How to Set Boundaries When You’re Grieving

When you’re in the throes of active grief, the idea of needing to set boundaries may, at first, seem downright insulting. You’re already feeling emotional- and maybe even overwhelmed. Why do you need to assert limits with others during such a vulnerable time?

Having boundaries in place can actually support your grief process. These guidelines convey to both you and others what you need. People who love you generally want to respect what’s best for your well-being. But they can’t necessarily know what’s best if you don’t tell them.

Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

Don’t Pressure Yourself to Take Care of Others

Even though you may feel tempted to suppress your needs to ensure others are okay, try to resist this urge. Of course, this may not entirely apply if you’re taking care of young children, but it’s a general rule that you should consider when you find yourself holding space for others without holding any space for yourself.

There’s no such thing as being “selfish” during the grief process. You have a right to your feelings, thoughts, and needs. If you’re used to being the strong and independent one, settling into a more vulnerable role may be uncomfortable. But healing requires allowing yourself to be with your pain. Trying to push it aside only complicates the grieving process.

Ask for the Support You Need

Most people want to be helpful during the grieving process. But they fear saying or doing the wrong thing, so their helpful attempts can come across as half-hearted or even disingenuous.

The next time a family member asks what they can do, consider being direct. Maybe you’d like them to pick up dinner so you can unwind and take a warm bath. Perhaps you’d just like to spend time talking about your loved one together.

Of course, asking for specific support doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive it. But that confirmation can also be helpful. Realizing that someone can’t provide you with what you need tells you that you need to reconsider your limits with that person (or reevaluate the context of your relationship at the moment).

Prioritize and Protect Your Self-Care When Grieving

Self-care while grieving may look like ordinary self-care, but it can also look different, depending on your circumstances. The goal isn’t to eradicate your feelings or eliminate stress entirely. But the goal is to pay attention to your emotional and physical needs and tend to them routinely and lovingly.

Self-care isn’t just deep breaths, relaxing music, or creative outlets. You should consider your self-care a mindset during grief, meaning you consciously choose to look after your needs, treat yourself with self-compassion, and honor your emotions during this time.

You should also be mindful of adverse behaviors during this time. Too much sleep, substance abuse, overeating, or spewing in anger may feel good in a split moment, but they can have lasting consequences that ultimately worsen your mental health.

Identify Your Support System

Not everyone can offer the support you need right now, and you may feel frustrated by certain friends or family members. Remember that, in general, many of us struggle with grief, and we especially struggle with knowing how to support our loved ones during this time.

You get to choose who you talk to and express your feelings with, and it’s important to try to find that support system early in your grief journey. You may find it in another friend who’s had a similar experience. Or, you may turn to a support group to connect with other people who’ll listen and offer compassion and validation during your healing process.

Say No When You Need to Say No

Life continues moving in the aftermath of loss or death, but that doesn’t mean you have to exist at such a frantic pace when you’re grieving. Try to avoid the desire to distract yourself or stay overly busy to circumvent your feelings.

Instead, exercise the power of saying no. Turn down opportunities that seem emotionally draining or unfulfilling. Don’t put pressure on yourself to commit to obligations that will only make you feel more stressed.

Remember that it’s normal to need time and space when you’re grieving. It’s okay to slow the pace down. The more you can accept that you need to give yourself grace, the more likely you are to turn to healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

How Therapy Can Help With Grief Boundaries

Grief can be such a complicated and painful time, and you may feel like it’s taken all the energy out of you. But if you’re finding yourself feeling increasingly frustrated with friends or family members (even over simple things), you might need to revisit the limits you have.

As a therapist who specializes in grief, I understand the difficulties that come from this journey, and I recognize how lost, scary, and vulnerable this experience often feels. If you need support, I am here for you. Contact me today to get connected.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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