Friday, November 20, 2015

Holding Space

Recently, I've seen the phrase holding space a lot. It resonates.

Heather Plett says this, "What does it mean to hold space for someone else? 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."

Ahhhh, I see. I don't need to fix everyone's problems? I can sit with them. I can cry with them. I can hold their hand.

Last night we had parent-teacher conferences. The last conference of the night took an unexpected turn when our student began to pour his heart out about all the hurt he had inside. It was like a dam of emotion and pain had been released. He admitted that he was putting on a happy face and acting like things were okay. They are SO not okay.

"You think I don't know, but I know everything." The mom had been valiantly trying to shield her son from some of the awful, but in the end, it doesn't work very well. Kids know.

Some of it will likely get better with time, but a big part of it won't. His mom said, "I give him permission to be this sad and this angry because what has happened is something that no child should have to go through. But what can I do?"

All you can do sometimes is be there for people. Walk alongside them. Tell them you're sorry they're hurting. Listen. Cry with them.

That is what my colleague did with this family for well over an hour last night. We held space. We told the mom and her son that we would be there for them, that we would do whatever we could that might help. But in the end, I know that just being a loving presence will be the greatest help.

There was one point of much-needed levity during this difficult conversation. The younger brother was there but he was immersed in a game on his Ipad. Suddenly he looked up to see his mom, brother, both teachers, and the interpreter all crying, very somber.

"What is this? What has happened to everyone?" he said looking around at all the tear-streaked faces, completely bewildered. We all laughed- It was pretty funny that it took him so long to notice something was going on. Laughter through tears.

I went to bed thinking about this family I woke up thinking about this family. Oh, how I wish I could fix all their problems.

More advice from Heather Plett: "Create a space where people feel safe enough to fall apart without fearing that this will leave them permanently broken or that they will be shamed by others."

In the end, I believe it was such a good and healthy thing for our student to get all of this out. I can take some solace that we have created the environment in our center that would lead to him feeling safe enough to break open like he did. I give my colleague, who spends the majority of time with this student, enormous credit for creating this atmosphere. It's one of the things she does best and most beautifully.

So, for now, holding space will have to be enough. And, it's a lot. It really is.

How to Hold Space for Others by Heather Plett

How to Hold Space for Yourself First by Heather Plett

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