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Setting Boundaries In Grief Using The Ring Theory 

Setting Boundaries In Grief Using The Ring Theory 

Setting boundaries in grief can be hard. Using the “Ring Theory” can help determine how to set appropriate boundaries when helping others through their grief. It is also a great way to help you set boundaries with others while you deal with your own. 


Ignoring boundaries can create more grief 

It is hard seeing someone experiencing emotional pain. Oftentimes we want to help someone or fix them. Knowing how to do that can be so challenging. Everyone is different. We grieve differently and often try to help others. It is common to attempt to help others the way we would like to be helped. Often mis-understanding the needs and the boundaries of the person who is in pain. Even when someone means the best they could actually be making it worse. 


Ring theory

Imagine drawing a circle and in the center of the circle write the name of the person experiencing the trauma. Around that circle you draw another larger circle and write the names next closest to the trauma. You continue this until you have multiple rings and the layers of people affected by the loss. Ring theory is the idea that the person in the center of the trauma has the most free will to share their feelings and opinions with anyone further away from the trauma. However the people further away from the trauma should not vent with someone closer to the middle of the ring. 

Setting boundaries in grief using the ring theory

 “Personal boundaries are established by changing one’s own response to interpersonal situations, rather than expecting other people to change their behavior to comply with your boundary.”


Setting boundaries for oneself and others is something that requires a level of emotional maturity and intelligence. It is a life skill that has become more popular as self-help, support groups and counseling has become more accepted. There are many different areas where you need to set boundaries. Learn more about the 7 boundaries here. 

Supporting others in their grief

You have a good heart and want to help a friend in times of grief. Use the ring theory, determine where you are on the ring chart. Once you know where you are, closer to the center of the trauma or further outside you can make a healthy decision about what boundaries to put up for yourself. It also gives you an idea of where your loved ones boundaries lie.


Appropriate boundaries when you are grieving

Connection plays a big part in our grief stories. Those who feel isolated and alone in their grief often struggle longer. Loneliness and isolation can cause additional trauma and have an affect on mental health. On the flip side, feeling connected and supported by others creates an environment for healing. We want to let others in and connect with us even in our pain. However it is important to still create healthy boundaries when processing grief.


 When you are in the center circle of the ring chart you get to stand up for yourself. Recognizing who is further from the trauma using the ring theory can help you not feel guilty about holding a boundary as they process with you. If someone is complaining and angry inappropriately you can kindly ask them to respect the boundary and let you grieve how you need to. 

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