Keeping Family Boundaries in Place Despite the COVID-19 Crisis

March 23, 2020 Beth Avery

I've kept strong family boundaries in place even as the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we've known it. Stores are closed, gyms are shut down, and businesses are struggling to get by as communities across the world hunker inside their homes. While the coronavirus probably won't be much of an issue for me as a healthy, 24-year-old woman, I worry about those around me. I think about what would happen if my coaches or my friends with compromised immune systems fell ill. I worry about my sister living alone while her community is shut down. And I worry about my family members catching COVID-19 even though I've had strong family boundaries in place due to their abuse.

For most of us, worrying about family members during this time of crisis is not unique. Most, if not all, of us, are concerned about the health of those closest to us. But since I've established a no-contact rule with several of my family members, worrying about the health of my family members is a strange and sad process for me.

How It Feels to Keep Strong Family Boundaries During COVID-19

When I made the decision to put strong family boundaries in place and go no-contact with them, I knew I would be faced with tough decisions in the future. So many moments in life call for the warm embrace of a parent or a sibling, and I was making the choice to sacrifice all of that. My guest list to my wedding, should I ever have one, would be sparse. My Christmas card list would be light. But after years of hoping for change and seeing none, I was left with no other viable choice.

There's no guidebook for going no-contact with family members. No one warned me of the sadness it would bring. It feels strange to grieve the loss of people who are still alive. It feels odd to want a relationship with the people who caused my posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And, more than anything, it's sad to love people who are unable to love me back.

As the coronavirus has swept through the world, I've found myself wanting to reach out to my family. I want to know that everyone is okay. I want to make sure my family members are washing their hands and taking their vitamins. I want to give them love. But I can't, and that hurts. 

How to Cope with the Grief Family Boundaries Can Cause

Setting boundaries with abusive family members only works if you keep the boundaries firm. I made it clear that my family members were not welcome in my life unless they changed, and the coronavirus hasn't changed that boundary. When this crisis is over, my family members will still be the same people. As much as I want to lean back into my family's orbit during these uncertain times, doing so would only end in pain.

Instead, I've made the choice to focus on myself and my own health during this crisis. On some days, that means eating right and going for a run. On others, it means making boxed macaroni for dinner and having a good cry. I can't change the fact that my family has hurt me, and I can't change the feelings that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to the surface. I'm only in control of my actions and how I choose to deal with my emotions.

The world is going through a tough time right now, but it's an opportunity for those of us grieving to work through the sorrow. Let yourself rest. 

Are your family boundaries still in place? How are you feeling about that? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Avery, B. (2020, March 23). Keeping Family Boundaries in Place Despite the COVID-19 Crisis, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Beth Avery

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