Last summer, deep in grief, I was exchanging texts with my dear and wise friend, Robin. We were supporting one another through difficult life transitions, and connected often. During one particular exchange, she signed off with a sentiment unfamiliar to me.
It was a simple salutation, but I didn’t understand it.
“I’m holding space for you…”, she wrote.
Not entirely sure what that meant, and not yet inquisitive enough to ask, I shelved the comment.
Until a few days later, when she wrote it again.
As I understood it, she was telling me in her own way, that she was thinking of me.
Awww. So nice, right?
Wrong. Way wrong.
I finally did ask her what she meant by it, and as it often happens, I started to hear and read about other people using the same term as well.
Now, months later, having space held for me, and holding space in return, I get it.
I truly get it.
I understand that holding space is one of the most important gifts we can give those we love and care about.
It’s far more than just “thinking about you”. It’s seeing a friend in distress and making a commitment to stand grounded in empathy and compassion.
Holding space is quiet and strong, and it doesn’t rush in to try to “fix” anything.
Holding space doesn’t offer advice or make suggestions. It certainly doesn’t compare their pain to yours.
Rather, it acknowledges that a person is experiencing deep, even complicated, feelings. It recognizes that such emotion must be felt and endured, not numbed and buried.
Holding space invites conversation, it listens and affirms. It honors the human experience through the most difficult and trying times. In doing so, it acknowledges our shared humanity. Which feels so “right”, yet is so counterintuitive in today’s fast-paced, multitasking, solution-oriented society.
Here, we want to ease the suffering of our brethren, so we are often quick to offer advice, make suggestions, and even relay stories of others in similar situations, hoping the connection will provide comfort.
It’s hard to see those we care about in pain, so for some, it’s natural to want to help.
For others, seeing loved ones ache is a scary mirror to our own struggle, so we offer nothing and simply go away.
But holding space gives the gift of understanding to our grief and struggle without any pressure to “get over it”, or “move on”. Holding space doesn’t abide by a timeline.
In having this done for me, I have been able to do so for others. In this practice, I have come to learn that holding space is indeed, a sacred act. I am so honored to hold space for others.
Still not sure what this looks like?
Here’s a handy dandy reference guide to get you started:
So, who could you hold space for today? Or perhaps you are someone who would benefit from the love of space being held for you? Reach out and share space, and watch it come back to you.
Lastly, I wonder what our world would be like if we showered one another with this seemingly benign salutation, and really meant it.
I have to believe we would feel as seen as supported as I have. (Thanks, Robin)