Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


The 9 Stages of Grieving a Breakup: No. 2 - Denial

Denial: You can’t tolerate the loss and so you don’t.

Yesterday I wrote the first in a series of posts describing the stages of grief that many people experience after an epic breakup. Today I will describe the experience of denial. And in the coming days, we’ll look at seven more stages that I will help you orient to where you are in the grieving process.

2. Denial

Nope. It's not possible. This did not happen. Your ex doesn't mean it. He or she couldn’t. Life without your ex is too unfathomable, so you don’t believe it. You just cant. You’ve put everything into your relationship. It’s been your world, your identity. Every last vestige of hope is invested in the viability and durability of your relationship. This must be a stage, it’s temporary, you think. No matter how remote the possibility, you continue to carry on as if you’re still in a viable relationship, because then it hasn’t ended. That’s you postponing your grief because you are not currently equipped to acknowledge that there is anything to grieve about. It’s your primal way of trying to keep yourself regulated. You can’t tolerate the loss and so you don’t.

Denial can be complicated to pinpoint, however. Because it can be too scary to face your epic breakup, you may deny its end without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. There’s a critical distinction to be made between overloading, short-circuiting, and just being completely unable to fathom the loss, and knowing you can’t fathom it so you intentionally protect yourself from the reality of breakup.

When you are deliberately denying, that’s no longer denial, that’s avoidance. Avoidance is different. Like shock, in denial you are overloaded. You are likely still in shock, post epic breakup. Since shock is a primal emotion that occurs in the face of a sophisticated loss, right now there may not be anything you can do, but sit with your feelings, and take comfort in knowing that when you’re ready, the path forward does exist.


To discuss the aftermath of breakup, please join me on Facebook or Twitter.

More from Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D.
More from Psychology Today