"Denial - not just a river in Egypt." Attributed to Mark Twain
Even if you don't know the stages of grief, I think everyone is familiar with denial. You shut down; go numb; basically, you just stop. There's no way this is happening; obviously, there's some sort of mistake.
Denial is a defense mechanism, meant to help us survive the loss. It shouldn't be confused with not caring. It's just our mind's way of protecting us from the intense pain we are feeling.
At first I thought I must have skipped the denial stage in this breakup. I mean - I never found myself just flat-out ignoring that it had happened. But I learned that denial isn't always an overt...well, denial....of the facts. It's also about shock and numbness - basically, your mind doesn't let you process the severity of your pain. It can be helpful to people who have to deal with a task (for example, making funeral arrangements for a loved one). When your mind is ready, denial lifts, and you're hit with the full force of the pain.
I didn't skip it. I went into denial mode as soon as Trooper said what he had to say. I used it to muster the strength to drive to a friends house a couple hours a way, and help her with a move. Once I layed down to sleep, the whole thing hit me - and that was the end of my denial.
But in those moments immediately following, my brain shut down and I was able to focus long enough to get to a friend who could help me - even if it was by needing my help.
Denial is healthy; as long as it doesn't last. It serves a purpose, and helps us do what we need to do to survive. But like with anything - and especially these stages - it should give way to the next.