The 7 Stages of a Breakup and 7 Ways University Students Can Cope
“Everything happens for a reason.”
I feel like that’s what every single person tells you after you get out of a relationship. If there’s a universal piece of advice that could apply to anything, “everything happens for a reason” is it. When the breakup is fresh and you first hear that advice, it sounds like an absolute lie. You’d rather believe that everything shouldn’t have happened, that it was all a mistake. You’d like to believe that there was not a single reason behind it. But as you carry on with your life and try to move on, you start seeing more and more that maybe that little tidbit of advice held some truth after all.
I am certainly not an expert on breakups. I’ve only been through a couple of breakups (luckily), but between them and my friends’ breakups, there is definitely (and unfortunately) seven distinct stages you have to pass through.
Stage 1: All sadness. All the time.
The first few weeks are the hardest. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep. You wake up at 5 a.m. every morning without reason when everything comes rushing back and you remember what happened. You try your hardest to get your mind off of things but everything leads you back to them. Everything reminds you of them. You don’t think you’ll ever be happy again. You analyze every little part of your relationship trying to figure out exactly where things went wrong. You try to figure out what you could have done better, differently. You remember the talks about your future together and wonder where it all changed. You critique every part of your being. You make yourself believe you just weren’t good enough.
Stage 2: Just trying to be friends.
You start reaching out to them. You send them a text, asking how they’re doing. You convince yourself that being friends with them will work out. You just want them back in your life and if that means just being friends, you will accept that. You make all the efforts to be friends again. They don’t. You text them every day, forcing yourself to make lighthearted conversation. You make jokes, you ask about their life, you try to remain a part of it. It doesn’t work. Being friends just doesn’t work. You start to realize that. You drift away. You try to be okay with it. You will never be okay with it.
Stage 3: Anger. Hatred.
You start to shift the blame. You open up your eyes. You see everything more clearly. You realize that maybe all the cracks in your relationship weren’t just because of you. The anger comes and hits you full force. You try to get rid of everything that reminds you of them. You throw away every present they ever got you. You rip up photos of them. You rant about them to your friends. You try to pretend they were the worst partner ever. You block them on Twitter, delete their photos off your Instagram, unfriend them on Facebook. You don’t want to see their face ever again. You try to forget all the good memories and choose to just remember the bad ones.
Stage 4: Rebounding. Trying to replace them.
You start trying to look for other options. You’re desperate to replace them. But at first every person that comes along just reminds you of what you don’t have anymore. Nobody seems to compare. You feel so lonely; you just crave somebody’s attention. You start talking to others, hanging out with them. You try not to compare them to your ex. You try to just enjoy the company of someone new. But then you start having fun. You go to Frat parties. You hang out with your friends. You pick up your life from where it left off. You start to enjoy the single life.
Stage 5: Missing them like crazy.
You think you’ve finally moved on, but then one night, it just suddenly hits you. Every single memory comes rushing back. You feel like you’re right back at the beginning. All the progress you thought you made has suddenly disappeared. You’re so tempted to call them. You just want to hear their voice. You wish it was all just a bad dream and that everything was still okay. You would give anything at that moment to have everything go back to normal. You know it’s wrong, you know you should be focusing on moving on, but your heart just won’t let you.
Stage 6: Acceptance.
But slowly, over time, the sadness once again starts to slip away. The lack of their presence in your life has become a normality. You learn to live life without them. You pick up your old hobbies again. You remember what it’s like to be single and you don’t feel so lonely anymore. You unblock them on Twitter and re-friend them on Facebook. There is no effort made to be friends again, but you remain civil. Your heart doesn’t get in the way this time. You realize that the breakup was meant to be. It was a good thing to happen in your life. You don’t blame anyone, not even yourself. You stop hoping you will get back together. You allow yourself to be happy.
Stage 7: FINALLY moving on.
A good chunk of time has passed now. You used to think about them so much, but now days, weeks, even months go by without even a thought about them. You live your own life now. You have come out a better person. You have done what you thought was once impossible, you have moved on. And that’s when you’ve realized you’ve finally reached the end of the breakup stages and you’re okay. You might not be the same as you were before, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It might just be the best thing to have ever happened to you.
Okay, so these seven stages are all fine and dandy, but what if you’re really struggling with them? Is there anything you can do to help yourself? The good news is yes you can. The bad news is that it will still take some time. But just keep focusing on the end goal of being truly happy once again. And just focus on the good things in life, trust me, there are plenty. So to go along with the 7 stages of a breakup, we arrive at the second part of this segment: the 7 ways to cope with a breakup.
7 Ways to Cope With a Breakup During University
Immerse yourself in school.
I went through a breakup in the summer and it was honestly so hard to deal with. All I could think about was making summer pass by quicker so I could be back in school and have something to concentrate on other than my breaking heart. And once I was back in school, it really was a lifesaver. I threw myself into my studies and I let my grades define myself rather than my relationship status. If I was lonely on a Friday night, I would turn to my accounting homework instead of crying into my pillows. But that being said, don’t let school consume you. You still need other things in your life, which brings me to my next point.
Friends. Friends. Friends.
I have said this after every one of my breakups. I have the world’s best friends. I count my lucky stars each and every day that I have such an amazing support system. I get so teary-eyed when I think about all my friends and the things they do for me each and every day. Two of my friends made me a breakup care package. Another one made me a breakup playlist. But it’s not just that. It’s the simple acts of hanging out with me when I’m feeling lonely. Or sending me a text to see how I’m doing. Just showing me you care is what means the most.
Pay attention to yourself.
One of the hardest things was facing the fact that I didn’t have anyone to hang out on Friday nights for “date night”. My ex hardly hung out with me on Fridays before so I don’t really know why it was so different once I was single, but it was a hard thing to face. All my friends would be hanging out with their significant others on a Friday or Saturday night and I would be at home. But once I stopped looking at it as a bad thing, my entire life turned around. I now use the Friday nights when I’m not hanging out with friends as Mental Health nights. I have bubble baths. I blog. I play with makeup. I write stories. I clean my room. I read a book. I watch Netflix. There are so many things that can be fun on a Friday night that doesn’t involve a boyfriend. Staying in and snuggling in your comfy bed is never a bad thing.
Play those tunes!
I swear some music just has the power to heal a broken heart. There were times when I could not fall asleep at night because so many thoughts were racing through my head and I just felt like I couldn’t breathe at times. That’s when you need music the most. Music can always just calm me down and put both my heart and my brain to rest. If you don’t already have your go-to breakup songs, I’ll give you a bit of a head start. The End is a playlist for when you just want to cry and get the feelings out and The Beginning is a playlist for when you feel like moving on. You will alternate through them many a day, but they will get through the day and the night.
As much as I try to be an adult and do things on my own, I am a self-conscious twenty-one-year-old who thrives when I’m surrounded by people. And being in a relationship definitely didn’t help that. I found myself only going to parties if he would go with me. I would drag him along shopping with me. He would accompany me on all my errands. I told myself it was just because I liked his company. It wasn’t. I was too dependent on others. But now that I’m not in a relationship, I am slowly backing out of that shell. I go shopping by myself. I venture downtown and hang out at the library. I go to parties by myself. I hang out with friends I haven’t seen in ages. I’m slowly starting to live my own life again.
Enjoy university and campus life.
And so, when I wanted to go see a movie playing on campus and all of my friends were working or studying and couldn’t join me, that’s when I decided that I was independent enough to go watch a movie by myself. The Students’ Union puts on Free Movie Nights on Tuesdays and I noticed tons of people go alone so don’t feel weird about it! Plus who can say no to a free movie with popcorn? Not me.
Join a workout class.
After you get out of a relationship, more likely than not, your self-esteem is at an all-time low. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably blaming yourself and your appearance for why things didn’t work out (not saying this is actually the case at all, but you’re not always in the most rational frame of mind). But, instead of feeling bad about yourself, do something to change that. Start working out. It will make you feel good both physically and mentally. I highly recommend the workout classes on campus. The student rate is super affordable and I find them fun! I am currently taking one called “Sweat” and I actually look forward to them all week and for a non-athletic person, that’s really saying something.
So, there you have the 7 stages of a breakup and 7 ways on how to overcome them! Every relationship and breakup is different and everyone likes to deal with it in their own way. But my one piece of advice is that you will get through it. It might seem like you’ll never be happy again and that your whole life was tied up in this person that you might never talk to again, but day by day, things will get better. You will wake up every morning feeling (hopefully) better than the day before and you’ll slowly start to feel like yourself again. But, if you feel like that’s something you can’t do on your own, do not fear. There are wonderful people and support groups over at the Peer Support Centre and Counselling & Clinical Services. who are here for you. They are great to talk things out and help you cope with the challenges of getting through a breakup. Good luck.