What you’re feeling is grief: Why a breakup can feel like Bereavement

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When we go through a break up, we enter an emotionally tumultuous time of rebuilding in our lives. Break ups can be so significant in fact, it can even feel like someone has died. If you are feeling pain from a breakup, I want you to know you are not alone, unfortunately we go through the grieving process when we loose someone special in our lives, even if they haven’t technically passed away.

The definition of bereavement is not as linear as you might think. Any kind of loss can throw us into a tailspin of hardship. Anything we love in our lives can be lost, which means we have to grieve over it, this includes relationships and even jobs. In a breakup despite the ex-partner being alive and well, essentially the person you loved has died in that moment of the breakup. They cease to exist as they once did in your world. Once a breakup has occurred the relationship is changed, and often the other party will pull away and become absent in our lives. Going from seeing someone every day, to barely at all is a huge loss, that will require grieving. You cannot be with the person you love, because they are no longer the person who loves you back, they are a distant friend at best, and  sometimes there is no going back to what you had. It is gone. Therefore, like grieving, the relationship between two parties has shifted and is gone. Every hope and dream you had for that relationship disappears and you are left with the pain that comes from never knowing what could’ve been. You grieve the person, but you also grieve what that person would’ve accomplished with you, what being with them would’ve given you, a potential marriage for example, in another life. This pains you almost as much as the actual breakup. In this way it parallels bereavement also, as when someone dies any potential future for you together is lost.


Certain factors will contribute to the depth and length of your grief of the relationship. For example the longer the relationship, the more likely you are to grieve it as opposed to just be sad about it. The longer the relationship, the more time you have had this person as part of the furniture in your life, and the more likely you are to be used to having them always by your side. Whereas someone who has only had a relationship for six months, will remember what life was like before their partner, and can connect to the memory of single life easier. They know they were doing fine before, so they are more likely to feel they will also be fine on their own. If you have been in a relationship for twenty years, you lose that certainty of remembering how you fared by yourself as a single person. You were a whole different person then, which means you will have to grieve not only the relationship but the life you had forged for yourself in a couple. You will have to find yourself and establish an identity as a single person again, which can be a painful process for those of us who hate being alone. As Sex in the City would say “it will take you half as long as you were in the relationship before you feel better”. There is a lot of truth in that statement, although this may not always be the case. If it was a complete shock, the breakup came out of the blue or you found someone cheating, this will also take more time to heal. If you could see it coming, the first stage of grief, denial does not affect you so much, and it’s a smooth ride into sadness or anger. If you were completely blindsided by your breakup this will cause more pain, as the brain in its denial of the situation needs to adjust, and this takes time. Also if the circumstances were more traumatic such as cheating, this will also take more time as this too needs to be processed and felt.

When you have been broken up with, the best thing you can do is rally your friends and family around you to provide support. They can give us that outsider perspective on the situation when we cannot see it for ourselves. They can check in to make sure we are doing okay, they are a shoulder to cry on. Even if you cannot physically see them, I would encourage you to reach out via skype or phone. There is no need to go through this alone. Picking a new hobby to cultivate can also be a lifesaver after a breakup to fill the time that was once spent with someone. This can also be challenging with some hobbies, ie. Hiking or horse riding that are outside of your area. This can heighten our loneliness. Be vigilant to your emotions, and look after yourself more so than usual.  Take the time to fall in a heap. Give yourself 72 hours to cry, eat ice cream, wallow, throw out things that remind you of them. Feel whatever it is that needs to be felt. Anger and depression are all normal parts of the grieving process. After the 72 wallowing hours, pick yourself up again, and keep going. Go to work. Reinforce friendships, and do things you have always wanted to but haven’t been able to. Plan a trip away. Do an itinerary. Keep busy. Then, when you are ready, cut the cord. Constantly looking at an ex’s facebook page, or having the temptation there to txt or call them is dangerous. It is not helpful. It allows us to hold out for some shred of hope which is often non-existent. Delete their number, or give it to a friend for safe keeping. This stops you from drunk dialling. They will come back to you if they want to, you don’t need to instigate this because your loneliness has decided it is a good idea.

Give yourself time to heal, if it has been two months and you are still wallowing and not getting out of bed some days, seek professional help. You will have good days and bad days. When the bad days outweigh the good, or everyday becomes a bad day seek help. If you feel like you will never be happy with anyone else ever again, seek help. There is nothing wrong with you for doing so, seeing a therapist can give you the space to grieve and find clarity like you have never known before. Its like having a person in your corner who doesn’t know you or your ex and can objectively give advice on the situation. If you are unable to handle the emotions of the breakup seek help, a therapist will help you cross this bridge but be a lift raft if you struggle with what’s on the other side. Everyone will grieve at least one relationship in their life time, you are not weak for doing so, we grieve when something matters to us, and that means we had something great to begin with. No matter how life changing the break up is, you can love and be loved again in time.

As Winnie the pooh would say, “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Much love,

Kiara Jade

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