Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

What Is the Most Painful Stage of a Breakup?

In this article, I offer you solutions to help you get through the most painful stages of a breakup faster.

Assertive woman asking her self What Is the Most Painful Stage of a Breakup?

Here are the facts:

Some people do not go through all these stages or phases, but only a few of them. Which stage you will go through depends on your personality. For example, some people have no capacity to feel guilt, while others cannot feel anger.

We spend different amounts of time in different breakup stages. Longer or shorter. Again, how long you stay in each stage depends on your personality. In some phases, you might stay for ten minutes, while in others, it could be days or months. For instance, people who are more prone to feeling guilty will stay in anger briefly but remain guilty for months. These are personal tendencies.

Some people get stuck in one of these phases and never move on. It is possible to never move out of any of these breakup stages. In my practice, I have had at least a few cases of people constantly in the same stage.

Different people handle different stages differently. Harder or easier. This also has to do with our personality. For example, people who are prone to feeling guilty handle this feeling very poorly because they are overwhelmed by it.

Although I will mention timeframes for how long each phase lasts, I will not say that any of them (except for some of the final stages) will last for the rest of your life. Of course, this can happen, but this text is more dedicated to people who want to go through all these stages and move on.

Now, let’s analyze the different stages, determine their length, and decide what to do with them.

1. Shock

Black woman with eyes closed

The mind refuses to accept that such a thing has happened. He is not able to get close to that idea, but is looking for a way out. He is looking for another logical explanation for someone leaving us.

The duration of this phase ranges from a few hours to several weeks. It varies from person to person.

How long it lasts for someone depends on the length and intensity of the relationship, the manner of the breakup (infidelity or breakups without explanation can prolong the shock period), and personal factors (resilience, emotional stability, previous experiences with breakups, etc.).

Emotional intensity: 8-10

What to do in this phase: Talk to someone as soon as possible about what happened, whether it’s a friend or a therapist/consultant.

Try not to be emotional but rational.

Try to find an authoritative figure to guide you through this initial period. Someone you trust in their view of the situation. Something like a leader who will hold your hand as you go through this shocking phase.

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2. Denial

Rejected man

This is a higher-level mechanism of denial. It is so difficult for the person to accept that something happened that they resort to denying it happened.

Denial includes fantasy, negation, minimization, exaggeration, etc.

The duration of this phase ranges from a few days to several weeks, and like shock, it depends on several factors.

Emotional intensity: 8

What to do in this phase: Do not pressure yourself to quickly pass through the denial phase because it has adaptive effects (we gradually adapt to the event).

Continue living your life as if nothing has happened (a little denial) until you are emotionally ready to face the new reality. Real life (the absence of that person, for example) will do its work. You will learn to live without them. You will see that days without them flow differently but normally.

3. Emotional Pain

A woman wants to rid herself of toxicity in a relationship

This is the first phase of reality, when the person feels the real pain of separation.

Duration of this phase: From a few days to several months or years.

Emotional intensity: 10

What to do in this phase: Constantly shift from emotions to rational thoughts. Rational thoughts are our battle against emotions. Whenever you are emotional, try to think… about anything other than your situation.

My recommendation is to think about the most beautiful events in your life.

A good solution to being as emotional as possible is to bury yourself in work, solve other people’s and your own problems, and engage anywhere you are needed, leaving as little time as possible for emotions.

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4. Guilt

Ghosted black man

This is a common phase where my clients find themselves and don’t know how to get out of it. Sometimes they find themselves in it for a reason, sometimes without reason. You can read more about the feeling of guilt after a breakup here.

  • Some people are unable to feel guilt.

Duration of this phase: From a few minutes to many months. Or years.

Emotional intensity: 10

What to do in this phase: Try to nullify the feeling of guilt with the help of a therapist or on your own if you can. Even if you believe you are truly guilty, the sense of guilt will not help you recover. You won’t gain anything from it except self-punishment.

To recover, you need hope and a positive outlook on life, not something negative like guilt. You have a lot of pain already, don’t add another one from your side.

Try to shorten the feeling of guilt as much as possible, because it serves no purpose.

  • If you are truly guilty, take steps to rectify your guilt, but the feeling is unnecessary.

5. Bargaining

30042024 1

An attempt to return to the old ways with the person you broke up with. Pleading, convincing, and promising.

Duration of this phase: From a few minutes (the more narcissistic the person, the shorter this phase lasts) to several years.

Emotional intensity: 5

What to do in this phase: Do not stay in it for too long. It is not unpleasant but also has no significant weight or point. People find themselves in it to: 1. Possibly get a second chance, 2. Thus, they feel that they have some control over the situation (maybe I can do something here). However, if the person does not want to yield to your pleading, staying in this phase gives you only an illusion of control over the situation, not real control. Also, it will become your relationship—you beg, and your ex-partner rejects you.

If this phase doesn’t work after a few days (weeks), give it up.

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6. Anger

Angry woman

Of course, if you fail to persuade the person to reconcile with you, you will become angry. I emphasize that some people are unable to get angry due to their personalities. However, if you do get angry, make an effort to restrain your anger toward that person.

This phase can last from a few minutes (for those who cannot get angry) to several years (for people for whom this is a natural feeling).

Emotional intensity: 8

What to do in this phase: Do not express your anger. Do not speak badly of that person; do not insult or hurt them. Do not show publicly that you are angry. Anger is, although natural, an immature behavior. It will pass, but the impression of you will remain.

Instead of anger, choose sublimation: do something useful with that anger. Engage in some activity or create something.

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7. Depression

Handsome man thinking

Naturally, if the person still does not want you even after pleading and negotiating, a depressive state ensues. A depressive state is not the same as depression, though it is similar. It is a state in which one sees no hope or point. Everything ahead seems unnecessary, dark, or without hope.

The duration of this phase ranges from a few days to several months. If a person is prone to depression, a breakup can be an excuse to remain in it.

Emotional intensity: 10

What to do in this phase: Understand that this is a passing phase. This will already give you hope and a light at the end of the tunnel, the knowledge that you will get through this, and it will end. Be in your emotions and ask to be left alone until you pass through them. Find a place where you will be safe and at peace.

Only people who won’t pressure you, comfort you with stupid words (cheer up! ) and persuade you to do things you don’t want to do are welcome. Only people whose behavior and words please you are welcome.
Also, don’t be hard on yourself and blame yourself. “Why are you still so desperate?! You’re so pathetic. You need to get out of this grief faster. That’s what everyone says.
You don’t need to. Everyone has their own rhythm of grieving. Don’t beat yourself up for going at your own pace. As I said: in addition to all the pain you are going through, you don’t need to mistreat yourself.

Anyway, I count on the fact that, no matter how long it takes, your brain will tire of this stage (if you are not prone to depression), and you will eventually want to come out of it.

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8. Loneliness

A beautiful woman is sad

A phase of life without that person follows, where you may feel abandoned and lonely because you no longer have your companion. You have no one to share daily events and plans with.

The duration of this phase can range from a few weeks to several years.

Emotional intensity: 9

What to do in this phase: Although I know it is a weak substitute because you want that person, surround yourself with people. At least you will have people around you, even if the quality of that company may be insignificant.

Second: find one trustworthy person with whom you can talk about everything. To feel that someone is with you and understands you.

Also, ask that person to be available for a while so you can share daily events with them. Just so you don’t feel lonely (and so that person doesn’t feel trapped but instead asked for help).

Third: If you can (least recommended), stay in contact with your ex. If you can both keep it on a friendly basis and it helps you with the feeling of loneliness, you can stay in contact (only if it won’t harm you by giving you false hope of reconciliation and keeping you stuck in that hope).

9. Reconciliation

A beautiful rejected woman

After all these phases, the first positive change is reconciliation with what is happening. This is a difficult phase, and therefore I give it a high rating, because a high rating does not have to be negative. This is hard to do, but it is very positive.

Emotional intensity: 9

The duration of this phase ranges from a few days to several months.

What to do in this phase:

  1. Put everything in its place.
  2. Accept that a return to that relationship will not happen and that you must move forward alone, without that person.
  3. Do not be emotional, but rational and accepting.

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10. Reconstruction

Black man thinking

This is an excellent phase because it relies more on reason than emotions. It’s an opportunity to understand your relationship, its end, the breakup, that person, yourself, etc.. When you get through this phase, you can be forever freed from regretting that person.

Duration: From a few weeks to several months. Stay in this phase as long as you put everything in its place.

Emotional intensity: 5

What to do in this phase:

  1. Think as objectively as possible about every segment of your relationship (who that person is, what your relationship was like, etc.).
  2. Try to arrive at objective feelings, because the truth sets you free.
  3. Even if these truths are unpleasant, strive to understand and process them.

This will serve you for the future and your personal growth. Help yourself by not convincing yourself that you parted ways with the only best person in the world. Trust me, statistically, there are hundreds of thousands of people similar to them.

A counselor can help you with this objective thinking.

Do not revert to a previous phase because you encounter something unpleasant – you have already passed through them and would just have to start over.

11. Acceptance

A beautiful woman

This is the phase when you are finally starting a new life. It feels normal to think your ex is no longer a part of your life.

Duration: A few hours to a few days

Emotional intensity: 5

What to do in this phase: Do not resist it. Think about what you see around you and in your life. You can read much more about acceptance here.

12. Working Through

A beautiful rejected woman

This is the phase when you start moving forward from stagnation. You find new ways to live your life. You indeed arrange your life without that person in it.

Duration: Considering that this is a phase in overcoming your breakup and that something new will happen in your life, this phase lasts until that new event. Of course, you will continue doing good things from this phase for yourself even after that.

Emotional intensity: 3

What to do in this phase: Since you are starting over, like reconstructing your life, do everything you can for yourself. Choose the best things for yourself now that you have the chance. Let go of things that are not good for you and introduce beneficial things. Change things you feel need to be changed. Improve your life in all possible aspects. Plan things for the near future. Set goals for the distant future and act accordingly.

13. Hope

Man in toxic relationship

Since you are engaging in many positive things for yourself, new hope that life will be good appears. Life seems full of new opportunities.

Emotional intensity: 2 (10 in a positive sense)

Duration: From a few weeks to a few months

What to do in this phase: Build on your hope with imagination and real events. Imagination serves to brighten your days and set new goals, but real events and actions are crucial. Only some things should remain in the realm of hope. About more or less everything we want in our life, we need to take action.

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14. Meaning

A beautiful woman smiling

Finally, there is the phase where you find meaning in the whole experience. Meanings can vary from the idea that the point of the breakup was for you to change to the idea that it was for you to do something more significant, to free yourself from a not-so-good relationship, or to change something significant in your life.

Duration: If you manage to reach it—for the rest of your life.

Emotional intensity: 5 (I give it a five because half of the people will find some meaning in this, while the other half will not).

What to do in this phase: Strive to ensure that the entire experience of your relationship and breakup is not a futile event. If it has already happened, extract some meaning that will enrich your life.

I hope you found this useful. Especially the part: what to do at what stage. This blog post is, of course, very limited and covers the largest number of people, but I’m sure you can get something useful out of it. Dee

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