Relationship Grief Stage 4: Depression - How to Deal With It

How to find a psychologist that's right for you

Relationship Grief Stage 4: Depression

What happens when you stop bargaining because you realise that all hope is lost and there’s no way you’re going to get back with your ex?

On the one hand, you’re forced to come to terms with your new reality, the one in which your significant other no longer exists. In essence, this realisation helps you move on even though emotionally, you’re still struggling to cope.

On the other hand, their absence will inevitably trigger feelings of loneliness and depression.

I want you to understand that depression is a normal part of the grieving process, a stage that will eventually lead to acceptance and post-traumatic growth.

“It’s over. I’m done with relationships.”

Losing hope of reconciliation is an essential step towards acceptance. But, unfortunately, one can’t just jump from hopelessness to acceptance in a heartbeat.

To get to the final stage of relationship grief – acceptance – you will first go through a phase of overwhelming emotional pain, helplessness, loneliness, and disorientation.

The ‘depression’ stage is when emotional suffering really sets in, and life doesn’t seem to make sense anymore.

You lack the energy to dedicate yourself to other aspects of life (work, school, hobbies, friends, family) and constantly wish they were there so that your life would be as it was before.

You cry a lot and uncontrollably because you’re haunted by feelings of despair, melancholy, and emptiness. This is one of the main reasons your productivity decreases significantly, your academic performance drops, and your social interactions are almost nonexistent.

And the worst part is that all these losses will accentuate your feelings of loneliness and helplessness, like a vicious circle in which depression fuels inactivity, which fuels depression, and so on.

The emotional turmoil that you experience during the ‘depression’ stage of relationship grief will also take a toll on your physical well-being. In other words, there’s a good chance you might be dealing with fatigue, insomnia, weight fluctuations, and muscle pains.

In terms of unhealthy behaviors, you may be tempted to drink, use drugs, overeat, shop compulsively, or veg out in front of the TV.

But most of the time, you’ll probably want to sleep and isolate yourself from people because even a friendly chat with a coworker might feel exhausting.

One relatively surprising feeling that you might experience during the ‘depression’’ stage is anger. You’re angry with yourself because you didn’t see the red flags earlier, anger towards your ex because they treated you like dirt, and even anger towards life for being so unfair and cruel.

Unlike the ‘anger’ stage, where this emotion was mainly geared towards finding someone to blame, the anger you experience during the ‘depression’ stage can have a surprisingly positive impact. In other words, it gives you the energy to move on.

Anger can indicate that you’re finally beginning to understand that your emotional needs have not been met in your past relationship and that you need to pay more attention next time you decide to invest emotionally.

Here’s how you can navigate the ‘depression’ stage:

1. Something is better than nothing

The biggest risk you might face during the ‘depression’ stage is the vicious circle we discussed earlier.

Depression and inactivity go hand in hand, shrinking your universe and damaging your self-confidence. The more you perpetuate this vicious circle, the bigger the chance of remaining stuck in the ‘depression’ stage.

But just because you don’t have the same drive and energy you had before doesn’t mean you should give up.

Don’t feel like going to the gym? At least take a walk.

Don’t feel like cleaning up the house? At least put the rubbish out.

Don’t feel like visiting your family? At least give them a call.

Remember that something is better than nothing. So stay active and engaged in activities that used to bring you joy, but don’t push yourself too hard.

2. Consult a professional

Although it may be just a temporary stage of relationship grief, depression can also turn into a chronic condition with a devastating impact on your overall health and well-being.

If the emotional pain and sense of loneliness last for more than 2-3 months without any change in frequency or intensity, perhaps you should consult a mental health professional who can help you find and reach ‘the light at the end of the tunnel.’

Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical or mental health advice. If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or needs assistance, please reach out to a mental health professional or helpline in your country or state.

About the editor, Amelia Cambrell

My name is Amelia and I'm a Senior Psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne. I have over 18-years of experience in the mental health space. I am very driven to get the best outcomes for my clients which can be long lasting by using a range of modalities such as CBT. There is nothing more satisfying than helping adolescents, adults and couples who are feeling confused, frustrated, stuck or overwhelmed, to find more clarity, confidence and happiness in their lives.

Find out more about Amelia Cambrell

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