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The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup No. 9: Hope

Here, I’m exploring the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. I encourage you to start at the beginning of the series with the entry describing the first stage, Shock. In previous days, I have also written about the stages of  Denial, Desperate for Answers, External Bargaining, Internal Bargaining, Relapse, Initial Acceptance and Anger. Today we are exploring the final stage of grieving a breakup, Hope.

9. Hope

Hope or lack thereof about yourself, your relationship, and your future is a defining factor of your grieving process. Not only has your relationship been severed, but so has your access to hope about what could have been and what will be. When you lose access to hope, your first inclination is to try to salvage hope by funneling or redirecting it into reviving the relationship any way you can.

Why? Because being without hope is a profoundly desperate feeling. In fact, it is one of the most devastating feelings a human can experience. Hope is a life force, a basic survival need. In reality, the only time you literally lose all the hope in your reserves is when you give in to death. Otherwise, what you are losing is not hope itself, but your access to hopeful feelings. As long as you’re alive and breathing, it remains in your reserves whether you have access to it or not.

As you begin to accept that reconciliation it is not an option, you shift from the hope that the relationship can be saved, to the possibility that you just might be ok without it. For now, hope lies in small accomplishments, all of which lead toward greater hope that you will be okay and there will be new reasons to be hopeful in the future.

Remember that your progression through these stages won’t be linear. You won’t necessarily start with Shock and progress through the stages in order until reaching Hope. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of where you are in your process, which can feel comforting in its own right. And hopefully I have provided you with language and a way of understanding your experience so that you can communicate about it and feel less alone as you go through your grief.

The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup No. 8: Anger

Here, I’m exploring the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. I encourage you to start at the beginning of the series with the entry describing the first stage, Shock. In previous days, I have also written about the stages of  Denial, Desperate for Answers, External Bargaining, Internal Bargaining, Relapse and Initial Acceptance. Today we are exploring the eighth stage of grieving a breakup, Anger.

8. Anger

Anger takes many forms in-breakup. There are earlier, more primal forms, and later more developed ones. In the beginning, anger can take the shape of self-blame. It’s most tempting to look for answers in your own shortcomings. You’re angry at yourself for what you see as messing up the relationship, and you say to yourself, “I got what I deserve.” This kind of anger also takes the shape of self-disgust; you’re “not good enough” – you’re “ugly,” “stupid,” “fat,” “old,” “useless, “undeserving.” Blame is an unproductive and immobilizing form of anger. It’s a long way out of that hole you’re digging yourself into.

When you’re angry at yourself or even at your ex for the demise of your relationship, that’s you trying to make sense of what happened by determining whose “fault” it is, who to blame. But no matter who’s at fault, blaming yourself, your ex, or anyone else you believe is implicated can’t and won’t change the outcome.

Progress comes when you recognize that you’re most angry about the breakup itself. It is unfair and unjust, but it is reality. When you are responsible for your own anger, you begin to re-unify the pieces of you that were shattered by breakup, the faulty dynamics of the relationship, and the misunderstandings that occurred as a result. This kind of anger gives you the power to move forward.

9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup No. 7: Initial Acceptance

Here, I am exploring the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Please see posts on earlier stages Shock, Denial, Desperate for Answers, External Bargaining, Internal Bargaining and Relapse. Today we are exploring the seventh stage of grieving a breakup, Initial Acceptance.

7. Initial Acceptance

Initial acceptance happens repeatedly during your process of grief. It is a stage you are likely to visit again and again. Between the waves of agonizing rediscovery of your loss, you will experience moments of clarity. During those moments, you may be able or even willing to accept the inevitability of breakup, and will resolve to keep away from your ex to the best of your ability. You will find that you go in and out of having the to recognize that the relationship is no longer viable, and will have the self-control to hold onto that concept, at least briefly.

At these times, no matter how fleeting they are, you will make a conscious effort to exercise restraint when the urge to contact your ex descends on you. Over time, initial acceptance and the strategies you used to sustain it become more substantive and consistent. You will build on it, and continue to put boundaries in place that you make the breakup stick, because you know it has to, you don’t have a choice.

But for now, know that it’s okay when the moments of clarity and the realization that you’ll be okay are submerged more often than experienced. Your shift in perspective will come with time.

The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup No. 3: Desperate for Answers

For nine days, I am exploring the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Earlier in the week, I wrote about the first two stages, Shock and Denial. Today we are exploring the third stage of grieving a breakup, being desperate for answers. Here we go.

3. Desperate For Answers

Once you start to get your mind around the reality of the loss, the intensity of your need to understand how, when, and why it happened, can become all-consuming. The need to know why can and often does come at the expense of rational and reasonable thoughts and behaviors. There are two conflicting drives occurring at the same time: the drive to understand why the breakup happened, and the drive to prove that there are better solutions than breaking up. Your urgency to understand your ex’s reasons is because you want to believe that by understanding them you can disprove them. The need to know why your ex ended the relationship extends well beyond anyone’s capacity to explain it to you, including your ex, because no reason is acceptable anyway.

Instead, you’ll look for ways to poke holes in the validity of their conviction that it’s over. Given the opportunity, you’ll fixate on why their reasons are invalid and why the relationship deserves another chance. The tension you feel to get to the bottom of this and “finally” know the “real” reason feels unbearable. So much so, that it can drive you to engage friends, family, coworkers, and strangers in relentless debate about why the relationship shouldn’t end, as if convincing them is the same as convincing your ex.

The reality is you’re not yet ready to understand. There are aspects of shock and denial infused into this stage as well because you’re still doing everything you can to avoid the reality of your loss.