No end comes without a cost. And when we talk about relationships, the cost is emotional.

A breakup is sad and painful, even if it was a decision you made calmly and consciously, after weighing everything in yourself. Two lives that joined and now take separate paths create a bewilderment, a path to the unknown. It takes time to get back on your feet.

“But how much?”, you might ask. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone needs a different amount of time to process their emotions and heal their wounds so they can move forward.

However short or long that period of time may be, it will be characterized by one whirlwind of emotions, where sadness will alternate with anger. “Mourning a separation is a unique kind of grief, because it is characterized by the following paradox: It is a temporary end. It looks like the end, but it won’t last forever. One day you will love again, you’ll create a new relationship and it’s game over,” therapist Gina Moffa tells Well and Good.

This transitional period, however, also hides one trap: “People tend to overanalyze everything. They go back with the mind and recall the good of the relationship,” says Moffa. Thoughts like “What if I didn’t leave?” “What if we were still together?” And that’s where they tend to blame themselves for the end of the relationship. Of course, everyone has a share of a breakup, but by taking on all the burden, you will only succeed in making managing your emotions even more difficult.

As unique as people are, so is every breakup. There are, however, some common stages that most people go through after a relationship ends. They are like rushing waves in a stormy sea that you must swim. Experts promise, however, that at the end of this route, a calm and safe land awaits you.

The 5 emotional stages of breakup

1. Rumination

According to Moffa, the first stage of a breakup is characterized by a constant struggle to understand what happened. You go over and over again in your mind the events, the words, the feelings. “Before doing anything else, people tend to spend a lot of time going through all the details, from start to finish,” he explains, adding that the reason for this is their need to assign responsibilities. Perhaps surprisingly, at this stage of the breakup, the good times tend to prevail, a phenomenon Moffa calls “positive recall.” It is good to recognize what this relationship offered you, but without forgetting all the reasons that led you to the breakup. Remember, you got there for a reason.

2. Anger

Most breakups have something of tension, betrayal, cruelty. Fate, then, in the beginning there is anger. Tension is the way to vent grievances, the repressed, to assign responsibilities. It is a first reaction to what is happening.

3. Sorrow

As soon as the first rain passes, you begin to realize what has happened. Then, there is no more room for anger. You are overwhelmed by sadness: For what you lived and no longer exist, for what you lost, for the fact that you will have to learn to live differently. Unwittingly, you will create a cocktail of sadness and pessimism. Will you ever feel this way again? Will you be able to make a new relationship or did you condemn yourself to loneliness with this breakup? “Sometimes, our self-esteem is shattered during this phase and we question our worth,” says Moffa. In this phase, you may feel the need to isolate yourself for a while, to heal and think clearly. Give yourself what you need.

4. Endoscopy

And then comes the introspection. After the blur created by anger and sadness, suddenly the landscape dissolves and you see everything more clearly. “This is where people look their choices in the face and start to look at them from a new perspective and question them,” says Moffa. Now you will be able to realize your own mistakes. Maybe you did some wrong manipulations. Maybe some bad choices. Did you allow yourself to be wronged? Have you let your boundaries be violated? And what should you do to change that? It is the time of decisions and change. “This cycle of self-reflection gradually guides you toward completing the transition phase of separation,” reassures Moffa.

5. Acceptance

As Moffa says, “acceptance is a state of mind in which you no longer resist what has happened.” This does not mean that you no longer feel pain, sadness or anger, but that you have come to terms with reality and can now move forward, actively continue your life, making a new beginning with new data.

This stage will look and feel differently for everyone. Maybe you feel like you want to change house or place of residence, so that you don’t wander around in places that remind you of your old life. You may even want to meet a new person. There is no specific way to embrace this phase, as long as whatever you choose makes you feel good.

In each case, it is important to embrace your feelings and needs and give yourself as much time and space as you need to regroup. Be patient and kind to yourself, and remember that all these phases are part of a very natural journey, at the end of which “you’ll feel better about yourself and be able to build relationships with solid foundations,” concludes Moffa.