Holding space is something I practice often as an integral coach, mentor and as a friend. I’ve experienced holding space in it’s highest form – while dealing with death and grieving… holding space for myself and others.
Holding space is really quite beautiful.
At the time I lost my partner, my grief took me to a very deep dark place and I realized that others didn’t know anything about supporting me during this difficult time. I learned to hold space for myself and be kind to myself whilst simply trying to survive. I didn’t listen when others told me ‘time will heal’ or flippantly say ‘it’s time to get over it’. It was an incredible gift to myself during those difficult dim days. It’s easy for people to think that “holding space” is obscure or a fluffy new age term that is only about feeling good but when you speak about it from the context of passing over, it becomes a slower more substantial form.
When my ex mother-in-law was dying I gathered to be with her in her final days and support her in her transition out of this life into the next. I wanted to hold space for her and her family. I wanted them to know that they were being held by someone who cared and was only a phone call away. I think it made it easier for people to slow down and see their issues more deeply.
In similar instances when a person has been clear that their parent or loved one wanted to be buried or cremated they weren’t ready to say their farewells as their parent or loved one’s spirit passed. I recall saying that they should take their time – take as long as they need to. I offered gentle support and guidance when needed as they walked this difficult journey of their lives – I was holding space for them.
When I coach, mentor or facilitate I’m reminded of holding space. It means I am willing to walk alongside the person on whatever journey they’re on without judging them, trying to tell them what they should do or how they should feel. When holding space for others I let go of thinking about me and keep my ego out of it. I offer unconditional support and compassion. I ground myself letting go of judgment to create this safe holding space. I let the person know that I offer this safe space where they can be vulnerable without being judged, feel weak or embarrassed.
Holding space for myself and for others is a complex practice that is unique to each person and each situation. It’s not always easy as I have a tendency to performance manage myself wanting to give advice, find solutions or judge them for not making decisions or progressing faster. I’m mindful of not taking their power away by trying to fix their problems, overwhelm them with too much information, rush or humiliate them by expecting them to know more than they do or move faster.Holding space sounds like a very passive involvement but really a behavior that needs practice and mindfulness to do well. A person holding space is a strong, secure and a grounded person requiring great control and effort.
When I hold space I let the person feel empowered to make their own decisions and rely on their instincts. I create space where the person can raise challenging issues and where they can reflect openly, speak honestly, listen sincerely, and act wisely.