“I’m scared I’ll end up alone”: On boundaries and grief

In teaching my online class ‘Hawthorn heart – boundary skills and protection magic for fierce femme witches’,  I help femme witches to transform our trauma into self-love-affirming boundaries.

Our community uses magic, bold creative expression, plant allies and clear communication to cast protection magic that transforms our lives and all our relationships.

One of the biggest blocks to setting boundaries is fear that we will hurt other people with our boundaries and in turn those people will reject us, abandon us or stop loving us.

Ultimately, we fear we’ll end up alone and that we won’t survive the loneliness.

I’ve learned that in order to set boundaries that affirm our inherent worth we must first learn how to grieve what we lose by not saying yes to the people we love, especially when they are in need.

Below I’ve shared an excerpt from one of the lessons in Hawthorn Heart. This lesson explains how learning to grieving allows us freedom to set life-transforming boundaries.

In order to set trauma transforming boundaries, we must first learn how to grieve.

When we choose what is nourishing, when we choose what to keep close, we also choose to release and let go of that which does not nourish us.

The root of the word ‘to decide’ is ‘to kill’.

When we decide to commit deeply to meeting our own needs the possibility being endlessly available to others dies.

With any death comes inevitable waves of grief. Our culture is berfet of models for grief. Many of us grieve alone, without witnesses or spiritual containers to help us digest our pain and our loss of faith.

We may grieve the feeling of control that comes from helping others or solving problems. We may grieve the commitments we had to taking care of someone. We may grieve a sense of connection we once felt, which now has shifted and changed. We may grieve the support we received from that person which we no longer receive. We may even need to grieve an entire relationship, if it has ended as a result of us setting our boundary.

In many ways we are midwifing ourselves from one state to another. We are standing by, witnessing with compassion as one way of being dies and a new way of being is birthed.

Many folks who struggle with boundaries live with terrible fear of disappointing others.

We feel scared that if we don’t show up for other people they will be hurt or they will no longer love us. We feel scared that if we set boundaries terrible things will happen. We feel coerced by the threat of these terrible things. Because of this coercion we feel pressure to not hold the boundaries we need to feel safe and nourished. Most deeply, we feel scared of being alone and we feel codependtly responsible for others.

Often we mistake this codependence for connection.

Many of us feel compelled to stretch ourselves beyond our capacity in the name of solidarity.

Most of us are aware that we hold privileges that others do not, and on some level we feel shame and a deep sense of responsibility to others because of our privilege. In some ways this sense of guilt or shame for our privilege acts as a distraction from feeling the pain and grief for what we don’t have: vibrant communities where everyone’s needs are met, where we all feel held and spiritually nourished.

In this way we use shame as a stand in for grieving.

Shame is a feeling and grieving is a skill. It’s easier to drown in a feeling than it is to practice a skill we have very few models for.

From this place of shame and lack we agree to things we would rather not agree to.

We go into literal, physical, financial and energetic debt to care for others and because of this debt we are not able to care for ourselves. We reinforce the scarcity we have become used to by refusing to nourish ourselves and call in abundance that supports us to be well and whole.

We all deserve to be nourished. We all deserve to be cared for and feel safe, but we aren’t granting true safety or nourishment to others when we extend ourselves from a place of lack, shame or coerced obligation.

In order to say no, we must learn to grieve what we lose by not saying yes.

If we don’t grieve we can’t make peace and we can’t move forward in new and more nourishing ways. Without grieving we can never learn to forgive ourselves for that which we cannot change.

In order for us to move past a reaction to pain and oppression that is grounded in shame, we need at accept the world as it is and grieve our inability to singlehandedly rectify the injustices we witness and experience.

The world is a profoundly unfair and unjust place. While we are all complicit in this injustice, but we didn’t create it alone and we can’t dismantle it alone. We are not single handedly responsible for causing or repairing the pain of our community or our loved ones.

It’s harmful and unhelpful to martyr ourselves in the name of justice. True solidarity is born from shared vulnerability and accountability, not harmful or theatrical sacrifice. It doesn’t make sense for us to refuse to take care of ourselves because other people are suffering, and yet many of us do this every day.

No matter our privilege the truth is that we all live in deep scarcity.


The level of scarcity, lack and dis-empowerment we experience is proportionate to our privilege but this does not negate the reality that we are all traumatized and struggling with how to live on a dying planet.
We cannot feel true love, compassion or connection from a place of numbness and these things build the bedrock of true solidarity and connection. Shifting from shame to acceptance and grief, in order to make space for other things to bloom, is a key foundational process for setting life transforming boundaries.

And so I offer you these questions to reflect on..

When you are sitting with a boundary that you know in your body/mind/heart you need to set, how often do you not set it because you don’t want to feel the inevitable sense of loss that follows the boundary?

How often do you martyr yourself to feel like you are contributing to positive change or solidarity?

Is your solidarity motivated by shame or is it motivated by craving for genuine connection?

How can you forgive yourself for not being able to heal the pain that you witnessing your community and the world around you?

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  1. I never thought about grieving as part of the process of creating boundaries, but now it does make sense, both logically and emotionally. After thinking about this, I also realized that there is a second level of grieving I have to process – that I will never be able to adapt or conform to what the world thinks my life should be, and that for this reason there will be a lingering feeling of loneliness for a long time. It’s natural to want to live with other human beings, but when our visions are so different… well, we come down to boundaries again. It’s difficult to process, but I already know that it will be freeing as well. Thank you for your words!

    • Andi Grace says:

      thank you for writing this! this extra piece you’ve added is certainly important and was helpful for me to read. <3

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