The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be …
The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
I often hear people say how they were holding space or helping someone emotionally during a difficult time. I'm not quite sure what they mean by this and was wondering what this means and how can I help support someone more emotionally.
You bring up a great topic that is not discussed very often, yet people think that emotional support is something that should be an innate process that everybody understands. Many people did not grow up in an emotionally supported environment, which would lead to not having the cues or experiences to help support others emotionally or feel comfortable being supported emotionally.
Many people may find sharing their emotions as a sign of weakness, or if someone is feeling emotionally fragile, they may view it as a hindrance or a sign of weaknesses.
A physical wound is more obvious and clear action can take place, such as stopping bleeding, decreasing swelling, keeping a wound clean and other actions to help with healing. With an emotional wound, the right action isn't quite as obvious, and it is often overlooked as an important part of any kind of healing.
It is a balance of care that takes a high level of empathy in which you are available for someone in their vulnerable state of mind. Your availability can be the most important part of healing. By helping someone to feel safe, seen, heard and valued, you allow physical and emotional wounds to heal with a higher quality and more of a rapid recovery.
Someone may be hurting emotionally without having a physical issue as well. Obvious examples of this would be times such as a death of a loved one, divorce, being fired from a job or more subtle areas, such as days that may trigger historical losses, being nervous about something, and other historical and present changes in life.
When someone shares that they are feeling sad, scared, nervous, insecure, or any other feelings of emotional fragility, they are sharing their vulnerabilities with you, and you have the opportunity to "hold space." The wild thing is that quite often the action is nonaction.
It is simply being available for the person and willing to give a hug, give space, listen to stories (even if you have already heard the stories before), make a meal, take someone to dinner, or any other action that may help that person feel supported in their vulnerability in order to have healing.
Think of it as similar to someone breaking their arm and getting a cast. The cast holds the arm while the bone heals.
The bone still needs to do the healing, but the cast can help support, protect and give a level of stability; otherwise, there could be the healing would be hindered. Being available for someone emotionally is a gift that leads to trust and is probably the highest level of intimacy in which someone knows you "have their back" during an emotionally fragile time.
Being seen, heard and valued, is a normal human need, and being a person who can step out of one's self and be available for someone in their time of need is a beautiful gift.
Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.
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