“Holding space” for another is a phrase that has become quite meaningful in the mental health community. Although “holding space” for someone is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give someone, it can be tough to do. My friends at Tiny Buddha explain the concept very well:
This sounds easy. So why is this sometimes so hard to do?
I believe that when people come to you to give support when you are hurt, grieving, sad, or feeling lonely, they arrive with genuine compassion and truly want to be helpful and supportive. I am constantly in awe of the ability of people we know (and sometimes strangers too) to drop everything and rush to our aid when we need help.
Even when someone has good intentions, why do we sometimes feel worse when someone tries to “make us feel better”? Because “making someone feel better” is the complete opposite of holding space. Holding space simply means to just be present with whatever feelings exist, without judgment and advice. As emotional guardian angels, our job is to not judge, minimize, argue, criticize, or try to “fix” what is happening.
Sometimes we try to “fix” the other person’s pain because we don’t want our friend or loved one to hurt anymore. It hurts us to see them in pain so we try to make it go away. Sometimes their grief or loss triggers our own anxieties about terrible things happening to us or even our children. We want our friend’s pain to go away as quick as possible so we no longer have to think about own feelings of security or mortality - which is really scary.
If you are wondering how to provide compassionate support to someone in need, my favorite picture on this topic says it best:
Remember: “You can’t fix what happened, but you can sit with someone, side by side, so they don’t feel quite so alone. That requires only intention, a willingness to feel awkward, and an open, listening heart. It’s the one gift that can make a difference." ~ Linda Carroll
Be well, my friends.