Holding the Space for Grief

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What Does it Mean to Hold the Space?

So many of us want to do something to help with COVID-19, the victims of the virus, their families, and communities.  There is so much grief.  Grief for the life we were all living and now has forever changed.  The levels of change are varied and fall on each and every point of the spectrum.  This week I’ve been really trying to think of what it means to “hold the space’ (HTS) and how many of us really understand what it means to HTS.  Offering loose advice to HTS for someone who is amidst their struggle is often lost in translation.  

The first thing I need when someone is HTS is they not try to fix my problem.  It’s not validating to hear the positive spin on your situation.  It’s not comforting to have your situation compared to any other situation (for better or worse) and any of the cliche pacifiers are always cringe-worthy (i.e. it’ll get better, silver lining, etc.).  So in HTS stop trying to fix it.  The only way to fix my grief is to bring Marley back to my arms.  This can’t happen, so stop tossing out other fix-it ideas…at least while you’re HTS…different, of course, if someone or if I am asking for advice.

Don’t forget about listening

Next, the listening piece is so important.  Truly being listened to is such a special and comforting experience.  How does one learn to listen?  Well, there are a lot of books, podcasts, and articles on the art of compassionate listening; but, yesterday Clear Mourning posted a video with clear and digestible nuggets on how to be a better listener.  Spend time here.  Spend time with some silence and interest while you HTS.

As I have mentioned, it is so important to know your own struggles, heartbreaks, and grief.  To know this is crucial because as Dame Cicely Saunders taught us: the pain of the supporter contributes to the pain of the recipient.  What does this mean?  It means that if I am asked to support the mother of a child gone from her arms, I must first consider what part of my story will affect the support I can offer.  If a person is colored with their own grief and trauma, it is imperative they understand it and have a relationship with it before supporting another.  

Let’s be together, and apart during this time.  We can still show up for one another.