When my Mom was dying, my siblings and I gathered to be with her in her final days. None of us knew anything about supporting someone in her transition out of this life into the next, but we were pretty sure we wanted to keep her at home, so we did.
My mom remained at home as well, until it was impossible for us to safely keep her there, her terminal agitation too great for us to manage. She died 24 hours later. It was the most difficult and the most powerful occurrence I have ever experienced.
So what is holding space?
It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
It is life changing to let go of the barriers we build up in order to (we tell ourselves) stay protected. These barriers do protect, but they also isolate and insulate. It feels like shutting down is the safer option, but really staying open and loving is safer because it keeps us connected to all that goes on around us. Going through momentous loss without feeling would be unnatural. Worse, it prevents us from being in the very moment that has the potential to change the way we view our lives, the lives of those we love, the way we view our world.
The insights behind the pain, pain that no one asks to go through, have within them a fundamental power to expand us as human beings so extensively, that we may need to reorient ourselves, our boundaries, our belief systems.
When we can live like we are dying (which we are) then we can choose wisely and with awareness, what to do, say, hear, smell, and taste. There is great meaning to small, every day-ness. We are being taught how to live, and while life can be terribly sad, it can also be incredibly holy.