's responsibility not only for the health of patients, but also for how they live their last days.

    Image copyright, Getty Images

    Image caption,

    How does a terminally ill person feel?

    However, the concept of the five stages of mourning did not pass a systematic test, and it was only in the early 2000s that Yale University researchers took up this topic for the first time.

    Over the course of three years, they interviewed 233 bereaved people (usually a wife or husband). The interviews were conducted approximately six, eleven and nineteen months after death.

    The researchers did not look at cases of violent death of a relative or complex grief reactions.

    The picture they got was more complex than the five-stage hypothesis. The researchers found that the most common emotion was acceptance, while denial was not experienced by everyone or to the same extent.

    The second strong emotion was melancholy, and a depressed state accompanied all stages, and it was more pronounced than anger.

    In addition, the emotional stages did not change each other in a clear sequence. A person in the third stage of grief could, for example, experience acceptance rather than anger.

    Image copyright, Getty Images

    Image caption,

    A popular theory is that when we experience grief, we go through five successive stages.

    After about six months, almost all study participants noted a decrease in negative emotions, but this did not mean complete recovery.

    Longing for the deceased can last for years, but in the end, most people cope with grief.

    For ethical reasons, the first interviews were conducted only a month after death, and therefore the researchers did not have an accurate picture of what a person feels in the first days and weeks after the loss.

    Later, a study of people's reactions to violent death was conducted, but the participants were mostly students who lost more distant relatives than their spouse.

    A strict sequence of stages was also not confirmed, although acute mental pain was more characteristic of the first stage, and acceptance - the last. However, unlike in the previous study, the scientists did not follow the reactions of one person over a long period of time.

    Another study found that older people experience loss differently.

    George Bonanno of Columbia University observed elderly couples before and after the death of one of their spouses. He found that 45% of people did not feel severe pain either immediately after the death of their other half, or later.

    10% of widowers and widows even felt some relief. People showed resilience and were able to cope with grief.

    Bonanno's latest study in 2012 also disproved the idea of ​​stages of grief.

    However, whatever the results of the research, the theory of five stages of grief is attractive in a certain sense, because it gives people hope for gradual relief.

    Ruth David Koenigsberg, author of The Truth About Grief, notes that the Five Stage Theory makes people feel certain things.

    "It calms those who have similar emotions, but makes those who experience the death of loved ones differently feel guilty," writes Koenigsberg.

    Image copyright, Unsplash

    Image caption,

    Everyone experiences loss in their own way

    "A person may think that something is wrong with him, that he does not feel what he should feel," the author adds.

    However, research clearly shows that there is simply no "correct" way to mourn a loved one. Everyone experiences grief differently, and that's natural.

    The feeling of loss remains, but the longing passes with time, at least for most people.

    Some "scenario" of what you will experience next can be somewhat reassuring, but, unfortunately, real experience often differs from theory.

    After all, life is much more complicated.

    The purpose of the article is general information. It cannot replace the medical advice of a specialist. The BBC is not responsible for any diagnosis made by a reader based on information from the site. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external Internet sites linked to by the authors of the article, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned by on on any site. Always consult your doctor if you have questions related to your health.

    You can read the original of this article in English on the website BBC Future .

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    Stages of grief and loss: how to get through them

    Approximate reading time: 11 min.




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    Mourning is not just a general description of the state of a person who is experiencing a loss. It is important to understand that this is a whole process, which, if a person goes through it without critical failures, helps to cope with a new reality that is catastrophic for him. That is why psychologists have long been carefully studying how this process works, describing the stages of grief. Knowing these stages is important for assessing how a person who is faced with the loss of a loved one is able to survive it without risks to physical and mental health, and in what cases he needs special help - relatives, specialists, priests. And not abstract help, but effective help at this stage.

    Grieving is not always overcome step by step and according to the sequence given below. For someone, everything goes exactly as the researchers said, for someone - partially so, for someone - individual stages are repeatedly repeated, and someone lives through the stages of grief in a completely different way. But the general patterns and characteristic features of the process are always recognizable.

    What are the stages of grief, what does a person experiencing loss feel and how can you support him, tells Elena Kartavenko, psychologist of the Word and Deed Charitable Foundation.

    Stage 1. Shock

    At the first moment after the loss, a person experiences a shock. This is a protective reaction of the body, similar to the reaction to physical injury: its main goal is to reduce pain. A person understands what is happening with the mind, but cannot believe what has happened. Unable to comprehend loss. Can't accept it, it takes time. Shock is the first hours, days. Rarely weeks.

    The stage is characterized by:

    • Tears.
    • Lamentations, questions to the deceased: “how could/could you?!”, “What should I do now?!”. Completely unthinkable claims to the deceased may appear.
    • Negation. Sometimes the first stage is called the stage of denial, because this is how many people experience shock. “This can’t be!”, “This is a mistake!”, “Let me go to intensive care!”.
    • Numbness. Inhibition of reactions. A person looks at one point (and in fact inside himself: he is in a parallel reality - where the deceased is still alive), it is very difficult for him to perceive any information. He can forget if he ate today - there is no feeling of hunger. He can forget a lot. There are no feelings either - this is a period of "mental anesthesia".
    • Sleep disturbance. Restless sleep. In the early days, people are sometimes forced to take a sedative in order to fall asleep.
    • Fear of the dark. In adults, this phenomenon is short-term, but nevertheless: people do not turn off the lights or turn off the TV.
    • Duration: up to 9-12 days.

    If you are reading these lines, being next to a person experiencing a loss, it is important:

    • Accept his condition. It is useless to tell him “calm down”, “pull yourself together”, “life goes on”, to call for rational and logical thinking. This is now impossible for him.
    • Be close, do not leave the grieving person alone for at least the first week or until the shock stage has passed.
    • Check whether there is food in the refrigerator, whether he has had water or tea for a long time, when he last ate. Drink, feed, cover with a blanket.
    • If he is on medication all the time (and you know about it), ask when and if he took it.
    • Feed the children if they are at home.
    • Pay special attention to the condition (feeling unwell, quality of sleep) the first night after the loss and the night before the funeral.
    • Try to involve him in simple everyday or ritual activities: listen or read the Psalter, look for documents, photographs.
    • Offer to go to church, pray, arrange a funeral service. This is important not only for the deceased, but can also support the living, reminding that the death of a person is a birth into eternal life. Talk to the priest.

    | Read also:

    What is a funeral service? What is its meaning?

    • If the grieving person organizes farewells, funerals and funerals, go with them. Your support, advice or even silent presence will definitely come in handy.

    All this helps to survive the very first days. For many, it is difficult times that become the reason for turning to church life - people find comfort in this. Often a grieving person comes to the understanding that only God can help him overcome grief, and he goes to Him to seek help and protection.

    Stage 2. Search for compromises

    At this stage, the bereaved tries not so much to deny the fact of death as the permanence of the loss, as if something else could be changed. There is an illusion that "I will do his / her business, and everything will be fine", "you have to be patient a little, and everything will work out. "

    The stage is characterized by:

    • An attempt to bargain. “God, if he were alive, I would never be angry with him again.”
    • Hyperactivity, activity.
    • Frequent mood swings, emotional swings: today it's easier, but the next day it's sad again, and again strong feelings, as if everything happened just yesterday.
    • Frustrated expectations of changes (return to the past) that will never come.
    • Duration: up to seven weeks.

    How can you help during this period?

    • Be close, be in touch.
    • Establish regular assistance: order delivery (food, household chemicals), take or pick up children from school or club.
    • Offer to go out for a walk, “walk”. If the person refuses, simulate situations where you need company or help. Walking helps in stressful situations to relieve tension a little, start breathing deeply and correctly - this helps to feel better.
    • If it is within your power, follow the daily routine. Especially if the mourner lives alone. There is a big risk that he will forget to eat or go to bed on time. Fatigue and impotence will accumulate, and physical strength for living grief is very necessary.
    • Go to the cemetery together. Even if a person wants to be alone, wait for him in the car, but see him off. You can negotiate with the priest from the nearest church, he will serve a memorial service at the grave (a short service with a request for the repose of the deceased in the Kingdom of Heaven).
    • If the mourner is very active, try to direct at least part of this energy to active mourning - prayer. The realization that he can do at least something for the deceased (in fact, prayer is very important for the deceased) can become the straw that keeps a person afloat.

    | Read also:

    What can we do for the departed? Help organize magpies if they are planned.

  • It is often during this period of mourning that the survivors are overcome by questions about what happens to the soul of a person after its separation from the body, what a loved one “does”, how he can feel, where he is. Our article on what happens to the soul after death will help answer these questions.

Stage 3. Longing

At the third stage, a person's consciousness begins to slowly come into contact with reality, which causes despair. This is a time of great heartache. And all because there is an awareness of what happened: he is in today, and the deceased is in the past, and every day the distance between “here and now” and “there and then” increases.

The stage is characterized by:

  • Tears. Anywhere, anytime.
  • Physical malaise, feeling of a lump in the throat, pain behind the sternum.
  • Weakness, a feeling of helplessness and impotence, as if you could not do anything: neither get up, nor prepare food, nor dress and leave the house.
  • Feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness of what is happening.
  • Acute melancholy, despair, frightening thoughts, anxiety.
  • Guilt.
  • Obsession with the image of the deceased, idealization of the image.
  • False recognition. The illusion of the presence of the deceased, the expectation of the sound of an opening door. Desire, impulse: "I need to call him/her." And instant disappointment: "there is no one to call." The desire to see, meet on the street, search for similar people, comparison.
  • Anger, irritation, resentment. On yourself, on those around you, on the deceased, on God. Questions “why did this happen?”, “why now?”.
  • Desire to be alone. Reducing the circle of communication.
  • At the slightest opportunity, a strong desire to talk about the loss.
  • Particularly reverent attitude to the things of the deceased or to what he did.
  • Duration: up to six months.

How to help:

  • All tips from the previous stage work during this period. Focus on the person. Someone will quickly return to the usual track of everyday life, someone will need help for a long time. Everything that concerns moral support, prayerful help, which is necessary for both the grieving and the deceased, will remain relevant for a long time, if not forever.

| Watch the conversation with priest Vladislav Beregov:

How to pray for the dead? Do our prayers affect them?

  • Talk. Do not be afraid to talk about the deceased, support memories, help your loved one to express their feelings. It is very important.
  • Please, even if it seems to you that enough time has passed and you need to move on, don't say that to a person in grief. Everyone needs their time. And six months is not much.
  • Ask if you need moral support to go to a notary and open an inheritance file. This is not an easy step.
  • On a holiday, on Sunday, for no reason - call to the temple. Prayer is the unconditional support that can be the driving force for making sense of the loss and accepting the new reality. It helps to overcome the stage without the risk of getting bogged down in a state of longing. Yes, and with the hope that prayer gives, grief quickly becomes a bright sadness.

Stage 4. Depression

This is one of the most difficult and long stages. It comes when a considerable time has passed after the loss, and the person realizes its irreversibility: "he/she is gone, and this is forever." But this is precisely the stage of mourning, and not clinical depression, which requires therapy and drug support. At this stage, a person may encounter depressive states, but they are lived and pass over time.

During this period, the one who has suffered a loss most of all needs support, although outwardly everything may look as if he has already experienced everything. Death and grief are not usually discussed, so a person will most often try to behave in public as if nothing had happened. But he definitely needs time and a place to be able to show his feelings.

The least noticeable period of depression for others is experienced by those who stayed in a large family and who have children — they don't let them "relax": they have to cook, participate in family affairs, go out somewhere. Sometimes it is not easy, but it supports.

The stage is characterized by:

  • Apathy. “What is will, what is bondage, it doesn’t matter ...” - remember how the heroine of the Russian fairy tale “Marya the Artisan” spoke in a singsong voice in the film by Alexander Row?
  • Sleep disorder.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders, panic attacks.
  • Disorganization: a person does not care when he brushed his teeth, was in the shower, cooked hot meals, cleaned up.
  • Manifestation of addictions: gambling, alcohol abuse.
  • Feeling of loneliness, self-pity. Social phobia.
  • Decrease or loss of working capacity, difficulty concentrating and keeping to agreements.
  • Duration: up to a year.

What to do?

  • Do not disappear from the life of the grieving. Please do not think that you will disturb or interfere. It is very possible that a person really needs support and communication, but he understands that not everyone wants (can) talk to him about the deceased again and again. If during this period a person is left alone with his grief, there is a risk that depression will cover him with his head. He needs to speak up. This is one way of experiencing grief.
  • Call, call, ask for a visit. Accept refusals, but through time. A person will be grateful to you already for the fact that it is important to you, in what state and mood he is.
  • Be attentive to your loved one on the eve of family holidays. Ask if you need help. Up to a year from the date of loss, a grieving person goes through a very difficult path: a series of family dates, each of which is the first “without him/without her”. And every time the approaching birthday (of your own or of the deceased), wedding day, child's birthday, Christmas, Easter and any other memorable days is a disaster. And the person begins to “collapse” in advance: in a few days or weeks, the countdown starts and the grief is again felt extremely sharply.
  • Ask about how you feel. If something worries, it is better to persuade you to consult a doctor, undergo an examination. Offer to support. Very often, against the background of stress and longing, problems with the gastrointestinal tract occur, chronic diseases become aggravated.
  • Read about depression (depression as a disease).

If you've been seeing symptoms in a loved one for several months, try looking in your city for a loss support group, a foundation that provides free psychological help. Try not to “cheer up” your loved one with generally accepted phrases - “Enough to be sad, we must live on” - they do not help, rather the opposite.

  • Perhaps the grieving person will be able to console, distract and help him cope with this stage, the deed that he will begin to do in memory of the deceased. Everything is very individual. Often it really helps a person to be among his own people - people who have recently experienced grief. Sometimes it even seems to him that no one else will understand him.

Stage 5. Adaptation

Over time, a person comes to terms with the loss, gets used to living in a world where there is no dead person. During the time of mourning, he manages to lose part of his former environment, acquire a new one, restore lost business ties, change in many ways, reevaluate a lot. Normal sleep and appetite return, a person improves his life. All this happens gradually. Much new and different. Someone starts repairs, renews the garden, changes jobs.

The stage is characterized by:

  • Separation with the image of the deceased. A person begins to perceive himself separately. Mental strength appears to distribute or donate things, to put something away for storage.
  • A person acquires new meanings in his life. There are plans for the future that have nothing to do with the past.
  • Joy returns to life, not seasoned with guilt. “How is it: he died, and I will eat a cake?” does not work any more.
  • Social life is resuming: full-fledged communication, work, visits to the theater, organization of events and holidays, vacation planning.
  • The experience of life is returning (care for oneself, positive emotions) and life is normalizing.
  • Duration: up to two years.

At this stage, help (namely, help in mourning) is needed less and less — friendship, attention, support, meetings, common holidays remain: life is slowly returning. A person is again integrated into society (if he fell out), begins to live on or anew - who knows.

This does not mean at all that everyone forgets about what happened to them or about a loved one who died. Everyone remembers, but they no longer experience the burning pain that was at the very beginning. Remember light.

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