boundaries, boundaries in grief, grief

Setting Boundaries While Grieving: Common Boundaries to Set in Grief

common boundaries to set in grief

Experiencing grief is a natural and necessary part of life. Everyone will experience grief at some point in their lives.

Grief is an emotional response to loss that can include a range of intense feelings, such as sadness, anger, confusion, and even numbness. But what do boundaries have to do with the grieving process?

While grieving, establishing healthy boundaries can help protect your mental health and make it possible to navigate the grieving process authentically. So what are some common boundaries to set in grief?

Emotional Boundaries

Setting emotional boundaries involves recognizing and honoring your emotions while respecting others’ emotions.

Grief can be an intensely personal experience, and it’s important to give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions arise without judgment or pressure to conform to societal expectations. Yes, even and especially negative emotions.

It’s equally important to communicate your emotional needs to your loved ones and let them know if you need time alone to process your grief or more support. Remember, prioritizing your emotional well-being in grief (and in life!) is not selfish. In fact, it can help you create healthy relationships in the face of such a huge loss.

Common emotional boundaries to set in grief:

  • “I need to be upset about this right now. Please stop asking me to cheer up.”
  • “It’s helpful for me if we talk about him. Please don’t be afraid to say his name.”
  • “I need space this week, so I’m unable to chat. Let’s connect next week.”

Social Boundaries

At some point in our grief process, we might feel pressured to attend events, socialize, or act “normal” when we’re not ready or willing to do so.

Setting social boundaries means declining invitations or taking breaks from social interactions as needed. This allows you the personal space and time to grieve authentically without feeling overwhelmed or experiencing additional stress (or, you know, having people saying dumb things when you talk about your loss).

Communicate your boundaries respectfully to others and surround yourself with a supportive network of people who understand and respect your needs. This is especially important (and also difficult) during the holiday season.

Common social boundaries to set in grief:

  • “I won’t be attending holiday events this year. If you guilt trip me to attend, I will end this conversation.”
  • “Thanks for inviting me! I’ll be there but can only stay for an hour.”
  • “I can’t attend the holiday party this year, but I hope you all have fun!”
  • “Thanks for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to make it.”
  • “I’m creating new holiday traditions this year and would love it if we could do this instead. What do you think?”

Physical Boundaries

The grieving process can be physically draining as well as mentally and emotionally draining, so it’s vital to set physical boundaries to take care of your energy levels and overall well-being. I know this is hard, so do as much as you can with the energy you have.

Remember, your brain is spending all of its energy trying to process the loss and the deeply distressing changes in your life. Allow yourself to rest, sleep, and engage in self-care activities that help you replenish your energy.

Communicate your physical limitations to others, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate tasks that may be overwhelming during this challenging time. People usually want to help; they’re just not sure how, so communicating allows them to show up for you in the ways you need most.

Prioritizing your physical health can make coping with grief a little easier, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t sleep or eat. If you can drink some water, rest, and brush your teeth in early grief, you’ve moved mountains.

Common physical boundaries to set in grief:

  • “Can you start taking the dog out in the afternoons? I need that time to rest.”
  • “Would you be up for making a meal for us this week? Cooking is really tough right now.”
  • “I need a couple things at the store. Next time you’re going, would you pick them up for me?”
  • “Can you take the kids this weekend? I need some personal space.”

Time Boundaries

Grief is not something that can be put on a timeline. In fact, time often doesn’t exist in grief.

Everyone grieves at their own pace, and setting time boundaries is about allowing yourself the necessary time and space to adjust to this earth-shattering loss that has occurred in your life. Give yourself permission to grieve without feeling rushed or guilty for taking longer than expected.

A year is nothing in the face of a life-changing loss. Grief is often forever, so don’t listen to other people’s opinions of how long your grief should take. Grief is love, and love is forever.

Avoid comparing your grief journey to others, as each person’s experience is unique. Practice self-compassion and patience as you navigate the many ups and downs that come with integrating a loss into your life and walking with grief.

Common time boundaries to set in grief:

  • “I won’t be able to attend our weekly coffee date; I need time to myself to grieve. I’ll let you know when I feel up for meeting again.”
  • “I can’t take on extra tasks at work right now.”
  • “I’ll be unavailable on the weekends for the foreseeable future.”

What Part Have Boundaries Played in Your Grief?

Setting healthy boundaries during the grieving process can help us gently unpack our emotions, protect our well-being, and grieve authentically. Understanding these common boundaries to set in grief can help simplify the process of asking for what you need during this dark time. Everyone’s personal boundaries will be different, but remember you don’t have to do this alone. What part have boundaries played in your grief? Leave a comment and let me know!

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