What It Means to be a Place Holder
When we hold space for someone else, we are willing to walk alongside another person. This is true for whatever journey they happen to be on, serving without judgment and without trying to change the outcome. Many who work in palliative care are place holders. Holding space means having an open heart with unconditional support in whatever is happening.
There are times we will hold space for people while they hold space for others, creating a support system of place holders. This is challenging, yet meaningful work. Unless we have place holders in our lives, we will be unable to do it for another person for any length of time. Even the strongest among us need to be able to be vulnerable with someone else at times, without fear of judgment.
To support people in their personal transformations and growth, or even grief, we must avoid trying to take their power, creating shame, being overwhelming, or even trying to fix things. They have to be allowed to make their own choices with our love and support offering gentle guidance only when needed or asked for to make things safe.
Learning from Holding Space
Being a place holder can teach lessons like no other position in life. One of the strongest lessons is that we can teach others to rely on their personal wisdom and intuition. When someone is caring for a dying loved one, they need gentle reminders that a health schedule is not written in stone, intuition can go a long way if they will simply trust it.
As space holders, we can also share small amounts of information. Not enough to overwhelm, but enough to help in a situation. This empowers others to make decisions. While sometimes a place holder must step in, people need autonomy to make their own decisions and mistakes as often as possible. A place holder is to offer support, but never try to control.
Being a place holder also teaches us to keep our egos in check. This is important. Serving as a place holder is not about taking on the feelings of another or basing our personal success on their success or failure, it is about simply being there for another person. We are to support their growth, not base our own on what happens. Along with this, we must make people feel safe enough to fail, judgment free. Place holders help someone find courage enough to take risks and if failure happens, remind them it is not the end of a journey.
Place holders should also be available to offer help and guidance with humbleness when it is actually needed. There will be times when it is neither wanted or needed and we must sit back and let others make decisions, but when guidance is needed, we need to be gentle. This may involve recognizing the areas that people feel vulnerable or uncertain in and offering to help, all without shaming them for needing help.
Place holders will also serve as a container for the emotions that people do not usually deal with because they feel safe. It can take practice to be prepared for this role and remain non-judgmental, but others will appreciate it. You will become a safe space for falling apart and one who gives strength and courage. This is not a job for the overly emotional because it will be too overwhelming.
Place holders need to put personal preferences and choices aside to let others decide what is best for their situation. When we are place holders, we must let go of control. None of these aspects can be learned overnight. It takes time and practice, but if you are a place holder then you will be a cherished person in the lives of others.