Grief Following a Breakup

Grief isn’t only experienced after the death of a loved one—a breakup is also a kind of loss.

In their study, Reimer and Estrada (2021) looked at associations among relationship closeness and grief endorsement, along with the perceived stigmatization of grief after the end of an intimate partner relationship (p. 179). Studies inside the field of grief and bereavement advise that students recognize a breakup as one of the most noteworthy non-death-associated loss events that might occur during a year. Historically, Erikson’s (1950) culturally individualistic model of development recognized that, in early adulthood, individuals will tend to establish close relationships with friends and romantic partners. Experiencing a breakup during early adulthood may cause cognitive, emotional, and physical distress, which may comprise a manifestation of grief (Reimer, & Estrada, 2021).

Feelings of grief might arise following several death-related or non-death-related loss circumstances. Frequent, non-death-related losses, such as the end of an intimate partner relationship, are likely to be invalidated, minimized, and disregarded by others (Reimer, & Estrada, 2021, p. 180). The perception of how to appropriately mourn these different types of losses are guided by socially validated grieving behaviors. Social convention has some control over people’s expectations of grief; this comprises how long to grieve, how and when grief should manifest, and what losses are suitable to mourn. When grief and loss differ from sanctioned norms, mourners might experience social interactions that result in perceptions of stigmatization. When a person perceives their grief as forbidden, their grief symptoms amplify and last longer. Furthermore, persons can also isolate, fail to make use of resources, and believe that their grief is thought to be inappropriate. This can therefore impact the quality and availability of offered support.

Reimer and Estrada (2021) found several results. Concerning breakups, college students recognized negative physical and emotional responses that comprised feelings of anxiety and depression, suppression of the body’s immune system, and mental health concerns (Reimer, & Estrada, 2021). Regarding cognition, students experienced higher levels of intrusive and negative thinking that is significantly connected with breakup-related grief. The results indicated that grief partly predicts closeness within the past relationship and perceived stigmatization. Additionally, these findings suggest that the experience of grief following a breakup is affected by closeness and stigma (p. 179).

Losing a family member or a close friend could be challenging, but this may feel even worse when compounded with ending a relationship. If you need someone to talk to, consider booking your free consultation today. You can email me at

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Reimer, & Estrada, A. R. (2021). College students’ grief over a breakup. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 26(2), 179–191.