The 5 Stages Of Breakup Grief For The Dumpee

Last updated on : June 19 2021

Girl looking anxious and depressed

Article Summary

This article covers the five stages a dumpee typically goes through in a breakup. And how the dumpee can move through each as fast and effectively as possible. 

We've presented the stages in the order most likely to be experienced by the dumpee. However, a dumpee can go through the process in any order and may even repeat some before achieving the final stage, acceptance.

For the dumpee, the key is not to feel like you need to complete each stage in turn, but instead to use them to guide your emotions and how best to gain relief.

Click on the links below to learn more - we begin with denial. 

Stage 1 - Denial

Stage 2 - Bargaining

Stage 3 - Anger

Stage 4 - Depression

Stage 5 - Acceptance



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Stage 1 - Denial

Denial is usually the first stage of breakup grief for the dumpee. The dumpee cannot believe or accept that the breakup is happening and so denies it. 

Denial is a coping mechanism, and for the moment, stops the flood of other overwhelming emotions, numbing us to the events happening around us. 

How to know when you are in denial

We know we are in denial when there is still calmness in our emotions. 

We sense the dread, but we are still not yet whisked away in emotional turmoil. We can also control our behavior to a degree and might even think we can rationalize an outcome from the breakup without any pain or hurt. 

If you're in the first few hours or days of a breakup and you think this is going to be easy, and it's all a breeze. Then you're probably in denial - so brace yourself.  

We might continue to contact our ex during this stage, almost as if nothing has happened, or we might attempt to see them, not truly believing the relationship is over. 

What to do when you are in denial

If you understand that you're in denial, you must try to stop all connections with your ex and get into no contact as fast as possible. As long as you're in denial, you will not move into a period of no-contact, and so neither can you begin the recovery process.    

For most of us, denial is temporary, and we soon move past this stage onto the other emotions below. And for most, the next step is bargaining.    

Stage 2 - Bargaining

Guy pleading with girl

As our denial dissipates and we begin to see the breakup as real, we start to look for ways to stop it from happening. Usually, this involves bargaining, begging, or pleading with our ex to reconsider their decision and not end the relationship. 

Typically during this stage, we start to make breakup mistakes that can harm our self-esteem and the chances of a quick, uncomplicated recovery, including getting our ex back

How to know when you are bargaining

We know we are in this stage when we are making promises to our ex that we will change or are begging them not to leave us. We try to use logic to argue a case for staying together with our ex, and our arguments always fail. 

Here are some key examples

  • We can't stop scheming up plans or attempts to get back with our ex, and we put these plans to them, often begging or pleading with our ex to listen and see sense. 
  • We try to drag on conversations with our ex, not letting them go, in a hopeful attempt to change their mind. 
  • We send letters, emails, or connect on social media declaring our love and devotion to our ex, expecting these grand gestures to open up a path to rekindling the relationship. 
  • We do things for our ex, hoping that they will respond in kind. For instance, we might help them with money or decorate their new apartment, hoping for some reciprocation. 
  • We might also stalk our ex and generally become obsessed with what they are doing and with who. 

What to do when you are bargaining

If you are carrying out any of these behaviors, know you have to stop immediately to preserve any remaining self-respect you have.

See any of these behaviors as a warning sign that you're putting your emotional health at risk and destroying any chances of a fast recovery or even getting your ex back. 

Constant rejection by your ex can damage you seriously and result in your ex losing respect for you. The only way to end this behavior is to treat yourself like a drug addict and enter a strict and indefinite period of no-contact. 

So, when you find yourself bargaining, begging, or pleading with your ex, stop immediately and go no-contact. 

Intertwined with denial and bargaining, you are likely to feel anger or depression. Anger usually comes first. 

Stage 3 - Anger

You start to feel angry when your attempts at bargaining or pleading with your ex fail, and frustration with them boils over into anger or resentment.

You might start blaming your ex for the way you feel or for not trying to reconcile with you. If you experience guilt for blaming them, then this guilt might make you angrier. 

You might also be angry with life generally, upset that you can't find a way to a successful relationship, or be happy with what life is dealing out to you. You might believe life is unfair to you, leading you to be angry with the world. 

Whatever your reasons for anger, note that feeling it is a good sign, as it signifies progress through the stages of your breakup. However, anger is also a form of stress, and so you mustn't let it linger, and neither must you suppress it or direct it dangerously towards others. 

Instead, find a way to deal with your anger healthily and positively. 

What to do if you are angry about the breakup

As we recommend for the earlier stages, going into a strict period of indefinite no-contact will help you come to terms with your emotions quicker, including anger.

So if you haven't yet, take your anger feelings as a sign to enter urgent no-contact with your ex. No-contact will also physically separate you from your ex, reducing the chances of you doing anything stupid.    

These are some other things you can do to control your anger in addition to going no-contact. 

  • Get exercise as this allows you to release pent up stress and anger physically. Try strength training to tax your body or something physical like boxing or wrestling. Taking out your anger on a punchbag can be very therapeutic. 
  • Try to ground yourself through practices like yoga or meditation, and take the time for self-care and self-love. These activities will help you calm and get clarity of thought and give you time to focus on yourself and be less distracted. 
  • Learn something new. Use your anger to fuel positive and fresh experiences in your life. Find an activity to help you grow or become a better version of yourself. Volunteering for a cause is hugely therapeutic for anger and allows you to see a different perspective on life. 
  • Talk it out. However, it's best not to talk with friends or family as often they are too invested in your happiness or don't have enough experience to offer balanced support and advice. Friends or family might advise you to contact your ex when we know this is not good advice at all. Instead, seek outside help like a focus group or individual therapist with experience in these matters. 

As you begin to control your anger, and the breakup's realities start to set in, you begin to feel depressed.  

Stage 4 - Depression

Depressed girl

Depression is often the most prolonged phase of recovery. 

You feel depression most profound when you begin to lose all hope, you can't see a future without your ex, and don't believe you can deal with life alone ever again. 

Your depression typically manifests itself through intense sadness, regret, and anxiety. You're sad for the loss and regret your actions, and you're anxious about the future. 

How to know when you are depressed from a breakup

In addition to feeling blue, you are likely to experience the following: 

  • A loss of interest in the activities you enjoyed before, like hobbies or sports. 
  • You might lose a significant amount of weight and lose your appetite.
  • You might struggle to sleep through insomnia, or you might sleep too much every day.
  • You feel sleepy, tired, and generally have no energy. You stop performing everyday tasks and could let your hygiene suffer
  • You struggle to think, concentrate, have difficulties making decisions, and might suffer some memory loss. 
  • You're severely anxious, and at the extreme, you might feel suicidal. 

You see, the breakup not only unexpectedly snatches your ex away and all the family and friends they brought into your life, but it also takes away the future you planned together. 

These losses can destabilize you, make you question your self-worth, and your belief that you can ever be happy again. 

However, know that you can and will recover and be better than you were before the breakup. Focus on the positive, be grateful for the small things in life, and learn to live in the present.  

What to do to get out of breakup depression

These are the steps you can take to alleviate and eventually rid yourself of depression after a breakup. 

  • Get into no-contact. For all the symptoms from a breakup, going into a strict indefinite no-contact period with your ex is the only way to ensure a fast and effective recovery. Going into no-contact is the first thing you need to do. 
  • Get physical exercise and meditate. Both these activities will help you worry and ruminate less. Try reconnecting with nature through a walk or cycle in the countryside.
  • Practice serious self-love and care. Pamper yourself, spend time with yourself. Learn to love yourself again. And learn that being with you is just as good or even better than being with your ex. 
  • Learn new skills. A new language, learn to play a musical instrument, volunteer, or any activity that will fill you with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  
  • Spend time with friends and family, don't isolate yourself. Allow others to cheer you up. But be careful of relationship advice from friends and family, as advice from these parties is often incorrect.
  • Develop positive habits and avoid negative behaviors like drinking excessively or late nights out partying. 
  • Lastly, if you are struggling to recover, try speaking with a therapist trained in depression and relationships. 

Eventually, your depression will fade as you reach acceptance, the final stage in the breakup process. 

Stage 5 - Acceptance

Acceptance arrives when you've stopped hoping for a reconciliation with your ex. When hope is gone, and you've accepted the breakup, you are finally free of your emotional chains.   

How do you know when you've reached acceptance? 

Unfortunately, you cannot merely tell yourself you've accepted your fate, although this helps. You do need to complete the grief process and arrive at acceptance. 

You'll know this is the case when: 

  • You've stopped counting the days since the breakup, and you've lost all anxiety caused by the split. 
  • You're not in desperate need of validation from your ex or are thinking about your ex 24/7. Days or even weeks go past without you thinking about them.
  • You have no desire to connect with your ex and are happy to ignore their communications with you. 
  • You've recovered your self-esteem, are happy spending time with yourself alone, and are again committed to the passions in your life. 
  • You've started dating again or are in a new long term relationship.
  • You have a new future, and this is one without your ex in it. You're excited about what life offers you again.

If you are searching for breakup advice and are now reading this article, you might not have reached the acceptance stage yet. Our advice is to get into no-contact or continue with no contact until you do.   

As we always recommend, the most efficient way to complete the grievance process and arrive at acceptance is to go into a strict indefinite no-contact period with your ex.  

The faster you can get into no-contact, the sooner you will recover and reach acceptance.     


Happy girl accepting her fate

For the dumpee, breakups are heartbreaking and soul-destroying. The more meaningful the relationship, the worse the dumpee feels, and the longer the recovery time. 

Mourning a breakup is similar to mourning death because the breakup grief the dumpee experiences is as significant. It's a universal process all dumpees need to go through. And it's the same process for both sexes and across almost all cultures.

If you're a dumpee and understand that breakups are a process - then understanding where you might be in the process and how to behave will leave you in a better position to recover faster. 

And the most effective way to recover from a breakup fast, with the most significant chance of getting your ex back, is to enter into a period of strict and indefinite no contact. We refer to no-contact throughout this article, and you can read more about it in the related topic links below.  

Bonus Section - How Much Time Do I Need To Recover From A Breakup

Bear in mind that everyone grieves differently. Depending on the relationship's significance and how fast you enter no-contact, the time to recovery can and will vary. 

If you manage to get into no-contact very soon after the breakup and stick to it while improving yourself, you can recover from a long-term relationship within 8 to 15 months. 

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