Holding space: opening our hearts and stopping judgement

When there is so much to say and no space in the day to say it, having someone who will create room for you to just be yourself can be the thing that keeps you from being overwhelmed and less able to cope.

There can be few things that are more upsetting than managing the feelings generated from having a seriously ill child, yet parents will rarely prioritise their own well-being, and this can lead to both emotional and physical health issues.

It is a normal reaction when we see a friend or colleague suffering to want to make it better, to say something helpful or to make them feel that we understand by sharing our own experiences and, of course, there is nothing wrong with this.

Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers do things a bit differently. We fully understand that each parent’s experience is unique; we can’t change what is happening, but we can consciously create time for parents to feel that they can be heard, without fear of judgement, by someone who will not be shocked by what they say. Family Support Workers endeavour to validate the feelings that parents express by truly understanding their point of view and through being present in their pain and loss.

Holding space for another person can be incredibly profound. In a fast-paced, problem-solving world, where we fear the impact we can have on others, taking risks in offering to truly hear someone talk about their situation can be a unique experience and one which is both empowering and transformative.

One parent told me:

“I hate that look I get when I talk about my child’s treatment, the fear and upset makes me want to make it better for them! I just end up saying everything is OK, but it’s not.“

We recognise that parents need to be encouraged to take time to talk: it is hard for them to set aside their caring role for just a while. Commonly parents under extreme stress feel that they cannot afford to think about or express how they are feeling for fear of buckling under the strain of their situation. They convey concern that they will be judged unfairly and, worse, that they will be viewed as not coping.

Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers give permission to parents to voice their doubts and heartache knowing that rather than draining them, the conversations they have with us empower them to carry on doing their very best for their child. Their well-being is a key component to managing the day-to-day pressure of having a seriously ill child. A mum told us that spending time with their Family Support Worker was:

“like releasing the cork from the bottle. The intense pressure is gone, and I can see that I’m doing OK - considering. It is so comforting to have someone believe in me”.

When we hold space for others we open our hearts, accept their experience and emotions as they are and offer unconditional support.