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Trauma, Empathy and Mindfulness: Creating and Holding Space and Boundaries

After suffering extreme loss of myself, I’m learning to let go of the pain. To move all the pain and trauma out of my body to create space for love and joy. For regardless of what happened or what happens, life moves on. And it’s up to me how I live it. 

During this process, I’m also learning how to create space for another. Because when it comes to someone else’s suffering, to someone else’s pain, it is sometimes more difficult to let go. Perhaps it’s because it is not my pain I’m holding onto — so I don’t recognize it in the same ways as I do my own. Perhaps it’s because I’m still learning boundaries: where I end and another begins. Either way, I’m learning I have to create and hold space in order for either of us to have the chance to heal. 

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Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

I didn’t understand the concepts of creating and holding space the first time they were presented to me. I pictured the six-foot rule we now abide by during COVID. Not realizing that, when learning to hold space, it’s not physical space (well, sometimes it’s that too), but metaphysical space I am holding. Space between myself and everyone else.

Creating space means I am no longer holding onto the things that no longer serve me. Forgiving myself. Forgiving others. Letting go. It means I’m making room in my body. Replacing my anxious, unhealthy thoughts with healthy thoughts and knowledge. Letting go. Nourishing my body with movement and baths and healthy foods. Letting go. Feeding my soul with laughter and joy. Letting go. Catching glimpses of my true self in the space I’ve created. 

While learning to let go and to make room within myself, I’m learning to establish boundaries. Boundaries for myself. Boundaries for myself and others. Boundaries for my past. For my present. For my future. The boundaries are boundless. And I’m learning that creating boundaries helps me hold space for another too. Space between them and myself.

I can hold this space with positive thoughts. With good vibes. With prayer. The idea is to both let go and to hang on. To let go of where you’re holding another’s trauma in your body — that’s right, I said we can hold another’s trauma in our bodies. It’s worth repeating. 

I never knew I could hold someone else’s experiences inside of me. Taking up space. Restricting flow. Causing my empathy for their situation to turn into how it’s making me feel. Doing the exact opposite of providing empathetic support. Weakening me and preventing me from being able to help. Letting their chaos throw me into a fight-or-flight state. Letting their pain hurt me.

Holding space means creating that boundary. Drawing the line that allows you to protect yourself — your okayness — so you can have empathy for them without being consumed by them. And so you are not casting someone away because they are unwell, but keeping them and their well-being in your heart. Praying that one day they get the help they need. To heal. To be free of their pain. 

But creating boundaries means I can be free of their pain now. Because I am in charge of my own well-being and others are in charge of theirs. A concept that only makes sense once boundaries are understood. It means that, especially when I sense another is not okay, I draw the line. I create and hold space. I can always help from the other side. But I have to be okay first in order to be able to do so.

For if you’ve ever had someone in your life who isn’t well, you know how quickly it can take you over if you’re not careful. You’ll end up forgetting yourself in the process of trying to hang on to them. And then you’re both lost.

In order to stay grounded, in hopes that someday they will find themselves, you can hold space. Set boundaries. Even set boundaries for when you will think of them. When you will pray for them. Maintaining your well-being and energetically promoting theirs. Sending them light and love. 

For as mainstream as the concepts of light and love may seem, they hold truth. For light and love are what save us. Light and love and knowledge and joy. And just like wearing an air mask on an airplane, you have to make sure yours is secure first before you can help another with theirs. Because you have to save yourself first in order to be able to help others. And you have to learn to be okay regardless of what happens to them. 

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Trauma, Empathy and Mindfulness: Creating and Holding Space and Boundaries

Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including healing from trauma, coping with neurological disorder and practicing mindfulness in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website for more of her stories.

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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2020). Trauma, Empathy and Mindfulness: Creating and Holding Space and Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jul 2020
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