How to get over a breakup: Effective strategies and professional support

Breakups are universally challenging experiences that stir up deep emotions and trigger a complex process of healing and self-discovery. In this article, we explore the profound impact of breakups, why they hurt so much, and how to navigate the emotional rollercoaster that follows.

Expert insight from Thriveworks sheds light on the five stages of grief commonly experienced after a breakup, offering valuable guidance on the journey toward acceptance. Discover practical advice on how to move forward and ultimately find love and happiness once more.

 

Why Do Breakups Hurt So Much?

Breakups hurt so much because they represent the loss of a significant connection, the disruption of routines and future plans, and potentially a threat to our self-identity. Attachment and emotional investment make it hard to simply move on. 

Additionally, the grieving process involves feeling a range of intense emotions. It takes time for wounds to heal and everyone deals with breakup pain differently. Be patient with yourself and understand that healing is a gradual process. 

Remember to lean into your support system when needed and that you do have the strength to rebuild and find happiness again in the future, even if you are experiencing hard emotions. Continue to keep the hope of finding love again. 

What Are the 5 Stages After a Breakup?

The 5 stages of grief model, developed by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, includes the following: 

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance 

Though Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was talking about those with terminal illness and facing their own mortality, her model is often used to describe the stages following a significant loss, which could be the loss of a romantic partnership or meaningful relationship. 

A breakdown of each of these stages may look like the following: 

  • Denial: You may be thinking thoughts like, “Is this really happening?”, “No, this can’t be happening,” or “This can’t be real,” but the breakup is real — it’s just difficult to make sense of it or understand it due to the initial shock of the romantic partnership ending. This can be so for the individual initiating the breakup or the person being the receiver of the partner’s request to end the romantic partnership. 
  • Anger: When the initial shock wears off, it is likely one may become angry. Someone may feel it is extremely unfair or begin to wonder why this happened and what they have done to deserve having to have the relationship end. 
  • Bargaining: In this stage, a person may try to reason or undue past wrongs in order to change their circumstances. Bargaining at times can look like ruminating on the relationship and trying to make sense of it and struggling to regain control, wishing to go back to the relationship and do different things or do better.
  • Depression: This is the stage of feeling the full weight of the loss of the relationship. A person may experience tearfulness, loneliness, sadness, and it is necessary to note that sadness or depression in this adjustment period of romantic breakup looks different than clinical depression, as clinical depression is cyclic in nature often and persistent sadness not caused by an adjustment period of time. 
  • Acceptance: This is the stage where a person can accept that the relationship is over and has come to terms with the loss of relationship. There is no more rumination on the relationship, though at times a person may notice memories or reminders of experiences with the previous romantic partner which come and go, but come and go without much emotional distress to someone. 

It is important to note that with each of these stages, they are often not experienced in a linear way, but rather are experienced in more of a fluid way where one may experience vacillating between all the stages. 

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What Is the #1 Reason for Breakups?

Statistically, infidelity is a leading reason for breakups and one of the hardest things for a couple to recover or repair from. While it is challenging and takes time to heal from infidelity, a couple can recover and repair from it. 

What Is the Most Painful Stage of a Breakup?

Probably one of the most painful stages of the breakup process is the depression stage. Often this can feel incredibly lonely and often when people are experiencing sadness, it is difficult to lean into your support or get outside of yourself. 

Depression often can cause people to isolate and sink into their emotions, have a lack of energy, make it difficult to get out of bed or leave the house and also difficult to share with friends and family. Often, people experiencing this stage of sadness may feel embarrassed to be emotional in front of others or fear their emotions spilling over during this time of relationship loss.

It is important to note that many of our friends and family members have experienced relationship loss and have had to recover from a breakup or loss of partner in some way. Often, by sharing our experiences with people who know and love, we can gain perspective and receive the necessary support to heal.  

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Breakup?

It can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to ease the pain of a breakup. The pain of a breakup usually fades over time. 

This all depends on the length of the relationship, how deeply connected the couple may have been prior to the breakup, and the like.

How Do I Get Over a Breakup When I Still Love Them?

There is no way to simply “get over” a breakup with someone you deeply love and care for. There is a way to move forward in your healing process, but know that it will take time to move on. 

You can end your relationship in an instant, but the same can’t be said for love. You can’t dispel those feelings that quickly or that easily. Think about how much time you put into building that love. 

However, you can ease the pain and tap into some happy feelings. Here’s a list of small things that can have a big impact on your mood:e sweater.

  1. Treat yourself to coffee out.
  2. Burn a new candle.
  3. Buy yourself some pretty flowers.
  4. Cuddle with your pet on the couch.
  5. Make homemade pizza.
  6. Put on reruns of your favorite show.
  7. Sit in the sun.
  8. Turn on your favorite podcast and go for a walk.
  9. Redecorate your apartment.

On the surface, these probably sound silly or ineffective. In reality, each action item above can move the dial on your mood. Try one. And when the heartbreak creeps back in, take some advice from the Dalai Lama. “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” 

It might not feel very lucky now, but one day, you’ll look back and be thankful for every string of events that led you to where you are (future-you can’t wait to show you).

How Can I Get Over a Breakup?

When trying to get over a breakup, it is helpful to:

  • Focus on what is most important and meaningful for you outside of your romantic relationship in order to gain perspective and reset and refocus on what is most important and meaningful to you. Think of this time as a time of growth. 
  • Use the breakup as an opportunity for personal growth
  • Consider what you have learned from the relationship and how you can apply those lessons to future connections or relationships. 
  • Establish new goals and cultivate new routines. By setting small, achievable goals, you can regain a sense of purpose and direction in your life. 

By focusing on personal growth and moving forward you can rebuild your confidence and find a new momentum. 

How Do I Overcome or Move On After a Breakup?

You can begin to overcome and move on after a breakup by: 

  • Allowing yourself time to grieve. It is normal to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and the like after a breakup. 
  • Acknowledging your feelings as opposed to trying to push it away or avoid it. Allow yourself to grieve the loss, as an important part of the healing process. 
  • Cutting off contact. By giving yourself space and time to heal by creating distance between you and your ex-partner, this will allow you to begin creating a new sense of individuality and rediscovering yourself and what your potential needs are during this time of loss. 
  • Leaning into your support system during this time. Surround yourself with a strong support system of friends and family who can provide understanding, empathy and guidance during this time. Sharing your feelings and seeking their advice can be very beneficial during this time. 
  • Focusing on your self-care. By prioritizing yourself self-care during the healing process, this ensures that you are attended to. Engage in activities that make you happy, such as exercising, practicing mindfulness, pursuing hobbies or spending time in nature. 

At Thriveworks, we understand the complex emotional journey of navigating a breakup. Our professional counseling services are here to provide the support you need during this difficult time. We are dedicated to helping you process your emotions, build resilience, and develop healthy coping strategies, all of which are essential steps toward overcoming the challenges of a breakup and achieving emotional well-being. 

Talking to a therapist can be helpful to receive support and empathy for your situation, and they can also help you build up a support network in order for you to feel supported during times of need and generally invite love into your life again, whether it is through friendship or romantic partnership later on.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to us at Thriveworks, and let us help you heal, grow, and thrive.

Table of contents

Why Do Breakups Hurt So Much?

What Are the 5 Stages After a Breakup?

What Is the Most Painful Stage of a Breakup?

How Do I Get Over a Breakup When I Still Love Them?

How Can I Get Over a Breakup?

How Do I Overcome or Move On After a Breakup?

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  • Clinical writer
  • Editorial writer
  • Clinical reviewer
  • 2 sources
  • Update history
Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley, LCSW

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

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Theresa Lupcho, LPC

Theresa Lupcho is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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Jason Crosby

Jason Crosby is a Senior Copywriter at Thriveworks. He received his BA in English Writing from Montana State University with a minor in English Literature. Previously, Jason was a freelance writer for publications based in Seattle, WA, and Austin, TX.

We only use authoritative, trusted, and current sources in our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our efforts to deliver factual, trustworthy information.

  • Cantero, P. L. (2017, December 22). The break-up check: Exploring romantic love through relationship terminations. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6096559/

  • Vargas, C. P., Et al. (2021, August 4). A biopsychosocial approach to grief, depression, and the role of emotional regulation. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-328X/11/8/110

We update our content on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date, relevant, and valuable information. When we make a significant change, we summarize the updates and list the date on which they occurred. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  • Originally published May 24th, 2022
    By: Taylor Bennett

  • Updated October 13th, 2023

    Expert Author: Christine Ridley, LCSW

    Editorial Author: Jason Crosby

    Reviewer: Theresa Ridley, LPC

    Changes:

     Our editorial team, in collaboration with a provider from our contribution program, added additional information about coping with a breakup, from addressing emotional pain, the five stages of grief after a breakup, the reasons for a breakup to occur, the most painful stage of a breakup, and how to get over a breakup and move on afterward.

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