What Are Healthy Boundaries in Grief?

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/01/10/healthy-boundaries-in-grief/

Emotional Overload Means I Have to Be Careful With Those I Love

There are so many ways child loss impacts relationships!

Some of the people you think will stand beside you for the long haul either never show up or disappear right after the funeral.

Some people you never expected to hang around not only come running but choose to stay.

And every. single. relationship. gets more complicated.  

When your heart is shattered, there are lots of sharp edges that end up cutting you and everyone around you.  It’s pretty much inevitable that one or more relationships will need mending at some point.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/12/29/emotional-overload-and-t-m-i/

Hey Fellow Griever-Being Honest Is NOT Being Rude

I never ask anyone to adjust the thermostat in a car or at home unless I’m suffocating or shivering.

It’s a point of personal pride that I can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most people.

And for awhile, I carried that same prideful disdain for “weaker folks” into my grief journey.

I was determined to endure whatever blows might come my way via comments, behavior, subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by others to circumscribe, dictate or otherwise influence my loss experience. I didn’t want to abandon pride in my own strength by admitting I wasn’t as strong as I wished I could be.

Then one day I realized that being honest was not the same as being rude. Telling the truth was not the same as acting selfishly.

Nothing is gained by remaining silent in the face of ignorance or arrogance or just plain inattention. The person who crosses a boundary of compassion or grace or love or empathy and goes unchallenged is set free to do it again-to me or someone else.

So I started telling people the truth:

  • “I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about this right now.”
  • “I appreciate your need to fill this vacancy but I’m not emotionally prepared to take on any new responsibilities.”
  • “Today is a hard grief day, can we discuss this later?”
  • “I don’t think I will be able to come, it’s too hard to be around a crowd these days.”
  • “I know you mean well, but your comments hurt my heart. You can’t understand precisely what I’m going through and I know that. I would appreciate it if you respected that fact and didn’t try to ‘help’ me by sending articles, etc.”
  • “I’m tired today. I’m taking a break from everyone but family.”
  • “The holidays are hard on my heart. I’m thankful you find joy in them. I won’t be attending the party (family gathering, etc.) this year. Maybe next year will be easier.”
  • “I’m getting anxious, I need to go.”

Guess what?

Except for a lone individual, every time I chose honesty, it was not only accepted, it was applauded.

People got it! Not that they truly understood in the deepest sense what I was going through, but they respected that I was, in fact, GOING THROUGH something hard, heartbreaking and life changing.

Like I’ve said before, my emotions will leak out somewhere. I can’t keep them bottled inside forever.

When I choose to be honest AT THE TIME it’s so much better.

When I let folks know that what they say, do, expect from and thrust upon me is unhelpful or overwhelming or even painful, they usually respond with gratitude. They almost always accept my boundaries.

Those of us walking the Valley often say that those who aren’t just can’t understand. They don’t know what they don’t know.

That’s true.

But they can be educated about some of what we know.

They can learn that some things hurt and most of them would be glad to know it because they don’t wish more pain on our already broken hearts.

It’s OK to ask someone to make adjustments to make the journey less difficult.

Being honest is not being rude.

Letting Go of Extra Responsibilities

I’ve always been quick to volunteer.  

Often the “yes” flies out of my lips before my brain has engaged.

That lands me in all kinds of trouble.

But I’m trying to learn to bite my tongue until I can take stock of just how taking on another responsibility may push me over the edge.

I’m walking on a razor thin rim around the pit of despair-especially this time of year and it doesn’t take much for me to fall in.

depair

I know that other people think, “Well it’s been nearly five years!”  And I understand that to them, it seems like plenty of time to get my act together, to figure out how to live with child loss, to grow strong enough to shoulder whatever burden they think I have left and just get on with life.

But what they don’t understand is that this journey requires constant adjustments, has unending and new challenges and truly is uphill all the way. 

There’s no coasting-it’s ALL hard.  

walking-up-a-hill

Think for a minute how overwhelmed you are with all the activity, demands for baked goods, invitations, shopping, cooking, visiting, managing family responsibilities, hectic schedules and every thing else that the holidays entail.

Now multiply that times one hundred or a thousand. 

That’s what it feels like for me and other wounded hearts trying to juggle ongoing pain and the holidays.

I want to participate.  I want to be the old me that could say “yes” to every request.  But I’m not that person anymore.

I will do what I can do.  

I will say “no” to what I can’t do.  

And I won’t feel guilty for preserving my energy and my sanity.  

When coping with difficult disappointment or stress, it’s wise to let go of what you really, truly don’t need. Give some of your responsibilities, if you can, to someone else. Delegate what someone else can do. Say ‘no’ to new assignments or projects that aren’t absolutely necessary, and again, don’t feel bad about it. Don’t only accept help, ask for it — and be specific.

After all, when the storm has passed and you’re feeling stronger, you’ll be able to pick up those responsibilities again.

~Steven Earp, Storms of Life

Forgiveness and Healthy Boundaries

I do not believe that in offering genuine forgiveness I am required to again submit myself to another person’s hurtful or sinful behavior.  

I do believe that forgiveness releases that person from past offenses against me but it does not release them to continue to wound my heart.

And I will stand up any time, anywhere and defend my. right to create healthy boundaries between my heart and someone who has proven, time and again, that they intend to do just that.

daring to set boundaries brene brown

What does this look like in real life?

It means that I can call, write or tell someone that I truly forgive them for whatever pain they have caused me in the past.  That frees MY heart.  

But if that person refuses to change his or her behavior, I am not obligated to allow them close enough to hurt me again.

It is NOT proof of an unforgiving heart to set up healthy boundaries.

It is wisdom.

So I don’t have to invite them to every event.  I don’t have to allow them to corner me at gatherings where we both may attend.  I don’t have to tell them all the news in my life or include them in my circle of closest comrades.

I can be polite.  I will refuse to spread malicious gossip about them and not continue to talk about the old wounds for which I’ve forgiven them.

When my heart tries to resurrect the forgiven offenses, I will remind it that those are no longer relevant.  I will not let bitterness overtake me.

There’s a compelling and beautiful anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom and forgiveness: 

After WW II, Corrie traveled Europe speaking on the grace of God found even in Ravensbruck, the concentration camp where she was imprisoned and in which her sister died.

After one such talk, a German man came up to her and mentioned that he had been a guard at that camp.  Corrie recognized him though he, of course, did not recognize her.

He thanked her for what she shared and put out his hand to shake hers.  At that moment, she knew what she SHOULD do, but she did not want to do it.  She did not want to touch this man’s hand and offer forgiveness for what many felt was utterly unforgivable.

But God convicted her heart and in obedience she extended her hand.  She speaks of how she felt the Lord’s love and forgiveness wash over her and flow through her when she acted in obedience.

She never saw him again. 

But for many of us, we continue to see and rub shoulders with the ones who have wounded us. 

And if Corrie had again been forced into a concentration camp, she would not have been wrong to go kicking and screaming. 

Forgiving that German guard did not excuse what he had done nor did it mean that if he was intent on repeating it that she (or anyone else) had to simply go along.

You do not have to allow another person to use you as a punching bag.  You do not have to subject your heart to verbal or emotional abuse.  You do not have to prove the sincerity of your forgiveness by enabling continued bad behavior.

forgiveness is not forgetting

That’s neither wise nor helpful.

Boundaries are OK.

They are necessary.

And they do not mean you haven’t forgiven someone. 

Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Not Anti-Social. Just Selectively Social.

Grief changes lots of things.  

I am simply not able to spend energy on frivolous and marginally meaningful social activities anymore. 

I’m sure that hurts some folks feelings and I am truly sorry.

But I can’t help it.  

Truth is, we all have a limited amount of energy to spend on life’s commitments, celebrations and unexpected circumstances.  It’s just that most of us aren’t forced to admit it very often.  Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I could “rob Peter to pay Paul” as my daddy used to say.  A few days of not enough sleep, a few days of rushing here and there, a few days of biting my tongue and smiling when I wanted to cry were bearable.

I could survive a week or two and then take a day or two to recover.  Good as new.

I don’t have that luxury anymore.  

Now I operate every. single. day. on a razor thin edge of just enough energy to get by and not enough energy to get out of the bed.

So I am selective about social commitments because I know the energy just isn’t there.

I’m not withdrawing, I’m drawing boundaries.

I promise you are still important to me but I may have to check up online instead of in person.

I want to know about every special and exciting thing going on in your life-I want to celebrate with you!-even if it’s from a distance.  

Please don’t scratch me off your list just because I don’t always say “yes” anymore.

I will keep showing up when I can and send a card or gift when I can’t.

I care.  

I promise.  

I’m doing the best I can.