Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where expressing a slice of gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for all the people who know and do their best to practice the art of holding space, which I tend to believe is the best form of support for those who’ve been going through pain and suffering for a long time in life. And for all those as well who responded with love to a posting I placed on Facebook a few weeks ago that dealt with this very thing, which was written as follows:
“Sometimes what your friends really need the most ISN’T advice, or suggestions, or reminding you there are people out there far worse, or telling you to focus on the gratitude in your life. Sometimes what you friends really need the most IS to know they aren’t alone in a world that often feels alone to them, which isn’t being codependent or needy, it’s simply being unconditionally loving, something this world is lacking in greatly right now in my humble opinion…”
I’ve come to witness over the many years I’ve been going through a life that isn’t a pleasurable one whatsoever that most don’t know how to be there for someone like me, someone truly struggling with life circumstances out of their control no matter how much effort is placed into trying to change them. Most people think that offering advice, suggestions, reminding you of others suffering far worse, or telling you to focus more on gratitude is going to help and maybe even cheer the suffering person up somehow. The only person who’s typically cheered up by saying such things though is the one offering it, because the person receiving it tends to have already had plenty of that thrown their way for a very long time, most of which never having helped change any of their circumstances.
This is why I’m very thankful for the few who practice the art of holding space. The basic definition of this technique is to be present with someone, without judgment. It means you donate your ears and heart without wanting anything in return. It involves practicing empathy and compassion. You accept someone’s truths, no matter what they may be, and put your needs and opinions aside, allowing someone to just be. And most don’t know how to do this. Rather, they lean towards trying to fix or solve the crisis in front of them that is their friend.
I am so thankful to have a few people in my life who don’t try to fix me because I’m not broken, I’m hurting. And when I hurt to the level I do on most days, the last thing I need from someone who says they are my friend is their advice, judgments, reminders of others suffering worse, or told to be more grateful. Even worse is when someone just tells me to suck it up and get over it. None of this is ever helpful because none of it ever helps me to feel truly loved and supported.
People tend to think that they can somehow alter a person’s suffering by offering some form of advice, except it’s really nothing more than a judgment. Yet there are those who have discovered this art of holding space and the benefit it brings to those deep in despair. Many of them have become excellent nurses, counselors, and helpers in things like hospice care. My therapist in Toledo is an excellent holder of space for me and has made room for me to fall apart in her office without advice or judgment countless times. I’m sure some of you reading this carry this gift as well and it’s a priceless gift when offered to people like me, who are suffering immensely.
And as I said in my Facebook musing, holding space for someone isn’t being needy or codependent, it’s simply being unconditionally loving, and sometimes that’s as simple as just listening to a person and letting them know you care by NOT responding with some piece of advice or judgement when they’re done and instead offering a hug and saying, “I love you and do care.”
So, for those who appreciated my little Facebook blurb on this subject, and those who do their best to hold space for others who have been long in pain and suffering, I am truly grateful for each of you and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all of you. Because when I’m in the lowest of lows, which seems to be quite a bit these days, it’s each of you that has helped me to keep going for one more day, something that advice-givers, tough-love offerers, and those who think I should just suck it up, accomplish the exact opposite, leading me only into greater despair and away from having any heart connection with them.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson