When my mom and my dad were dying, (my mom at 59 and my dad at 89), we were with them. I didn’t know anything about supporting someone in their transition out of this life into the next, but I knew I wanted to be near them and I believed they wanted to be near me.
The anniversary of my father’s death just passed and today would have been my mom’s birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about them, their transitions, and how it affected me (and my crazy future goal of opening a hospice… for another post, I’m sure).
Lately I’ve been thinking of this phrase we often use as people transition – holding space.
I think holding space for someone means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. It’s the space in our hearts, which offers unconditional support and love. We hold space as they transition from life here, and we do it while others are simply experiencing life.
Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others. For example, my friend’s father recently passed and when she told me he was getting close, I made a point of holding space in my heart for her, while she was holding space for her parents.
I’m not 100% sure, but I am betting that some of my friends hold space for me. Frankly, I think it’s impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders, mentors and teachers need to know that there are people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of judgement.
I do my best to hold space for other people in the same way that I know others do for me. But, I have to admit that this isn’t easy. Candidly, I have the very human tendency to want to fix people or give them advice and direction! That’s not in any way, shape or form – holding space! But, I’m learning. And, I’ve figured out that I need to create a container, of sorts, where my loved ones and friends can put their fears, dreams and emotions, without judgment – and in a safe way.
As I move along in this cool thing called life, I’m clearly still learning. But, I can respect everyone’s journey. I can honor their pain, hold their hands and wipe their tears. I can offer hugs. I can back off or lean in. I can listen. I cannot heal pain or grief. But I certainly can hold space and be present for them, as we all make our way through this thing called life (thanks Prince!).