Let’s Talk Holding Space for Grief

The Importance of Holding Space for Grief Expression

Grief is an inevitable part of our human experience, and touches everyone at some point in their lives. It is a deeply personal and complex, sacred emotion that can arise from various forms of loss, including the death of a loved one (including pets), the end of a relationship, or significant life changes. While grief is a natural response, society often struggles with how to support those who are grieving.

One of the most compassionate and effective ways to offer support is by holding space for grief expression. This practice involves providing a safe, non-judgmental environment where individuals can freely express their emotions and experiences related to their loss. In addition to providing a safe space, it’s important that people in the space do not attempt to “fix” or advise those who are grieving.

Understanding Grief

Grief is not a singular emotion but a spectrum that encompasses sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, and even relief. The process of grieving is unique to each individual, shaped by personal experiences, cultural backgrounds, and the nature of the loss. People may cycle through these stages in different orders, revisit certain stages, or experience entirely different emotions.

The Concept of Holding Space for Grief

Holding space refers to being present and supportive for someone without trying to fix their situation or offering advice. It involves active listening with empathy, validating feelings, and creating an environment where people feel safe to share their grief. This practice is rooted in the principles of compassion, patience, and non-judgment.

holding space for grief

The Parts of Holding Space for People Who are Grieving

  • Emotional Validation: Grieving individuals often feel isolated in their pain. By holding space, we acknowledge suffering and validate emotions. This validation is crucial for their healing process, as it helps individuals feel understood and less alone.
  • Creating a Safe Environment: A safe environment allows individuals to express grief without fear of judgment or criticism. This safety is essential for people to process emotions authentically. It consists of a physical space, such as a quiet room, and an emotional space characterized by empathy and acceptance.
  • Encouraging Emotional Expression: Grief can be overwhelming, and many people suppress their emotions to appear strong or avoid burdening others. Holding space encourages them to release pent-up emotions, which is a critical step in the healing process. Expressing grief can take many forms, including talking, crying, writing, or engaging in creative activities.
  • Fostering Connection: Grief can create a sense of disconnection from the world. By holding space, we help individuals reconnect with their emotions, their loved ones, and their community. This connection is vital for rebuilding a sense of belonging and support.
  • Promoting Healing: Healing from grief is not about forgetting the loss but about finding a way to live with it. Holding space allows individuals to navigate their grief at their own pace, facilitating a healthier adjustment to their new reality.
  • Respecting Individual Journeys: Each person’s grief journey is unique. Holding space respects this individuality, allowing people to process their grief in their own way and time. It avoids imposing expectations or timelines on the healing process.

How to Hold Space for Someone Grieving

  1. Listen Actively: Offer full attention without interrupting or offering solutions. Listening is a powerful act of support.
  2. Be Present: Demonstrate that you are there for them, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes, silent presence is more comforting than words.
  3. Validate Feelings: Acknowledge emotions and let them know it’s okay to feel whatever they are feeling.
  4. Avoid Clichés: Phrases like “They’re in a better place” or “Everything happens for a reason” can feel dismissive. Instead, express condolences and willingness to support.
  5. Offer Practical Help: Grieving individuals may struggle with daily tasks. Offering to help with chores, errands, or providing meals can alleviate some of their burdens.
  6. Respect Their Process: Allow people to grieve in their own way and time. Avoid pressuring them to move on or suggesting how they should feel.


Holding space for grief expression is a profound act of empathy and compassion. It acknowledges the depth of human suffering while providing the support necessary for healing. In a world that often rushes the grieving process or shies away from uncomfortable emotions, being able to hold space for someone’s grief is a gift of immeasurable value. It reminds us of our shared humanity and the power of presence in the face of loss. By embracing this practice, we can foster a more compassionate and understanding society where grief is honored, and healing is possible.

If you or someone you know is going through grief and bereavement, please reach out to us for more information on joining our Grief and Bereavement Support Group. You can call us at 385-272-4292 or email Jude Higgins at Jude@lotusslc.org.

Written by Jude Higgins, Ph.D., Death Doula, Clinical Chaplain at The Lotus Center

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