How to Resolve the Boundary Ambiguity in Family Grief: Strategies for Recovery and Healing


Family grief is something that no family might be ready for. Although the moment is behind you, you might still feel a pang of loneliness, catch yourself thinking about possible “ifs,” or even feel depressed about your family. It is a natural thing to do, and more often than you realize, your other family members are also in your shoes.

As time passes, your family might adjust to what they have. The remaining family members might rearrange roles, reschedule routines, or change traditions. It is a normal process, and a much-needed one, for a family to regain its whole identity again. However, the process might come to a stop if someone hasn’t moved on.

When you are too preoccupied with the memory of your loved one, you might still perceive their presence in the family. It’s as if they were never gone. It is indeed hard to let go. However, this creates boundary ambiguity in family grief. If you hold onto this ambiguity, your family is also in the same situation, where their world stays in the previous moments with your loved one.

This article will guide you through realizing and recovering from the boundary ambiguity after a family grief is experienced. Along the way, your family will get closer to a clearer identity and a stronger relationship. As a first step, you need to understand what boundary ambiguity is, so read on in the next section.

Exploring boundary ambiguity in family grief

Boundary ambiguity is a state in which your family perceives its members as mentally present when they are no longer physically present. Boundary ambiguity in family grief appears from denying the situation that your family has lost someone dear. It is normal to feel that way. However, being in the same position could create confusion or ambiguity after some time.

This ambiguity in your family could look like hearing them, feeling their presence, or sensing that your loved one is still there. Their things and rooms might still be used, and they are still being involved in the family rituals and routines.

You might notice that only some family members hold onto that way, and others have started to move on. These are some of the differences that could create confusion or boundary ambiguity in your home.

This ambiguity could result in stress. As your family is not ready to let go, it immobilizes your daily life. Differing perceptions between members could also cause conflicts in daily communication. It takes a toll on the family as it might lead to symptoms of family depression. Boundary ambiguity often compounds the depression after a death in the family.

Practices for recovering personal boundaries after family grief

There are several strategies your family can use to resolve the lingering boundary ambiguity. These strategies underline the importance of communicating and reconstructing family grief together.

Clearer boundaries in your family would improve your family’s structure in which the roles, responsibilities, and expectations are also clearer. Your family would also improve its relationship as its members can move on and work together in their new roles. Here are some important steps.

Establishing open communication channels

As a family, you and other members might have different ways of going through grief. To heal together, your family needs to be open and honest with each other. As a family aware of each other’s process, you might better understand how to resolve the boundary ambiguity.

Read more: Finding Purpose After Loss: Navigating Family Dynamics in Bereavement

You can initiate communication by inviting your family to share their thoughts and feelings, listening attentively, and appreciating each other’s efforts in the process.

Deciding proper ways to move on

Once your family understands each other, it is ready to decide how to move forward.

Although the process of moving on is also personal to each member, your family might collectively discuss how to redefine its identity again, how to present the family, how to make sense of the loss, and how to renegotiate the roles. Communication is still an important part of this process; however, your family would also benefit from making decisions that are best for all the family members.

Seeking professional guidance through family therapy

Professionals might also help resolve boundary ambiguity. Your family might seek and attend family therapy to process grief, resolve boundary ambiguity, or, when needed, attend family therapy for depression.

Read more: Threads of Resilience: Stitching Together the Stages of Grief 

In the process, a therapist would facilitate your family’s taking the necessary steps to achieve clearer boundaries. Your family might discuss and decide when it’s best to seek therapy together.

In conclusion 

Resolving boundary ambiguity in family grief will give your family a clearer structure, identity, and stronger relationship. On the other hand, holding onto ambiguity might lead your family into stressful and depressed situations. Clearer boundaries would help your family to move on together in the loving memory of your loved one.

The key to resolving the boundary ambiguity is to have open and supportive communication with each other. This way, you and your family could understand each other and decide collectively how to best move forward. Invite your family to share thoughts and feelings, discuss the best ways to move on, and recover together from the boundary ambiguity.

If you would like to see more resources on boundary ambiguity, check out the Family Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Family Science Labs today.

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