A large part of doula work is about holding space for people--not fixing them; not trying to help them change their feelings or situations; not giving advice--just listening consciously and being open and present for them to process their feelings in a safe container. For someone who likes to help (sometimes before even being asked ;) this was a muscle that took time to develop. Our inclination when we see people in pain is to try and alleviate it, so to just let them sit in it somehow felt...wrong.
In my research about holding space and grief, I came across Amy Wright Glenn who runs the Institute For The Study of Birth Breath and Death in Asheville, NC. Amy has written some terrific books, and offers many courses including one about Holding Space. As part of the course, we had to practice holding space for people. Because these were people who were obviously interested in the subject matter, while the experience was helpful, I wanted to practice with "non-pros" as it were--random people who were in the process of grieving some sort of loss--a death; a breakup; a job loss; a miscarriage--and wanted to take some time to process. I put the call out on Facebook and a bunch of people came forward. One woman was a friend of a friend who had lost her mother about a year earlier. I had not known her before our session and I was immediately struck by her depth. It was a transformative hour for both of us as I was struck by the power of just being versus doing. I didn't lead her--I just let explore her feelings. A few weeks later she posted this on Facebook:
Most of my friends know I lost my Mom in January of 2022. Losing a parent at my age (52) and hers (80) is expected— biological breakdown as we age is normal. But that doesn’t make it any less painful.
In the last year, I have experienced more stress, sadness, confusion, and general ineptitude than I could have imagined. While my gains will never top my losses in this instance, those gains are incredibly valuable.
New and strengthened relationships with family and friends top the list of 2022’s gifts. I got better at saying no when I need to. I have learned. And learned. And learned some more. I’ve found that conversations that normalize death, dying, and grief are important and need to be commonplace.
I’ve been surfacing a lot more since Mom’s memorial in November. In December, I was given the opportunity to spend time with Robin Palmer Blanche. Robin is a death doula and I was able to have a Holding Space session with her. For an hour, I talked, letting whatever needed to come out do so. Robin just listened— I mean really just listened— and created a space where it was safe for for my brain and mouth to connect. The next day, I woke up feeling more like myself than I have in years— not just my lost last year— but more. I experienced a restoration of self. It was incredible. I still have pain, but so much of what was blocked in my head and heart is freed up now. It was wonderful. If you are in the time of loss or approaching loss, I so recommend this experience.
My gratitude and relief are huge.
I was so moved by her words and so grateful to have helped her.
Our grief doesn't start after someone dies--it starts long before, and continues long after. There is no right or wrong time to have someone hold space for you.
Please get in touch if you'd like to schedule a session.