Holding Space and What It Means for Funeral Directors

Holding Space

Holding space is a term we have been hearing a lot more lately that is often discussed in end-of-life care, but it is also extremely important for those with careers in the funeral service industry to understand. As a funeral professional, one of the most fulfilling aspects of your job is the ability to truly help your community in a profound way. Creating a holding space for those grieving is one skill that can help you meet the emotional and mental needs of your clients in an impactful way.

What Is Holding Space?

Holding space is a technique often advocated in therapy that means “being present for someone and giving them a safe space for whatever it is that they need”. The primary function of holding space is not to give the other person advice, or tell them how to approach something, but to be there for what that individual person needs. This might mean simply listening to them talk and offering a kind, safe, space to be heard.

For end-of-life caregivers, it is a huge part of our responsibility. Creating this environment for our clients and their families helps to guide them through the grieving process as they approach death, either as the terminally ill person or as a family member.

While learning how to effectively hold space for someone is a skill that most people outside of a few key industries are not taught, but the good news is it is something we can all learn. When we do so, we can allow for a deep connection and healing for the communities that we serve.

Tips to Hold Space Effectively

As funeral professionals, the responsibility is not solely about helping grieving families pick out caskets, oversee funeral services, and determine the way to perform funeral services. That is certainly a small part of what we do, but the most important aspect of this career is the emotional and mental support that you can offer.

Some of that is about intuitively knowing how to help honor the deceased. And some of that is about building an environment where families can safely grieve and process their loss with support and love. As such, holding space is a technique that funeral directors can use to help families get through the arduous job of saying their final goodbyes.

Here are a few tips to help you meet their needs by holding space:

  • Realize this is about the rest of their lives, not only the end of their loved one's life.
    As funeral directors, we need to be concerned about how we honor the deceased in keeping with the family's wishes. But we also need to remain cognizant of the fact that our clients are not only using this time to have an opportunity to say goodbye but that they are also trying to come to terms with how to go on without their loved one after the funeral.
  • Rely on empathy and allow them to tell their story in the way they need.
    Holding space means giving them an open floor to feel heard and validated. It is important that we remain free of judgment and continue to encourage our clients to share their thoughts and emotions with us.
  • Employ active listening techniques.
    A lot of the time, when we talk to someone in our everyday lives, our main focus is on how we should respond to what they are saying, but this may not always be the most effective strategy when trying to create a holding space. Instead, try to focus on careful, active listening techniques such as repeating what the client says back to them so that they can clarify and feel heard. This technique is extremely helpful when you are in the process of planning the service to ensure all of their choices at the moment match what they really want.
  • Make suggestions but do not offer advice.
    When we hear some share something difficult, it can be very hard for us to not immediately jump into problem-solving mode to see how we can help ease their burdens. When creating a holding space, it is important that we find that delicate balance between offering help with allowing our clients to come to their own conclusions. Many families still benefit from recommendations for their grief process, and you can absolutely offer this, but allow them to decide when to take that next step for themselves.

The Pierce Mortuary Colleges Difference

At Pierce Mortuary Colleges, we pride ourselves in educating our students to be of service to their communities during some of their most trying times. If you are interested in pursuing a career in mortuary sciences, we offer an excellent environment to help you master the science of the field. But we also offer classes to truly excel at soft skills, like holding space, that will help you truly make a profound difference for your clients.

Contact us today to learn more about a career in this amazing field.