About a week ago, one of my local author friends posted a great article. It stayed with me and I’ve thought about it several times in the days since I read it. It was all about holding space. The writer was a woman who had lost her mother. She described a caring, end-of-life nurse who gently led her through the process of caring for her dying mother. It’s a difficult road that many of us have travelled.
Holding space for someone can be applied to so many situations in this life. We’ve all needed it at one time. We all know someone for whom we might hold space.
What does it mean to hold space for someone?
Basically, it means ‘being there’ in a way that is supportive and not judgemental, with no strings attached. We must put aside our egos and not try – intentionally or subconsciously – to affect the outcome. Many of us are wired in a way that compels us to try to ‘fix’ things. That’s not what holding space is about. It means simply being available without trying to control any aspect of the situation at hand.
Naturally, as in the case of the nurse, holding space can include providing information or other help. The nurse talked with the dying woman’s family about what they could expect and what their options were once their mother had passed away. Mostly, she made herself accessible, without conditions and without becoming personally involved.
You might be holding space for a friend who is experiencing a crisis. Our natural tendency may be to offer advice or suggest certain actions that we feel would be the best way for her to handle something. Instead, we should empower her to trust her own instincts, even if it’s not what we would do. After all, it’s not our journey.
It’s possible to hold space for someone who is holding space for someone else. Think about people who are in a helping profession, like the nurse in the article. Perhaps you know someone who is holding space for a friend with Cancer or who is caring for a disabled spouse. By offering them a safe place to talk about it or just to escape it for a few hours, you are holding space for them. That space should be free from judgement and shame.
Friendship is precious. It should not come with stipulations. While there are times when our input is sought after, holding space requires only the promise of your presence. It’s a kind of helping that looks very different from what we are accustomed to providing.
Holding space for someone might not be easy. It will probably take some practice. But I think it’s worthwhile and we’re all capable. You can probably think of a time when someone held space for you. It truly is a gentle gift.