The way I'm thinking of this wonderful term is that it is in a very real way, a method or practice of really doing life together in a beneficial way. For example, a friend of mine was experiencing a grief-inducing situation. Her father, her daddy, had been fighting for his life against cancer and had recently reached the decision that he no longer desired aggressive treatment. Cancer hadn't won anything, but he had become aware that there are worse things in this life than dying. This was understandably and unimaginably challenging for every one. Every. One.
So. I held space for her even as she held space for her dad. And her mom. And her siblings. And....well, you get the idea. Obviously, I didn't have any answers or magic wands or any thing. But I did let her know I cared. And just sent her texts sometimes when she was on my mind. Sometimes she replied, sometimes she didn't. That was fine. She knew I was there if she needed/wanted to talk. And I was there when she didn't know what to say. We were in each other's space without even being in each other's presence. That's holding space.
I think we sort of do this almost subconsciously, but I think we all do it to some degree. Let's be aware of it and celebrate it! There are also times when it is hard, impossible even, to be comfortable in the 'being held' part. We are 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' kind of people, right? But hear this: life is hard. And it might not get easier. It's ok to not be everything to everyone all the time all by yourself. That is exhausting. I was honored that my friend allowed me to hold space for her, and am grateful for those who hold space for me.
Maureen Willis, RN, BSN, CCM, PAC Consultant