Broken Heart

Relationships   ›   Broken Heart

Getting over a breakup is always difficult, but especially the first time. If your teen is heartbroken, it might be helpful for you to recognize the different stages of grief that they are going through and know how to help them through this difficult time.

Going through a breakup is never easy, and this is even more true for a teenager’s first heartbreak. Without any reference points, they can suffer a lot, and be unable to imagine ever getting over it.


Within heartbreak there are many different emotions: a real sense of pain, feelings of abandonment, fear, emptiness, hopelessness, a lack of concentration, energy, motivation, sleep, appetite, and fatigue. Although it is normal, it can be very concerning for parents.


Heartbreak: Grief in Many Stages

Heartbreak is a form of grieving. Losing someone you love means grieving for the things you loved together, for the projects and dreams you had with that person, for the status that the relationship gave you in your friend group, for the habits and routines you shared (i.e., talking on the phone every night, etc.)


Like with all grief, a teenager going through a breakup usually goes through various stages and emotions.



Refusing to believe that the relationship is truly over, or the inability to understand what’s happening to them or why. They may go into a state of shock and be confused in their head and their heart.



Once the shock has subsided, they will probably experience a lot of anger, accompanied by feelings of injustice and incomprehension. They may also feel as though they have been betrayed or abandoned. Anger is usually a good sign because it facilitates detachment from the person they loved.



This is the stage when a teen may feel regret and believe that they are at fault for the breakup. They may want to bargain by promising that they will change and idealize the person they loved and want them back.



They may be overcome with sadness and not want to go about their daily life. They realize that their relationship has truly ended, and the feeling of loss might make them cry a little, or a lot; in your presence, in private, or sometimes even silently.



They realize that they can manage, they still think about it but accept the break-up. They regain self-confidence and start to feel better. They begin to feel hopeful, and the future doesn’t seem so bleak.


Girls and boys may express their feelings very differently. It can also be a matter of temperament. Some teens will cry more readily to express their sadness while others tend to act on their sadness, for example, by going out drinking with their friends more often. This does not mean that they are suffering any less. On the contrary, these alternate behaviours can indicate that they have trouble managing the emotions they are experiencing.


How Long Will They Be Heartbroken?

The length and intensity of a broken heart varies from person to person, everyone goes through it at their own pace. People tend to think that a broken heart should be forgotten as quickly as possible, but it is important to take the time to heal, whether this is days, weeks, or even months for some. Keep in mind that the level of distress caused by a broken heart does not correlate to the amount of time that the relationship lasted. For example, a teen can experience a great deal of heartache even if the relationship only lasted a few days or weeks.


How to Help Your Heartbroken Teen

It can be painful for a parent to watch their teen suffer. To help you can:


  • show acceptance
  • listen without judgment
  • give them time the time they need (heartbreak that lasts a long time can be difficult for some parents to accept)
  • empathize with them, try to see the heartbreak through the eyes of a teenager instead of those of an adult
  • not minimize their pain
  • avoid using clichés (ex. “there are plenty of fish in the sea”).


Your teen might not want to talk about it. Maybe they need to be alone in their room for a while to process the pain. If you see that they are suffering too much and can't overcome their pain, steer them toward resources such as a trusted adult, yourself, a professional or school counsellor, or one of their close friends. Letting them know that you are there and encouraging them not to face their pain alone will open the door for them, and when they are ready, they will know that they have someone to turn to.