“Sometimes, I wonder if we ever truly let anyone completely in. The desire for another human being to know you, all of you, all the pieces, even the ones you’re ashamed of — is huge. But too often, we sit down and sort through the pieces only picking out the pretty ones, leaving the ugly ones behind, not realizing that choosing not to share with someone else is like committing a crime against our very soul.”
Rachel Van Dyken, Toxic
A Friends and Family Post
Holding Space for the bereaved is something I’ve written about many times before. But it continues to take on new meaning as I peel through deeper layers of the healing process, and as so many of you ask how you can support the ones you love as they figure out life in The AfterLoss.
Lights, Camera, Hold Space
I recently encountered a video someone posted on Facebook of a father holding space for his toddler, who was having an epic meltdown. It made me uncomfortable to watch, and you know how I like to take a nice long look at that stuff and try to figure out why.
What Does Holding Space Mean?
No words I’ve read since becoming a widow have been able to do “holding space” justice the way three minutes of a screaming toddler did. The father in this video just sat and held space. He didn’t talk or scold or try to fix it. Dad made sure his kid wouldn’t hurt himself but didn’t intervene. He was present, and he was holding space. Wow. (For the full effect, watch it again with the volume cranked.)
Holding Space is Uncomfortable
Why did that make me uncomfortable? Besides wanting to fix it and make the screaming stop? Because I recognized myself in that screaming kid. Life in the AfterLoss was full of anger, pain, sadness, despair, and rage. And there were very few people who were able to hold space in the face of that. Sure, some helped, but more often than not, after a full widow rage meltdown, those closest to me would talk, scold, or try to fix.
I’m not judging. I could barely stomach watching a three-minute video, so I can only imagine what it was like to try to help a grown woman completely losing her shit for close to two years. But the bereaved are just as helpless in the face of overwhelming emotions as a toddler. It was ugly. I was ugly. I cringe, just remembering it, and am forever grateful the people I love didn’t give up on me.
It’s a Matter of Trust
But that’s what it is to hold space. And there is one crucial thing to remember about the bereaved in your life: if they show you the ugliness, it’s because they trust you will love them enough to Hold Space. I’m grateful so many of you reach out, asking how you can help the bereaved in your lives. Well, here you go. This is it. Hold Space.
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
P.S. The need to have space held doesn’t magically disappear at the one-year mark. For many of the bereaved, the second year is worse.