A person dying is in need of a special kind of care. Providing care to the dying can be a trying yet rewarding experience. Knowing what to do for a dying loved one can make all the difference. When faced with being “the one” responsible for over seeing and providing special care, it is important and healthy for all to understand the coming challenges and put your ego aside. If you know anyone who is experiencing such a thing, one way you can help such a person is by holding space. This concept, however, is not well understood. So what does holding space mean?
It means that you are willing and ready to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they are on without judging them, trying to fix them, making them feel inadequate or attempting to impact the outcome whatever they might be going through. When you hold space for other people, you open your heart, offer unconditional support, and let go of any judgment and control. It means that you will be by their side.
You are simply with it entirely so that it can work itself out. You have to take caution here. That does not mean becoming a victim of it, quite on the contrary. You are very powerful in this space, and it does not mean being hurt physically by another person. When you are deep in an area like this, you are way more immune to any “emotional” harm than you might be aware of. Taking in so much of emotional hurt just ends up bruising the ego; it involves taking what someone else is saying about you or someone close to you personally. But the odd thing about all that is, what most people say about us is a mere reflection of themselves. It is not personal. And while we do not turn a blind eye to everything other people might be saying, we start to comprehend just how much of an illusion everyone else is trapped in. In the end you will feel honored that you were trusted to share in the in this reflective end stage of life.
Holding space can be a lot of hard work. You are bound to experience a cocktail of emotions from the person you are holding the space for. For instance, for the first time that you are holding space, you might be non-reactive to a lover’s outburst or a co-dependent friend’s tears, and they may then think that you do not care, which is obviously far from it. In hindsight, you are caring more about them than ever before since you are not feeding their emotional issues and making them worse. If anything, they now have to check their emotional mess and own up to it because you are holding space as is opposed to rolling around in this emotional debris with them. To begin with, that can be intensely uncomfortable for the other person. On the other side, it can also be trans-formative as well. It is always up to the other person in that equation to decide on what results from it. You can only own your pieces of the puzzle and what you do with them. You may want to explain to the other person what and why you’re handling thing the way you do. It might be appreciated by the other person that you not to butt in his or her life and try to run it.
It goes in many different directions, but it is always an enlightening experience in more ways than one though it can be a little bit uncomfortable to begin with. It may mean the end of some relationships that do not want to evolve. You have to have in mind that some people are just happy living in the filth of their misery. But at the same time, they still desire to go back home and complain about what the universe is doing to them, to their ideas, and even to their spiritual practices. If you do not join in with that negativity, they can get upset and leave you. And you may have to be just as comfortable with that result, the same way you would have to be with the positive outcome that brings relationships and friendships closer.
Holding space is, however, not flawless, especially if you are doing it for the first time. You may struggle with some aspects if the entire thing. Do not worry, it is allowed. We are always learning from our mistakes, right? To get started, I would suggest that you practice. There is a reason that people say “practice makes perfect.” It is because that has been proven to work. First, identify a person with whom you can practice with. You can take turns where one talks while the other listens. That is a practice about how you can be open-hearted and without judgment when the worst is said about you as well as when the best is said about you.
For the most of that process, you will just be listening to people talk about their pain. Then you see how you can be with it. You should check what comes up inside of you, and then discuss it with your listening partner. If you do not feel comfortable talking about it, you can journal it. That is a powerful practice that you can use to develop awareness, so that you can be with more people, understand what people share. You can help them find their inner peace and trust that the situation is going to happen, as it should.
Be real and be sure to discuss the importance of planning beyond the end of life. Helping or just checking to see if funeral plans are discussed and planned in a way that reflect on one’s true legacy while giving the gift to survivors of a well planned funeral.
- Guide them without offering them the answers. A real space holder knows when the right time to provide guidance is and when to withhold it. It is not about you trying to fix their situation as far as post life decisions are concerned. Be sure they understand their options and provide the advice of experts like financial planners and funeral directors as well as spiritual guidance. It is better if they found the solutions by themselves after you have guided them to the advise of experts when necessary.
- Provide a safe container for them to make mistakes. As they try to fix their issues by themselves, you have to understand that they are bound to make mistakes. Yours is to provide the space for errors.
- Let them draw their own conclusions. Allow them to feel whatever they feel, without judgment. Remain neutral no matter what end of life decisions they make like estate planning or funeral arrangements.
Thank You Heather Plett for your words of wisdom in contributing to this important topic.