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  • Writer's pictureKristin Bryan

Holding Space: What It Means To Be A Bereavement Doula

As I walked along the pier stretched out over the ocean, I read the names on the empty benches. Each bench was in honor or in memory of a loved one. The kids and I enjoy reading these kinds of markers. They are a sort of marker of the life and death of this person and a reflection of the love that was and is had for them. I waited many years for a promise God had given me and as I walked along, reading the carvings of love, I came across her name. No birth date, no death date. She did not exist yet. She was still a promise I was waiting to see fulfilled. But there was her name, holding space and in hindsight, maybe even prophetic in things to come.

What does it mean to "hold space"? That can mean so many different things depending on where any of us are at in life. In regards to the birth and bereavement doula, it means someone who serves through companioning, walking the journey with you, helping anchor you during the crashing waves, guiding you through the darkness, giving you a hand to hold, arms to wrap around you and ears to listen long before words are given. We hold space so that you are not alone and feeling vulnerable and lost. We do not do in your place but help you find your own inner power to do for yourself so that on the other side, you are mightier for it. The birth and bereavement doula is there not to fix anything, control or manipulate situations nor to judge you in your choices. This is a sacred time, a sacred place and the holding space is to honor you, the birthing woman in whatever way that means for you.

I want to publicly thank those who held space for me during my youngest child's birth. My husband John, my dear friends Alisa and Amanda (and an extra thank you for the amazing pictures you took for me), and also my nurse. Her role in holding space was very healing for me after having been hurt on a very deep level by a nurse during a previous birth.

I also want to acknowledge someone from my stillborn daughter's birth. The doctor who delivered her, as brief as her time with me was, held space in a way that I hope to be able to bring into the births I am honored to be able to attend. Stillness, calm, quiet. I do not remember her voice because her words were few and so gentle and quiet. She brought in with her a peace that I was not familiar with and that took time to process but was life-impacting in a beautiful way.

Each of these people, and many others who have indirectly held space for me, have been a part of teaching and inspiring me to be one to hold space for others.

A song that has been so powerful to me is Held by Natalie Grant.

"This is what it means to be held

How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life

And you survive

This is what it is to be loved

And to know that the promise was

When everything fell we'd be held"

No matter what trimester, no matter the ending, if I can be the one to hold space for you, that is what I am here for.

Photo by Amanda Eubanks

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