Holding Space


I have found myself facing the same challenge multiple times this spring, I am dealing with things that I issues or challenges with others, things I cannot fix.  I have a friend suffering from depression, another who is facing struggles with her husband, my sister is moving and needs an ear to listen as she navigates and my brother has decided to leave his wife. Irrelevant of my want to help, I can only offer an ear, listen with an open heart, stand beside them in their struggles without judgement; I can only sit in solidarity and support with kindness and compassion for there is nothing else that can be done. It is difficult to set aside your own pain and confusion to care for someone in this way, it is challenging to not look for a solution for them. It reminds me of the first time my eldest child was hurt, despite all my desire I could only offer comfort for the pain remained.   I find myself again growing, while it is a continual process this time I find myself learning to hold space.

I come across the term from time to time, I think I first encountered it when reading about grieving and compassion.  I initially has this vague idea of what it meant. It varies based upon the circumstance and can include holding someone in tears, a hug of encouragement, listening, sitting in silence,  or giving them time alone while trusting them to reach out when in need. I understood the fact that it was unconditional acceptance of the person’s struggle, allowing them to traverse their journey being by their side but struggled with what that looked like, how to let someone struggle when I could see a potential outcome. How do you stand by and see someone in pain, how do you fight the urge to envelope them in your arms offering assurance that the sun will shine again, that it will be alright at some point? How do we make room in our hearts to witness the pain of another while not attempting to problem solve?

Holding space for someone is essentially opening your heart, offering unconditional support while letting go of your judgement and control.  Being willing to join someone on their journey standing beside them and allowing the situation to unfold, empowering them to find the courage and strength to traverse the pain. For those in our inner most circle, those closely held in our heart it can be difficult. We never want to see those we love in pain so allowing a situation to unfold without fueling the emotional portion can be difficult if we cannot let go of ourselves in the situation. Here is lies my shortcomings.

I have had to set aside my pain and fear so to not impact another which I am learning to do. I struggle the most with not trying to find a remedy. I owe a few apologies for trying to find a resolution and not sit with them in their moment. I am learning to make space for their pain and struggle then to step back and hold space for myself too. For it is essential that I can deal with my feelings and emotions without impacting then nor should I deny my own pain and struggles. I spent a lifetime tucking my emotions away for fear of reprisal, maybe this is part of my lesson too; be kind to yourself per say.

At times in life we will all need someone to hold space for us, to allow us to be vulnerable and weak without fear of reprisal, to wrap us in the blanket of compassion and kindness, to offer unconditional love without judgement.  It is not always easy because we all tend to struggle with our own human needs, for myself I have endless patience and compassion but tend to want to fix things. I understand where my need to mend and restore lies and am working diligently to overcome it.  I understand that trying to fix certain situations can render people powerless and it is best to sit with them in their pain.  I cannot hold space at the same time I am expending energy to rectify another’s pain. There are other times there is absolutely nothing in my power to do. Having learned this while sitting with a family in the depths of grief for losing their mother it is a lesson I carry in my heart.

Irrelevant of how hard I wish I cannot remove the struggle or alleviate the pain; I must learn to be present in the moment as opposed to focusing on problem solving.  Although I always offer unconditional love and respect without judgement, I am striving to master the art of holding space. I want to be able to let those in my heart know they do not need to walk alone, to offer them solid ground so they feel stable enough to be exactly where they are in the moment, to offer the empathy and understanding so they have the courage to bear the pain or the strength to process what they are facing, to trust in their choices and to walk with them until they arrive at their own outcome.

“When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity, when your love touches someone’s pain, it become compassion.”      ― Stephen Levine


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