Holding space is one of those new aged spiritual phrases that are tossed around like we all know what they mean. Many of us nod our heads in agreement, “Yep holding space is quite something.” Well what does it mean and how do we hold space for dying and death that dignifies the one who is walking hand in hand with death?
What a great question!
Perhaps some of this could form a piece of the answer.
In the role of a mentor, facilitator, coach, or guide you are creating space by offering compassionate, judgment free support and direction. It can also mean walking beside another person or persons on their journey with death without criticizing them, trying to fix them, or getting them to your preferred outcome.
“Holding space for others is a function of an open heart demonstrated by the offering of our full support while letting go of our own judgment and control.”
And it is not easy!
We have very human tendencies and a kindness to want to fix people’s situations, make it better, and to give them great advice. The darker side of this is we will subtly judge them for not doing it right or for not being further along the path than they are. We as guides, coaches, mentors, or facilitators must be prepared to get out of their way by empowering those we are serving to make their own decisions. Sometimes we simply offer love and support, other times we give a little advice or a gentle hand up when they stumble.
“Holding sacred space for those walking with death is an art form. When we do it well the people we are holding the space for will grow and transform, actually thriving through grief.”
Here are some practical tips to put into use when you are holding sacred space for others.
Get your own ego out of the way. What this means to me is setting our own agenda aside, paying attention to those we are holding space for and helping them discover their own agenda that will be different than ours.
Empower the folks you are serving by helping them make their own choices. What this looks like to me is asking questions more than providing answers. Helping them explore their own thoughts and looking for their own solutions. Part of this is encouraging people to discover and trust their intuition and internal wisdom.
Give people information in bite-sized piece, only as much as they can handle in one bite. Too much information can and will confuse people especially those who are also dealing with their internal emotions. When emotions are running high it is very important to slow down the information flow as their mind is preoccupied with making sense of their feelings and they have little bandwidth for new data. You will find the very information you want to get across to them so they can make the best possible decision they can actually paralyzes them and no decision will be made.
Let them know that making mistakes is normal and natural. When you do this well they will then feel safe enough to fail. This freedom usually results in them relaxing and then making even better decisions.
When you do give guidance and help do so thoughtfully and humbly. Remember a couple of things here; everyone is doing their best; and you just like them have your own experience, intuition and wisdom – yours in no more ‘wise’ than theirs.
Make their complex emotions, fears, and thoughts welcome in your space. What this means to me is accept where everyone is at. You don’t need answers, in fact often the right questions are more important.
Finally and likely most importantly know that they will likely make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would. Be totally okay with this.
Holding sacred space is not something you will master overnight. Any master, a painter, musician, athlete, author, or barista will tell you it takes thousands of hours of practice to master a skill set. Holding sacred space for people experiencing the dying process is a complex practice that evolves each time we walk along the death path with an individual or family. This practice or art form is unique to each and every person.
Warmly and with gratitude