The beauty of ‘holding space’

A few months ago I read an article written by a journalist who had been recently bereaved by the death of her mother. She was writing about the concept of ‘holding space’; the idea that when we are experiencing emotional times, people around us ‘hold space’, allowing us to comfortably and safely experience the emotions involved, whilst they quietly keep life ticking over in the background, and running as normal as possible, until we are able to bring ourselves back to our steadier selves. In fact, we do it all the time for our family and friends – it’s all part of the human experience – but we also do it for acquaintances and strangers when we can, because we recognise the need.
More recently I have experienced this concept of ‘holding space’, first hand, from the community I live in, as well as other parts of the wider community. A friend of mine passed away a few weeks ago. She had been given 12 months to live, well, 12 months ago. She was well known in the town of Kenmare and it is this community, in particular, that I and close friends, want to acknowledge and thank.
After the initial shock of hearing such definite news and then as this news filtered down the line and into the wider community, people around us began to ‘hold space’. My friend compiled a bucket list and she gave us all challenges to help her complete the list and fulfil her dreams. It is from these challenges and that bucket list, that true kindness, consideration and generosity of a community came into play.
Some people gave financial help which enabled cars to stay on the road allowing appointments of both the medical and pleasurable kind, to be kept. Some gave their time by adjusting their own working days to accommodate days off for the drivers, helpers and providers, or by transporting shopping and weary legs, or simply by listening. Some directly gave cars and vehicles – handing over keys with no questions asked. Some brought meals and food directly to the door or brought us out for a treat. Some provided shelter, beds and beautiful spaces to be in and to experience. Others provided their service free of charge to pamper my friend and bring a smile to her face. Everyone else in the community ‘held the space’ around us, to let us get on with living life to the fullest where possible, comforting us when all we wanted to do was cry and also supporting and cheering us on as achievements and goals were struck off the list.
Living in a community that can do what you all did, showing such kindness, compassion and understanding has allowed us to experience life from a different perspective. It has shown the very best that a community can do and we feel very privileged to live in such a place.
Thank you all.
Claire Thompson and Toni O’Sullivan