The one thought I can’t shake is probably the most common one: I gave you everything, and you weren’t worth it. Whether you’ve recently lost a friendship, a situationship, a relationship or something that evades categorization, it tends to leave a void in you. Even if the end of your time together was ultimately for the best, it doesn’t stop you from experiencing the pain that comes with something that meant a lot to you coming to an end. You might not leave your room for a few days; you might down a pint of ice cream under some fairy lights; you might smash in some tail lights (I won’t tell); you might frost a cake to read “Goodbye Asshole;” you might seek refuge in music. You might do all of these things and more, which ultimately creates a rather busy post-breakup schedule. You might not have the time or energy to build your own breakup playlist from the ground up, so here I present you with my very own tried and tested Breakup Soundtrack to guide you from heartbroken and decimated to living your best life without them.
“Two Ghosts” by Harry Styles
You might be broken up right now, or you’re just now realizing that it’s time to break up. This melancholy Harry Styles song chronicles the moment of realization: the two of you might have had something special, but your relationship is only a shadow of its former glory now. You’ve changed, and that’s okay, but soon, you’ll realize it’s time to stop resuscitating the relationship and call it.
“i love you” by Billie Eilish
This might best be described as the bargaining stage: You still love them whether you want to or not, and you’re racking your brain for some way to stop it all from crumbling in your hands. When you realize that it’s far too late for that, you almost wish you had never met at all. At least then you wouldn’t feel the crushing pain you’re in right now. Nobody puts these feelings into words better (and with a silkier voice) than Billie Eilish.
“enough for you” by Olivia Rodrigo
Alongside pop princess Olivia Rodrigo, you’re lamenting all the care you put into the relationship when they weren’t willing to do the same for you. You don’t want to hear them say they’re sorry; that won’t fix anything now. You just want to be the person you were before they hurt you. This song does harbor the beginnings of hope for the future, as Rodrigo sings in the bridge, “Feel sorry for yourself / ’Cause someday I’ll be everything to somebody else.” You’re still grieving, but you know that one day, however far off it might be, somebody will love you the way you deserve to be loved.
“Die From A Broken Heart” by Maddie & Tae
The wound is still extremely fresh. This Maddie & Tae record ponders whether getting over it is even possible (spoiler alert: it is, and you will). Still reeling from the breakup and wondering how you’ll manage to survive a decision that destabilized your world while seemingly leaving theirs unchanged, this is a time to feel your feelings and accept that they’re valid. Just remember you won’t be down for the count.
“t-shirt” by Garrett Nash
You’ve progressed to full-on anger, but you can admit that the reason you’re so furious is because they meant so much to you. You’re hating them, hoping that they’re hurting like you do. You wonder what you should do with their stuff, everything they gave you and all reminders of them. Bury it? Give it away? Shove it in the back of your closet? Burn it? There’s no wrong answer. Do whatever feels right as you scream at the top of your lungs along with Garrett Nash (inventor of the breakup banger) “YOU BROKE MY HEART, AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS T-SHIRT!” The melody is so much fun you might even catch yourself smiling.
“good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo
Fun story: While listening to this in my phase of fury, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to hear this song live?” Then of course, I found out it’s $500+ a ticket, so I didn’t. But I digress. You’re observing them from the outside, and they seem completely fine. How dare they?! How can they be fine, even thriving, when you’re in shambles? Seems unfair. This is the perfect “fuck you” anthem for when you need it most. Prayers for the person who shares a bedroom wall with you during this phase of the breakup.
“Save Myself” by Ed Sheeran
Anger has briefly given way to her true cause: sorrow. You can’t help but think of how you give and give, only to never get it back. However, this is distinct from the pity phase in that you know it’s time to put yourself first. In this song, Sheeran reminds us to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others.
“Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
This song exemplifies my personal favorite stage: relief. I type these words as I eat a food they hated, reveling in how much happier I am without them. You haven’t yet shed all your anger and sorrow, but you’re finally free of them and all the better for it. Here’s to you.
“Better Than You Left Me” by Mickey Guyton
You can still remember the pain of being left behind, but you’ve grown dramatically from the person you were then. You might still think about them, even with a hint of sorrow, but you wouldn’t take them back now if they begged. This Mickey Guyton track celebrates you and the person you’ve become.
“you broke me first” by Tate McRae
This Tate McRae single represents an evolution in the breakup: You’ve gone from grieving this person, unable to look at pictures of you together, to feeling nothing when you see their name. While you can still remember the havoc the breakup wrought on your life, before you might have given everything for one last conversation, but now you have nothing to say. You are healing, and I couldn’t be prouder.
“Sue Me” by Sabrina Carpenter
I know that putting Sabrina and Olivia in the same playlist is #controversial, but you’ll have to forgive me because they both belong. Sabrina puts this post-breakup feeling to music better than anyone else could: you’re more confident than you’ve ever been, chatting up their friends like it’s nothing and going to places that might have caused you to burst into tears months earlier with incredible ease. At this point, you’re thriving, and they should damn well know it. You’re going to live your best life, no matter what they might have to say about it.
If they don’t like what you’ve become, they can sit and deal with it.
“I’m Not Mad” by Halsey
At this point, you and Halsey are both so over it that you can finally see them for what they are: someone who hurt you and for whom you wish the best. You don’t hope that they feel the pain of a thousand suns anymore, but while you’re no longer mad, you can’t help but hope that they regret letting you go until their dying breath.
“my future” by Billie Eilish
You’re not pining after anyone; now, you’re getting to know yourself. Billie is courageous in a million ways, but in “my future,” I have to applaud her for the daring (and true) assertion that cultivating a strong relationship with yourself is just as meaningful (if not more) than doing the same with Some Guy. The most important thing is that you make yourself happy, and you’re finally doing that.
“I Forgot That You Existed” by Taylor Swift
The day you once thought would never come is finally here. You used to think about them all the time, wonder how you’d ever survive, but now the noise in your head has gone suspiciously quiet. You did it. You forgot that they even existed. It’s hard to say you’ve truly gotten over it, but if you’ve arrived here, I’d say you certainly have. If the queen of the breakup song herself, Taylor Swift, can get here, so can you.
“Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift
You’re on a first date again. Taylor’s smooth vocals play. The person sitting in front of you seems like they couldn’t be more different than the one that you left behind. Once and for all, the pain is in the rearview mirror.
You might not travel through this playlist in an entirely linear fashion. You might skip the pity party era or stay in your angry phase for a bit longer than is ideal. You might speed through sorrow and anger to arrive at relief, just for sorrow to hit you out of nowhere in the middle of a sunny day. You might feel all of these things at once. You’ll heal at your own pace in whatever way you see fit. Truth be told, I have not yet arrived at my “I Forgot That You Existed” era, much less my “Begin Again” era. But I will, and so will you.
TV Beat Editor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.