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27 Best Songs to Get Through the Heartbreak of a Breakup

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Music is my life. It's the thing that I am most passionate about.

Songs about heartache and breakups

Songs about heartache and breakups

We have all been through a terrible heartache in our lives. Maybe a relationship ended, someone used you and threw you away, or you were secretly in love with someone and unable to tell them how you really felt. Heartbreak happens to everyone.

Music has always been something that has helped me through difficut times so I have compiled my favorite breakup songs and organized them according to the five stages of grief. I tried to pick songs that were diverse and weren't on every single "greatest breakup songs of all time" lists.

Songs for a Newly Broken Heart

When a relationship first ends, there are those moments where you think "This can't really be happening". We imagine that it's all just a nightmare and in the morning we will wake to find our significant other still in our lives and we are happy together. These are the songs that I thought best captured that emotion.

1. No Doubt, "Don't Speak"

This one is a timeless breakup classic. No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom was one of the first CDs I ever received and I remember listening to this song over and over (even though I was only nine years old and didn't understand what having my heart broken felt like).

I think that it fits best under the denial category because lead singer Gwen Stefani doesn't want to hear what her boyfriend is about to tell her. She won't hear that it's over because she doesn't think it is or doesn't want to believe so.

2. Sinead O' Connor, "Nothing Compares 2 U"

This is another classic song that has gotten me through some tough times. Even though it is another popular breakup song, I just couldn't keep it off my list.

While we are in denial during a breakup, there is that part of us that honestly believes we will never fall in love again. No one else could possibly measure up to our ex. This song is dedicated to those moments.

3. Taylor Swift, "Haunted"

Taylor Swift has become the queen of breakup songs for this generation. For that reason, this won't be her first appearance on this list. This beautiful gem of a song is one of my favorites. It also falls into numerous categories (like anger, bargaining) but the lines "I just know, you're not gone. You can't be gone" really stuck out so it is in the denial area.

Reality Sets In: Songs for Anger

Once it has sunk in that the relationship is over, it's time to get angry. It's time to think, "After all I've done for that person?" or "What a jerk!" (Alright, you can insert other words into that statement besides jerk. I was just trying not to let my sailor mouth show). These are songs that you can blare and scream the lyrics along with to get all your aggression out.

4. Mumford and Sons, "I Gave You All"

This is probably my personal favorite on this entire list because it helped me get through a terrible time in my life. At about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the song, the music kicks in and lead singer Marcus Mumford just starts yelling the lyrics:

"But I gave you all! I gave you all! I gave you all! And you rip it from my hands and you swear it's all gone! And you rip out all I had just to say that you've won! Well now you've won! And I gave you all..."

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It is absolutely beautiful and from personal experience, it's a great way to relieve some of your frustration and tears. Yell along with him.

Citation: Mumford, Marcus. "I Gave You All." Sigh No More. Gentlemen Of The Road / Island Records, 2009.

5. Alanis Morissette, "You Oughta Know"

This was another song that frequents other top breakup song lists. That's because it is a perfect breakup song and that's why it has stayed on my list as well. In the '90s, women made a name for themselves in music and they weren't dainty about it.

Female musicians such as Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, and many more weren't afraid to stand up and sing about what they really thought of men. Many bands with female lead singers also came out such as The Cranberries, No Doubt and Hole. "You Oughta Know" was one of the most aggressive songs to come out of this era and it defines what an angry song should be.

6. Avril Lavigne, "My Happy Ending"

We always find ourselves thinking about the future, especially in relationships. Is this the person I'm supposed to marry? Have children with? Are we going to grow old together? When our significant other can't live up to these questions and the relationship ends, we are left with "so much for my happy ending".

7. Three Days Grace, "I Hate Everything About You"

I don't even think this song really needs an introduction. The lyrics speak for themselves. "I hate everything about you. Why do I love you?"

8. Bright Eyes, "A Perfect Sonnet"

This is the perfect song for hating love. When you're at the moment when not only are you angry at your ex, but you are angry at love and the world in general, listen to this song. The singer continues to curse lovers throughout the song as he speaks of his past failure in a relationships. There is so much passion in his voice when Conor Oberst sings. It is almost like you can feel his heart breaking along with yours. A sample line:

"I believe that lovers should be chained together
And thrown into a fire with their songs and letters
And left there to burn
Left there to burn in their arrogance"

Citation: Oberst, Connor. "A Perfect Sonnet." Every Day and Every Night. Saddle Creek Records, 1999.

Songs for Feeling Low After the Breakup

After all the hatred has left, we slowly fall towards depression. We ask and pray that the relationship isn't over. We may even ask our ex to take us back. Try to stay strong during this time. Hopefully these songs can help ease the begging stage.

9. Toni Braxton, "Un-Break My Heart"

This is another great '90s song. Throughout it, Toni Braxton is begging her ex to come back into her life and, you guessed it, un-break her heart. We both know you're stronger than Toni Braxton, so please don't let yourself end up sounding like this:

"Don't leave me in all this pain. Don't leave me out in the rain. Come back and bring back my smile. Come and take these tears away." Or like this: "Without you I just can't go on."

You can go on without your ex.

Citation" Braxton, Toni. "Unbreak My Heart." Secrets. Arista Records, 1996.

10. Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me"

If there were an anthem for a break up, it would probably be this song. Two of my favorite artists (Bon Iver and Adele) have even covered this song. This song describes a person being in love with someone who doesn't love them back. This is a reminder that bargaining won't help because you can't make someone love you.

11. Third Eye Blind, "How's It Going to Be"

My friend Steve and I were going through a rough time after we went through separate breakups. This was the song we would listen to on full blast at 3 a.m. when we were drinking away our sorrows and wondering what was going to happen in the future. We both knew that our relationships were bad but it was hard to let go of them. This song perfectly captures a time when I started to move on.

12. City and Colour, "Casey's Song"

"Casey's Song" is one of the simplest songs on the list with only 15 words in the entire song repeated twice but it is composed and sung in a powerful way.

"With you on my mind and my heart held in your hands screaming break me." That's it. The reason it is under bargaining is because the singer's heart is asking to be broken. In fact, it is screaming break me. He would rather be with this person and heartbroken, than be without them. Beautiful song.

Citation: Green, Dallas. "Casey's Song." Sometimes. 2005

13. Jeff Buckley, "Lover, You Should've Come Over"

I have a confession. I cannot stop adding songs to this list. I've really tried but this song needs to be included. The lyrics perfectly paint a picture of every emotion the singer is going through. It's a picture we've all seen and dealt with. I highly recommend reading the lyrics if you listen to this song.

13. Snow Patrol, "Make This Go On Forever"

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. It's absolutely beautiful. The whole song is the singer begging the person he loves to stay with him even though he messed up. He starts out saying,

"Please don't let this turn into something it's not
I can only give you everything I've got
I can't be as sorry as you think I should
But I still love you more than anyone else could"

The song ends with him singing "Please just save me from this darkness" which is a perfect transition into the next stage of grief.

Songs for Post-Breakup Depression

This is the stage that normally takes the longest to get through. For that reason, I've added the most songs. These are songs that have helped me numerous times for different reasons. They help you realize that many other people have gone through what you have gone through so you aren't as alone as you may feel.

14. Elliott Smith, "The Last Hour"

Pretty much any Elliott Smith song is depressing enough to get through this stage. Whenever I am feeling blue, I always turn to Elliott Smith to help me. I still remember the first time I heard this song and it spoke directly to my soul.

"I've been thinking of the things that I missed. Situations that I passed up for this, one way love I took for ours. I'm through trying now it's a big relief."

This song alone is enough to rebreak your heart.

15. The Black Keys, "The Lengths"

From the moment that Dan Auerbach's guitar starts wailing 13 seconds into the song, I knew that this song was going to completely understand every emotion I was going through. I wasn't disappointed. Lines like "I felt you leaving before you'd even gone" or "Hold me now, never ever hold me again" really hit home after a breakup. My personal favorite is "Tell me what you were thinking, to treat somebody so." That line really defined something that had happened to me.

16. Jewel, "Foolish Games"

As stated above, Jewel was another musician part of the angsty women's movement in the '90s. At that time, she came out with this gem of a song (pun not intended). For the ladies reading, I think we have all met that guy that Jewel is describing throughout the song and he probably broke your heart too. For all the guys reading, well, you've probably been that guy to a girl once in your life.

17. Rascal Flatts, "What Hurts the Most"

If you need a good cry, watch this video. It still get me every time. Maybe I'm just a wuss. While the video portrays a boyfriend's death, the lyrics are generic enough that it can definitely be about a break up too.

"It's hard to deal with the pain of losing you everywhere I go but I'm doing it. It's hard to force a smile when I see our old friends and I'm alone".

18. Evanescence, "My Immortal"

In 2004, you could not go anywhere without hearing this song. Therefore, you probably associate this song with someone. For me, my friend Katie loved this song and she was murdered that year. For most people, they think of that certain relationship that fell apart. This is an extremely depressing song but it really helps to get the sadness out. I also highly recommend their song "Lithium".

19. Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone"

This is another iconic song from the '70s that many people know but surprisingly weren't on many of the best breakup songs lists that I looked at. It's a timeless classic and perfect for any heart ache moments. You can really feel how much he means every word that he sings.

20. Citzen Cope, "Sideways"

Alright, this is the last one for depression. I promise. I'm cutting myself off. This song is absolutely beautiful. Enough said.

Recognizing That It's Over

There are many different directions that acceptance can go. First, your ex might try to get you back. You can either forgive that person or tell them to go to hell. If you take them back, that is alright. I've seen a few relationships take a break, get back together, and work out. Good luck!

If you get to the point of telling your ex off, then you have reached complete acceptance that the relationship is over and you are better off without that person in your life. These empowering songs should help.

21. Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River"

I'm not a big JT fan, but this song is great for telling that certain person off. "You told me you loved me. Why did you leave me all alone? Your bridges were burned and now it's your turn to cry me a river".

There it is. If they say they miss you, answer cry me a river. If they say they still love you, cry me a river. It's a great response because you've moved on.

Citation: Timberlake, Justin. "Cry Me A River." Justified. Jive, 2002.

22. One Republic ft. Timbaland, "Apologize"

If your ex tries to pull the "But I'm so sorry that I (insert cheated on, hit, broke up with, etc) you! It'll never happen again!"

It's too late to apologize. That person had their chance and they blew it. Normally when an ex begs for forgiveness, we have a slight hesitation. Maybe they are sincere this time? Crank this song and all doubts will be erased.

23. Taylor Swift, "You're Not Sorry"

Here's Taylor again. This is another personal favorite of mine that I have listened to on repeat. When the last guy was messing with my head, I would keep forgiving him. I would listen to this song and think "Why can't I be this strong?" Then one day, I woke up and realized that he was never truly sorry. I wouldn't answer his calls and texts anymore. I was at this level where I didn't care or want him anymore and it felt great!

I thought about posting some of the lyrics from this song, but all the lyrics are perfect for describing this stage.

24. Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

This song took over the world summer 2012, to the point where most people became sick of it. I honestly never did.

There are many different interpretations of this song and mine fits under the acceptance category for Kimbra's part in the song. The way that I always understood this song is that the male character could never commit to the relationship because he was one of those people who could never love. The relationship ends and through his words, we all see that he truly loved her and misses her, but it's too late. She has moved on. When Kimbra sings her part, she thinks of all the bad times between them. When she says, "You said that you could let it go and I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know" SHE is somebody that he used to know. He is hung up on her but she has moved on.

Citation: De Backer, Wouter. "Somebody That I Used to Know." Making Mirrors. 2011

Another part of acceptance is that your ex might not try to get you back. This is fine also and can make it easier when you don't have to say no to them. (But come on, we all secretly hope to hear our exes beg for our forgiveness). These songs are for generally accepting that it's over.

25. Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain"

Come on. We all knew Adele was going to show up on this list somewhere. This is the best acceptance song. "I set fire to the rain and I threw us into the flames. Well it felt something die cause I knew that that was the last time."

Throughout the song she describes how she misses her ex but in the end she has moved on. Throw that last relationship into the flames and "let it burn".

Citation: Adele. "Set Fire to the Rain." 21. XL Recordings, 2011.

The last part of acceptance normally takes a few years after the breakup to accomplish. It is when you can pass them on the street and feel no overwhelming emotions, neither love nor hate. When you rarely think of them, you hope the best for that person. If they were abusive, you hope they got the help they needed. If they cheated, you hope that you were the only one and that they can have a secure relationship. If you two just weren't meant to be together, you hope they found that special someone. It is a hard place to get to emotionally, but it can eventually happen.

26. Snow Patrol, "You Could Be Happy"

While this song may still have some lingering regret from the singer, the most important line of the song is, "You could be happy, I hope you are." When you can think that about an ex, you have truly moved on. It's when you don't want them to be happy, that you are still holding on to that hatred for them. Let that anger go and you can be completely happy as well.

27. Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"

Last, but definitely not least, is Whitney Houston's ballad about love lost. (Or you could listen to Dolly Parton's version. They are both equally great). In this song, the singer is leaving someone she loves deeply but knows it's the best for both of them. In her heart though, she will always love that person. People come and go constantly in our lives and they normally leave an impression on us. It is okay to admit that no matter what your ex put you through, you will always have a place for them in your heart, even if it's a tiny part.

There is my list! I'd like to start off by saying I tried my best to cite any lyrics that I used. I tried researching online how to do so in a blog, but there weren't many helpful links out there. If any fellow online writers have some advice for me so that I don't get sued, I'd appreciate it.

I do not own any of the videos I used. I found them all on YouTube. They were either professionally made for the artist or creatively made by a fan. Either way, I appreciate the beautiful works of art that were created that helped get the music out there for others to hear.

If you have not recently gone through a breakup, this is still a great list of songs! I highly recommend them all.

If you have recently gone through a breakup, I truly hope these songs help you the way they have helped me in the past. Keep your head up! I know everyone always says it, but you will find someone else out there—someone better.

(Then you might just find yourself singing "Walking on Sunshine"!)


Echelon on May 27, 2018:

CeeLo Green - F**k You

moses mra on February 09, 2018:

sam hunt's "break up in a small town'', Fleurie's "Hurts like hell (i loved and i loved and i lost)" and lastly try listening to "Let's breakup" by amit trivedi and vishal dadlani it's an indian song of you aren't familiar with the hindi language then make sure you use musixmatch to get the lyrics translated, this is a kindda music that will help you being yourselves.

Caitlyn Brooks on December 30, 2017:

Selena Gomez same old love

Emerycing on October 25, 2017:

After the "Acceptance" stage and looking back...

Sleeping With Sirens - All My Heart

Heart Brocken Boy on September 14, 2017:

Ed Sheeran Happier

Savannah on November 28, 2016:

How can you just forget about someone

KTD on November 27, 2016:

Drown by Front Porch Step.

Inzy on February 24, 2015:

"Let Her Go" by passenger is a good one, too. Thank you so much for making this list.

Idonenticsonc on August 11, 2014:

Slipknot captures a lot of similar feelings that I have, and presents them in a way I could never do.

Cherry the Skylyn on February 09, 2014:

If you can still add songs to this list, I'd recommend the song "Behind These Hazel Eyes" by Kelly Klarkson. It would probably go in the depression category.

Lennon on January 23, 2014:

If you look outside the mainstream, you can find even better songs although I did love the Bright Eyes song you posted.

Try these

All That Remains - Forever in Your Hands

Underoath - When the Sun Sleeps

Silverstein - Giving Up

Dark Funeral - In My Dreams

Carnifex - My Heart in Atrophy

After the Burial - Fingers Like Daggers

Emarosa - A Toast to the Future Kids

Jonny Craig - Children of Divorce

A Day to Remember - Best of Me

The Bunny the Bear - 396.17

ALSO there was a black metal band called Hanging Garden that released two complete full-length albums dedicated to nothing but the pain of a loved one being left behind

I hope anyone that comes across these comments can find this one. A good number of these songs can be pretty heavy music, if you're not into extreme music, then I would suggest only the Emarosa, Jonny Craig, The Bunny the Bear and Silverstein songs to you.

katie on November 21, 2013:

thanks very much for the songs

Rick on October 29, 2013:

Thank you...

Allison Webster on October 28, 2013:

Nice playlist! May I add to it the new song, "It's Over," which Carol Dunitz is singing around the country in her show, BERNHARDT ON BROADWAY? Here's the version recently recorded by David Menefee.

Listen to "It's Over" on YouTube by copying this URL into your Internet browser:

gsurvivor on July 23, 2013:

How about Headed for a Heartbreak by Winger? Awesome '80s tune right there! Liked some of the songs very much, you earned yourself a vote up :)

Jorge Flamino on June 02, 2013:

I'm positive your words and these songs will help me out after my heartbreak, thank you Nykki

Nykki (author) from Germantown, WI on February 20, 2013:

epigramman- I have always said that 99% of the time I look for 2 things when I listen to music:

1. The lyrics

2. The guitar

While I have a few guilty pleasures that don't fit my 2 criteria, most of these songs fit one of the above. I love when a musician's lyrics speak to me and after going through a heart break, I feel like many of these musicians understood the heartbreak with there lyrics. I highly recommend all of the musicans above and I hope you enjoy them too! Ps I love Kate Bush! Thanks again for reading!

epigramman on February 19, 2013:

Well I must admit Nykki I am unfamiliar with many of these 'newer' songs - I can always rely on the modern wonder of the world known as You Tube in order to check them out.

And thank you so much of your royal endorsement of my humble little hubspace and coming from such a special writer like you really means a lot.

It's obvious that you love your music so that makes us kindred spirits because I love all kinds of music very much too and a lot of my writing is shaped and influenced by music and songwriting more than anything else .... so nice to meet you and now I am off for night shift work at lake erie time ontario canada 9:25pm and please check out one of my favorites at the Tube of You - Kate Bush

Nykki (author) from Germantown, WI on December 19, 2012:

Thank you for reading and enjoying my hub Lorne! I will definitely check out your page!

Lorne Hemmerling from Prescott on December 19, 2012:

Great selection of songs! I like the phases too. My partner and myself have a collection of originals on Soundcloud, that reflect the various phases. All our writing is straight from the heart. Some tunes are about breakup, others about finding love again. One song 'Our Way Out' is downright brutal. I wrote it after a very bad relationship. Some are very uplifting!

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