Holding Space For The People You Love Is Important – Here’s How To Do It

“I’m holding space for you.”

The first time someone said this to me, I was a bit caught off guard – I’d never heard of “holding space” before. It felt oddly comforting, though, since phrases like “I’m praying for you” had pretty much lost all meaning to me. Before I knew it, I’d adopted the phrase, meeting every expression of grief or hardship with an assurance that I was holding space for that person.

Since I first encountered it, the phrase “holding space” has become the go-to way for many people to express their support for others going through a rough patch. But what does it mean beyond just being an expression of support?

What Does It Mean To Hold Space For Someone?

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According to MindBodyGreen, to hold space for someone is “to be present with someone, without judgment…. You put your needs and opinions aside, allowing someone to just be.”

Okay, maybe it’s not as easy as I thought.

I have a confession to make: I’m a chronic problem-solver. I always want to make people feel better, to “fix” whatever may be wrong. Guess what, Emily? Holding space means not doing that

Holding space, at its core, really does mean holding that space — facilitating empty space for someone to express their grief, troubles, anger, or hardships, and then letting those things sit there. Acknowledge the things, all of them, and let them be there. You can’t make them go away, nor should you; but holding a space for others to recognize and process them will heal them more than anything else you could do.

How Do I Hold Space For Someone?

Firstly, saying that you’re “holding space” for someone is a great start. It’s a way to let them know you acknowledge their pain. But holding space doesn’t have to stop there. While you don’t want to try to solve all your friend’s problems, there are some practical ways you can hold space for them.

Ask What You Can Do For Them

My go-to phrase when I want to help facilitate a space for someone to process tough stuff is, “Is there anything I can do to help you as you go through this?” Sometimes the answer is no, or sometimes your friend might need some help holding that space for themselves. 

If a friend isn’t sure what they need, I’ll ask if they need help with anything practical, like grocery shopping or taking care of the kids. Sometimes they don’t need (or want) practical help, but they do really want a cozy night in with someone who cares about them. In that case, I’ll run to the store for some comfort food before heading over for some quality time.

Shut Up And Let Them Vent

I mean it — shut up and let them vent. Lots of nodding and affirming language (when you do speak) are your friends here. Sometimes, even most times, all your friend needs is a safe space to just let it all out. This is where you can be the most helpful. Just listen — every ounce of pain they can express without feeling judged or forced into anything will help them heal.

Quiet Your Own Inner Voice

Do you have a constant inner monologue running when someone else is telling you their story? Even if you’re being very attentive, it’s easy to relate their experiences to some of your own, to try to create your own reasoning for, or assumptions about, whatever they may be going through. Try to quiet that voice when you’re listening to your friend — just be there with them, in their pain. Hold space for it.


Is there someone you’re holding space for? Did these tips help? Share your advice for holding space for someone in the comments below.

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