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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.

The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup, #1: Shock

The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup, #1: Shock

About six months ago, I wrote about The 7 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Many of you responded, offering comments here and also on my Facebook page. As I’ve been writing about breakup a lot lately, I have expanded my consideration of these stages even more. The 7 Stages were a good start, but there’s more to it. For example, there’s different kinds of bargaining and different kinds of anger in the aftermath of breakup.

In the coming weeks, I am going to introduce some of my expanded impression of these stages. Now there are nine. These stages aren’t a linear progression. They don’t necessarily present “in order,” nor is it apparent when one stage ends and another begins. Your stages will switch around often. They may occur all at once, cross over each other, or morph into indistinguishable emotional blobs. You may have no idea what stage you’re in. You may feel stuck for months in one stage. You may cycle forward and backward through stages at warp speed…while in slow motion. You may repeat them many times in many forms along the way. You’ll have moments of hopefulness between the waves before you’re submerged again by fear, shame, unworthiness, and despair.

My goal is to help you get your bearings and offer you a rough roadmap through the rocky, unpredictable in-breakup terrain. While you may not be able to see through your pain right now, know that a path forward does exist. Here is the first of the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Shock. Tomorrow you can look forward to denial…

 1. Shock

“Huh? What do you mean, it’s over?” This new information overloads your brain. The concept that you have become disposable, replaceable, and irrelevant shoots through you in spasms. It’s as if your identity was just stolen and you don’t know where to go or what to do with yourself to retrieve it. Not only have you lost track of yourself, but you feel lost and un-tracked in the world. You are overwhelmed by the dread of having to exist without your ex’s continued investment in your whereabouts and your security, without knowledge about your ex’s emotions and everyday life. It’s as if you are plunging endlessly into an endless abyss of anonymity.

Shock is a primal response to a sophisticated loss. It’s the result of being inundated on all levels – all five of your senses overload while questions you can’t answer rain down on you, to the point at which you just short-circuit. There’s the logistical, like “How will I pull it together for work tomorrow?” To the existential: “What’s the point? Maybe it’s all in vain…” Yet, despite the shock, there are immediate decisions to be made and real world obligations to manage. You feel numb, and spacey, and unfocused, so your autopilot function takes over to help you get through what you have to get through.