Boundaries for Better Grief
Boundaries for Better Grief

Boundaries for Better Grief

Grief is a complicated state in our lives, but there are ways to experience it with a lens of good or better without moralizing our experience. Have you ever said, “Today is a good grief day?” That doesn’t mean you aren’t still experiencing it, but it does likely point to a healthy relationship with your boundaries with others as you heal. Today, let’s explore the profound impact that expressing our boundaries can have on our overall well-being and the relationships we cherish. Boundaries form the framework of our self-identity, defining the limits of what is acceptable and respectful in our interactions. When we are grieving, clear boundaries help us create an environment that fosters growth, respect, and understanding so we can maintain our ongoing friendships and circle of support while we heal.

In our recent episode on boundaries, we discussed how porous and rigid boundaries get in the way of our grief work. We skimmed the surface on how unhealthy boundaries are a result of political and cultural influences, and hopefully ended that chat with an awareness of the value of disappointing others for our own sake and healing. If you didn’t catch that chat, now is a great time to earmark episode 132 and return to listen when you can.

But developing healthy boundaries in our lives goes beyond understanding the impact of white supremacy on our grief work and existence. It is one thing to build the understanding of why we accept weaker boundaries, but it is quite another to choose the grief work required to begin healing. 

So today, we’re going to engage in a practical exercise called “Boundary Mapping.” Boundary mapping is the process of identifying, establishing, and maintaining healthy boundaries in interpersonal relationships and self-care practices. Along with our newfound understanding of why healthy boundaries are crucial for our grief work, this exercise encourages us to visualize and articulate our boundaries in a tangible way. This allows us to lean into any disappointment surfacing from boundary work, and also empowers us to communicate our needs and boundaries effectively. Ideally, this will strengthen the relationships we want to keep and allow us to see how porous or rigid boundaries are perpetuating our own harm.

Before we start, let’s identify the science behind why this exercise works. Sometimes when we’re grieving, skepticism wants to protect us from further hurt by assuming a strategy may be great for others, but not for us. Research suggests that visual imagery, imagination, and intention setting activates the regions in our brain associated with emotions and motivations. This allows us to better understand what we want, what we need, and our limits. By mapping our boundaries visually, we activate these neural pathways and reinforce our understanding and commitment to our own grief work and healthy boundaries. 

Now I love a good sports metaphor, but if you’re not able to put yourself into this exercise with me, you can imagine any situation you’d prefer that feels relatable. I’m going to walk through a scenario where we are all soccer coaches. 

Imagine you are standing on the soccer field, passionate about the game and your players, but struggling to communicate and assert your boundaries with your player’s parents, who often undermine, overlook, or challenge your coaching decisions.

Once you have this scenario or a similar one in mind, find a quiet space to reflect without distractions. Allow your mind to settle and visualize yourself in this space, surrounded by a protective boundary. What qualities does the boundary have? Is it just a line on the ground, or is it a fence, a brick wall? Just notice. 

Observe the players, the parents, the ball, and your coaching decisions. Notice how the presence of the parents at the field impacts the way you speak to the players or your own sense of security and belonging within the boundary you visualized.

As you continue to visualize the boundary, imagine a bold line of energy emerging around you symbolizing your personal boundaries. Give this line a color and a thickness that represents you and the importance of your voice. 

Now take a moment to reflect on how you can communicate your boundaries, now beautifully visualized, to each of the parents on the field. Consider what specific words, tone of voice, or gestures you might use that express your needs and desires. Picture yourself being a great communicator. Maybe you can picture a bridge appearing between yourself and the parents as your words take shape, signaling that they understand you and accept your boundaries, too.

As a note, if you cannot imagine the other person receiving the boundaries well, stay with the visualization. You are not allowing what their actual response might be in an effort to “win an argument” ahead of time. You are imagining an idealized situation wherein you are asserting yourself with calm vibes and firm authority.

As you open your eyes and wrap up this practice, carry the power of this visualization with you. Trust that you are not embodying a practice of wishful thinking, because this exercise is not about controlling the other person’s response. This is about reminding yourself that your boundaries are valid, regardless of the other person’s disappointment or opinions. 

You are deserving of respect and communicating your boundaries is essential for your growth as a person and griever. You may want to take proactive steps to communicate any new or redefined boundaries with the others in your life, ensuring your decisions and voice are honored, valued, and respected.

Remember, by firmly establishing and asserting our boundaries, we create a space where connection and honor can flourish. This allows attunement and security to grow between you and the other people in your life.

Before we wrap this up, I want to encourage you to remember that with visualization comes action. We cannot rely on magical thinking and manifestation as a way to change how we feel about grief. When we engage a practice like visualization, we are not just trying to change our mind and hope a better future into existence. We are building neural pathways to imbue confidence for the moment we choose to take action. We are engaging ourselves to show up differently in our lives. If your experience with visualization feels a little too imaginative to be real, then it would make sense for you to feel skeptical. Take time today to reflect on where you may have lacked the ownership over your own experience and grief work, because ownership is crucial. And boundary work is how we set ourselves up for a better grief experience through action on our own behalf.

Trust in the power of your voice and the importance of asserting your needs. Embrace the courage to express yourself authentically, and celebrate the growth that comes from honoring your boundaries. This is the grief work. We can survive embracing the challenging work of discomfort and push-back because we are becoming a richer, more passionate version of ourselves. In the wake of our losses, we can gain healthier ways of showing up for ourselves. Let your journey towards stronger, healthier relationships begin now.

Thank you for listening to episode 134 of Restorative Grief. We want to heal in our grief and we are willing to do the hard work for ourselves of developing an inner world that aligns with our values. Boundary mapping is a fundamental aspect of maintaining healthy relationships and promoting self-respect and self-esteem. By mapping your boundaries and imagining yourself honoring those boundaries, you are building self-efficacy and confidence as you heal.

If this is your first time listening to the show, thank you for showing up here with me! There are plenty more resources on Patreon if you are interested in deepening your grief work and connecting with others doing the same. Becoming a financial supporter of the show is also an option, which allows you to partner with me in helping create conversations that help us heal. Be sure to subscribe to the show and if you haven’t yet left a review, do that today! We love seeing all those lovely words come through and hearing more about what you want to learn on this show as well.

And as always, one last thing. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.

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