How To Deal With Other People’s Opinions About Your Grief

Apr 21, 2024

When you're grieving, it can feel like everyone has an opinion on how you "should" be doing it. That friend who keeps insisting you "need to move on, already” after your breakup. The aunt who judges your continued sadness over your friend’s death as negativity– “everything happens for a reason,” she tells you, “It’ll all make sense – stay positive!”. The coworker urging you to "stay positive" three weeks after your bereavement leave ends.  While they likely mean well, these voices diminish your very real and personal grief experience.

That's where setting clear boundaries comes in. Boundaries create the breathing room you need to feel and process your grief authentically, without obeying some arbitrary grief rulebook.

Why Boundaries Matter:

  • They help you make space to feel all the complicated, messy emotions as they come

  • They help you avoid burnout from constantly defending or explaining your process

  • They help you allow your healing to happen at its own pace, not anyone else's

Where You Might Need Boundaries:

At Work: Colleagues who brush off your needs for bereavement time or just need space. Boundaries reset those expectations.

With Friends & Family: Loved ones whose unsolicited advice or toxic positivity diminishes your experience. Boundaries halt those unhelpful comments.

On Social Media: Facing judgment over what and how you share about loss. Boundaries remind others your posts aren't community property.

Out in Public: Strangers or acquaintances overstepping with comments about your grief. Boundaries protect your privacy.

How to Set Boundaries:

Use clear, direct language to lay out your expectations, and keep in mind that what feels right for you might change over time. This might sound like: :

"I think you mean well, but comments telling me to cheer up' aren't actually helpful for me right now. They just leave me feeling dismissed."

"I appreciate you thinking about me, but this is the grieving process I need right now. I'll let you know if and when I'm open to your perspectives on how I can approach processing my loss."

"Unless I bring up my loss first, that topic is off-limits for now. And even then, just listening without giving your advice is most helpful."


When Boundaries Get Crossed:

Some people will inevitably overstep, despite your clarity. If that happens, stick to your guns:

  • Restate the boundary firmly: "I've already expressed that comments about [X] are off-limits. Continuing this violates my boundary."

  • If they push further, disengage: "This conversation has become unproductive. I'm going to remove myself."

  • For repeated violators, limit information and access as needed to protect your space.

  • Enlist supportive loved ones to reinforce boundaries with the problem people when necessary.

Setting boundaries around your grief can feel scary. It might seem uncomfortable to shut down someone's advice, even if they mean well. It might feel confrontational to be firm about what's off-limits.

But the reality is, establishing clear boundaries is a necessary act of self-care as you navigate your grief journey.

You’re not being rude when you set a boundary around your grief; you’re advocating for what kind of support you need right now.

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