Your Painful Breakup: 9 Things You Might Be Feeling

painful breakup

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

When my son was little, he cut his knee, and we ended up at the emergency room where he got a few stitches. His wound was raw at first, and needed to be kept clean and dry. It was red and puffy and swollen, and as he described it, “thumping.” For some reason, this is the comparison that comes to mind when I think about a painful breakup.

When a painful breakup is very recent,  it’s fresh. It just happened. It’s raw. It’s trauma. It’s sensitive. Bleeding. Hurting. The “thumping,” a constant reminder that it’s there. And, it’s not even close to being healed.


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I’ve been through many painful breakups in my life: my divorce ,the end of a 6 year relationship, and several short-term relationships. I can say firsthand what a person might be feeling when they go through a breakup, based on my own personal experience.

Here are some of those raw emotions that most people feel at the beginning of a painful breakup.


In any long term relationship or marriage, I don’t believe a breakup happens suddenly. Maybe it does for some people who feel they were “blindsided,” in other words, their spouse came home one day and said “I met someone else, I’m leaving.”But, even those people, in hindsight, realize that things weren’t great, something was off, something wasn’t working for them, either.

But most times, breakups happen when the couple has known for a while that the end could be coming. That said, there is a certain feeling of shock, disbelief, of waking up every morning realizing that this isn’t a dream. Walking around feeling like you’re forgetting something, like you left the house without something you need. Something feels like it’s missing. It doesn’t feel normal. What’s missing is your soon to be ex’s heart. You realize you don’t have it anymore, and that is gut-wrenching.


You run into people and they ask, “What’s new?” and tears spring to your eyes. It is very hard to get through a conversation, hearing your own voice say the words, “We broke up.” Crying on a daily basis becomes the norm.


There are moments it feels hard to breathe, and the only thing you want to do is call him or her, beg them to come over and hug you, and never let you go. It feels frighteningly desperate, almost panicky. But in your gut, you know if you did that, you’d end up back in the same place.


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If someone asks, “Why did you guys break up?” You might not really be able to answer. It’s complicated. It’s a long story. It’s a number of reasons, but there is no clarity yet. You might not be sure of what the dealbreaker really was.


I truly believe that in every relationship, people look back and recognize certain things that happened that cause resentment.  Things were building for a long time, and now, both people are pissed. Angry that the person took years of their life, wasted their time. All that pent up resentment is now at the surface and you start to despise the person almost.



Also, I remember when I broke up with my boyfriend several years ago, we would talk and he would tell me how wonderful everything is, how he has changed, etc. etc. I wanted to scream at him, “Why couldn’t you change for me????!!!” It was infuriating for me to think that the next girl would most likely reap the benefits of things he learned and mistakes he made in our relationship. And then you think the worst: maybe he couldn’t change for me because he didn’t love me. That feels like rock bottom.


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Being apart from someone forces/allows them to take an honest look into the relationship and acknowledge the things that weren’t working as they were. It is impossible to do that while you are still together, desperately trying to fix things because it’s easier to do that.


Tiffany Hughes Law




There is nothing scarier than thinking about being a single mom, living alone with your kids, being the head of your household ALONE, managing money, making money!!! And the worst, having to date again. It’s not easy.


Newly broken up people aren’t themselves. So, even if you are really secure and confident person, during your painful breakup, you might not be. Just recognize it, so you don’t lose confidence in yourself long-term.


I think that when two people breakup, they have most likely been so miserable together for so long, that they feel a very small piece of hope and even excitement about the future. Maybe you think “I shouldn’t feel happy right now or be thinking about my future husband–the guy I haven’t met yet,” but I disagree. I think it is wonderful and very normal to feel a glimpse of what might be.


Karen Covy - Live the life you truly want to live.


When I was first separated, a dear friend said to me, “I know this is hard and being alone feels scary, but if you stay, you know what you are going to get: more of the same. At least for the future, you have a chance to find someone who is such a better fit.” I never forgot that, and my friend turned out to be right.

Advice for your Painful Breakup

The raw feelings of a painful breakup are extremely complicated. Everyone’s situation and reactions are different, and people feel some or all of these 9 things, some at the same time, and at different times.

Remembering the heart stopping moments, the smiles, the passion, even the smell of his skin is heartbreakingly sad. But, it’s comforting at the same time. It’s funny how the mind tends to temporarily forget all the disappointments, arguments, and impasses that led to the breakup.


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My breakup advice is, let yourself feel all of these feelings. Live day to day, trying to grab every ounce of enjoyment out of every day that you can. That might mean anything having to do with your children, your family, your friends, your work, your hobbies, and anything else or anyone else that brings you enjoyment and happiness.


If the breakup was your decision:

Have faith in yourself, that you made the right decision, and through loneliness and fear of being alone and other things, you are staying the course because you know things will eventually get better.

If the breakup was not your decision:

Have faith that everything happens for a reason.  You might want to slap me for saying that, but it’s true. In time, you will come to understand and accept that you were broken up with, and that your new life is just fine, better than fine, actually.

I do want to add one important thing. If you feel very depressed, like you might hurt yourself or you are in any kind of danger, PLEASE go to your nearest emergency room. There is will get the help you need and deserve. No breakup is worth hurting yourself.

Painful breakups are part of life. And, no breakups are good. But love is good. And I believe that a breakup leads to love: love of self, love of life, and love of a person who will make you truly happy.

Like this article? Check out, “9 Signs of a Healthy Romantic Relationship”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    8 Responses to “Your Painful Breakup: 9 Things You Might Be Feeling”

    1. Donna

      So sorry that you are hurting. I, and probably most of your readers, found hope in the fact that you found love again. I’m certain that it will happen again for you. Take comfort in knowing that people are pulling for you!

    2. Wes

      It must be tough for you right now 🙁
      I found your website shortly after my ex and I split up to find ways to cope. I have found what you write useful and insightful.
      I hope you find solace in the current events of your life, because you have helped many find theirs.

    3. sara

      I am so glad you shared such an honest look at divorce! Thanks you for being so brave! I wanted to say that I’ve recently come across a system that really helps to manage, track, and pay child support, and it’s made a big difference in my life and some of my friends’ lives as well. I think it would be great for local child support offices to start offering SupportPay to their constituents. People need better organization tools for Child Support, and SupportPay does a great job of this. Might help some of your readers.

    4. Jeff

      Wow! An absolutely great article. You are an excellent writer and are really in touch to how people feel and the “mixed emotions” we all likely have with that journey- called Divorce and being broken hearted.

    5. Kelli

      Advice for your Painful Breakup
      😳”he raw feelings of a painful breakup are extremely complicated. Everyone’s situation …”the “T” is missing in the article. Other than that it’s spot on.

    6. Dor

      Love the “live day by day”
      After my 28 yr marriage ended, I now spend time at gym, tennis, reading, crossword puzzles and writing in my “grateful” journal everyday
      Spending time with my grown kids is what’s important to me
      Thank you so much for your advice

    7. J

      You nailed it. It’s like you know everything that happened with my situation that I could not articulate well enough. It’s all trapped inside me but you expressed it out for me. It’s been 5 years since he left and divorced me, and I’m still finding it difficult to feel whole. I’m like a woman with a smile outwardly but a heart that’s not truly smiling. Then you face people outside who may sometimes be kind and worse, sometimes not very nice people, then I find myself crying and feel hurt. It’s like taking two steps and then fall back one step. I have not met someone yet.


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