Breakups are terrible no matter how you approach them. Whatever the reason - for the best, amicable, or betrayal - no one ever leaves unscathed. Yet many who are dumped, known as dumpees, will often complain that the dumper walks away completely unphased. Nearly everyone knows that the stages of grief that apply to any loss (denial, bargaining, depression, anger, and acceptance) are applicable in a breakup, however, they occur in vastly different ways depending on who did the dumping versus who was dumped. The reality is that both parties will feel the hurt of the loss, it just appears differently and at contrasting times.
Now not everyone goes through these exact stages and not always in this order; sometimes multiple times in different orders but this data exists because enough experiences from a variety of people have proven it to be consistent.
Post-Breakup Stages of a Dumpee
Denial - Separation anxiety hits hard regardless of if this person saw the breakup coming or was blindsided. Denial takes all forms and can sometimes look like the dumpee hoping that the dumper will only change their mind if the dumpee convinces them to; these arguments often fail because they don’t see that this decision had been made far earlier than the actual breakup. Or that they believe the dumper will inevitably be back after some time; as opposed to accepting that the relationship has ended and their best option is to begin to heal and move on. This can last a few days to weeks, and glimpses of denial can pop up throughout the healing process.
Depression- A natural reaction to the most significant person in your life leaving. There is an identity crisis, hit to self-esteem, and a feeling of having no control now that the future you were expecting to have was completely thrown out. It is natural that during the denial and depression stages, only the positive memories of the breakup are focused on, often making it more painful for the dumpee. They see the relationship and their ex as having been flawless and will often have obsessive thoughts about their breakup from the moment they wake up to when they go to sleep.
Anger- Anger and depression go hand-in-hand since typically no one wants to wallow and be sad so they may shift to a more empowering emotion. Overanalyzing is bound to happen in the first few months of any breakup which leads the dumpee to see ways that they were wronged and ultimately put into this terrible situation by their ex. This is when being in No Contact is critical so that things aren’t said out of anger that the dumpee would later regret.
Acceptance- At this point, often months after the breakup, the dumpee can see things more clearly and no longer clings only to the positive aspects of the relationship. The dumpee is able to see their ex for the person that they really are, the responsibility they had in the relationship ending, and removes the dumper from being the savior to their pain. Sometimes, they begin to see the end of the relationship as a blessing in disguise.
Recovery- This is when a dumpee will think less and less about their ex and start to move on. Their lives no longer have any relation to the dumper and they focus on their own goals and hobbies, friends, and meeting new people. This is when dumpees feel healthy and like themselves again.
To learn more about breakups, check out Can't Stay There: Surviving a Breakup One Moment at a Time by Jennifer Klesman, LCSW or follow @JenOnPaper on Instagram or Facebook.