The songs you need to get you through every emotional stage of your breakup
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross claimed that there are five stages of grief, and she may have had a point. But what I’ve found is that inside each of her categories — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — lie subcategories that complicate the process. After all, we’re humans, and humanity rarely obeys convenient formulas.
That said, I’m here to offer a cure to the breakup blues, where the five stages of grief almost always play a part. No, this isn’t a lecture; I have no authority to give you advice on how to move on from a particularly significant other. Breakups are difficult. Whether it’s with your imaginary boyfriend (I was devastated when Joseph Gordon-Levitt got hitched) or someone who’s factored into your life for months to years, the sense of loss at the end of a romantic relationship is especially unbearable because the departure was voluntary on at least one end. It’s hard to admit that one of you gave up on the other, and harder to know that each of you is walking down the street, searching for new horizons.
And so, instead of a preachy speech on how to overcome your completely justified feelings about the rupture, I’m here to offer something much better: the soothing catharsis of music. Here are the songs that may just get you through every emotional stage of your breakup. Click on the title of each song to listen, rinse and repeat..
The Stage: Realizing it’s time to move on
The Song: Lucy Rose, Shiver
The Lyric: “We stole every moment we had to make the other one feel bad”
I first heard “Shiver” on “Girls,” and I started to cry. Not because it was sad or I was upset, but because in that moment, I realized how unhealthy my current relationship was. A light bulb switched on: maybe we weren’t meant to be even if we did care about one another. If you hear Lucy Rose’s lyrics and they resonate, it might be time to have that talk. You know, the one we all dread, especially when we conclude that it’s necessary.
The Stage: Having the actual breakup talk
The Song: Joy Williams, If You Wanna Go
The Lyric: “Being polite is getting us nowhere now”
If you’ve decided to pursue the conversation — the one where you cut the ball and chain — Joy Williams may be able to help you muster the courage to find your words.
The Stage: Emotional shock
The Song: White Widow, Promises
The Lyric: “‘Cause to be enough, I’d rather not, baby”
Once you’ve had the talk, you may feel this odd mix of freedom and pain. You know you’ll miss your partner, but there’s something bittersweet to liberty, isn’t there? And love is overrated, anyway.
The Stage: Regret
The Song: The Velvet Underground, Stephanie Says
The Lyric: “It’s so cold in Alaska”
But then you grow nostalgic, and you need a good, nostalgic song. Don’t worry, the Velvet Underground has your back. Maybe they’ll even help you understand why you’ve given half your life to people you hate now.
The Stage: Rage
The Song: Fall Our Boy, Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down
The Lyric: “Am I more than you bargained for yet?”
Speaking of hatred, here comes the resentment. It’s fast and fierce, and you need musical accompaniment for solid head banging and maybe some quality stomping. As an alternative or addition, Fall Out Boy’s “Thnks fr th Mmrs” is also a nice way to air out your anger.
Still mad? I thought so. Maybe you checked social media and saw that the ex was seeing someone else. It felt too soon, even though you were doing the same. Damien Rice knows your struggles. He’s here for you.
Yes, they’re really seeing someone else. Really, really. That person is probably going over to their apartment, where you used to hang out. I’m sure they’re eating at your favorite restaurants together. Time to suck it up and be thankful that someone’s willing to be there for your former partner. We all need people, and if your ex has found someone they click with, that’s really positive and should be celebrated. I know, easier said than done.
The Stage: Reflection
The Song: Fun, Why Am I the One
The Lyric: “Why am I the one always packin’ up my stuff?”
STILL MAD? Time to slow down and get reflective with fun.
The Stage: Sadness
The Song: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maps
The Lyric: “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you”
And now you’re sad. I understand. You’re entering a new epoch, and that can be scary. A significant other is often more than just a person. They become the bookends of an entire time period in your life. It’s terrifying to think of not knowing them in the future, but you have to. That’s how breakups work, because the ex/friend is almost always a myth.
The Stage: Regret Part 2: Late-night pangs of longing
The Song: Matchbox 20, 3 AM
The Lyric: “Baby, it’s three a.m., I must be lonely”
The nights are the worst, because that’s when you miss a goodnight text, or cuddling until morning, or that four a.m. chat that means everything and nothing. You’ll survive without it, I promise. Listen to Matchbox Twenty and drift off instead.
The Stage: Acceptance. Make that relief, because the fever has broken
The Song Sia, Elastic Heart
The Lyric: “I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart”
You’re finally recovering, and it’s really, really exciting. You’re strong. You’re beautiful. You’re smart. And you’ve had the epiphany that your relationship wasn’t a waste because you learned so much. You even learned that you’re unbreakable, and that’s invaluable information.
The Stage: Elation
The Song: Beyoncé, Flawless
The Lyric: “I woke up like this”
That’s right, you are AWESOME. You weathered the storm, and you’re better for it. So strut it out and enjoy doing you for a while. It’s a gorgeous thing, not worrying about someone else’s schedule or needs. Sometimes, it’s really important to concentrate on yourself, and it makes for much more fun and energetic playlists.
Did this breakup cleanse work for you? Yes? No? If not, try it again, because anything is an improvement from sending that “I miss you” text. Believe me, you’ll regret it tomorrow.