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9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup No. 3: Desperate for Answers

The need to know why it's over extends beyond anyone’s ability to explain it.

For nine days, I am exploring the 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup. Earlier in the week, I wrote about the first two stages, Shock and Denial. Today we are exploring the third stage of grieving a breakup, being desperate for answers. Here we go.

3. Desperate For Answers

Once you start to get your mind around the reality of the loss, the intensity of your need to understand how, when, and why it happened can become all-consuming. The need to know why can, and often does, come at the expense of rational and reasonable thoughts and behaviors. There are two conflicting drives occurring at the same time: the drive to understand why the breakup happened, and the drive to prove that there are better solutions than breaking up. Your urgency to understand your ex’s reasons is because you want to believe that by understanding them you can disprove them. The need to know why your ex ended the relationship extends well beyond anyone’s capacity to explain it to you, including your ex, because no reason is acceptable anyway. Instead, you’ll look for ways to poke holes in the validity of their conviction that it’s over. Given the opportunity, you’ll fixate on why their reasons are invalid and why the relationship deserves another chance. The tension you feel to get to the bottom of this and “finally” know the “real” reason feels unbearable. So much so, that it can drive you to engage friends, family, coworkers, and strangers in relentless debate about why the relationship shouldn’t end, as if convincing them is the same as convincing your ex.

The reality is you’re not yet ready to understand. There are aspects of shock and denial infused into this stage as well because you’re still doing everything you can to avoid the reality of your loss.


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