For the last 8-months, I have been in a High Priestess program. The practices and learnings have had me wondering about how to fulfill my purpose. A theme of creating safe space for myself and for others has been emerging. I love this definition:

“A safe space is a place—physical or virtual—you can go to relax and recharge. A judgment-free zone where you can let your guard down and truly be yourself.” (

At an event for the program I am in, we offered rituals with the public to honor their loved ones who had passed. There was so much grief, love, sadness, anger, bittersweetness, and gratitude present. It felt like very sacred and important work. I was struck by the power of what my fellow priestesses and I were providing. A Safe Space for others. I was also struck by how little training I have had in being with others who are grieving.

Maybe you have had a similar experience. I learned how to be with angry people. How to not take how they are being personally and how to deescalate the situation. I had training on how to help physically injured people. In emergency situations, I am calm like a cucumber. But at 46 years old, I have had virtually no training in how to create a safe space for grieving people.  In our modern culture of glorifying youth and preserving it at all costs, death can often be seen as the enemy. Grief as its companion is widely misunderstood and even rejected.

If someone we know is grieving and it feels very recent, we might say we are sorry or offer condolences. However, if it seems like it has been a long time since the loss occurred (pet or person passing or even job loss or divorce) and they are still grieving, we might wonder out loud – have you spoken with a grief counselor or worked through the stages of grief. While we might offer those words to be helpful or supportive, it is subtly shame inducing. It makes it sounds like there is an allowable shelf life to grief. Like it has an expiration date. Let me tell ya. If folks feel shame for grieving too long, they will keep quiet about it. It can be isolating and sometimes it can eat people whole.

The other way I am with grieving folks to feel less uncomfortable is to share my own grief or how I know someone who lost someone in the same way. While again it might seem like I am trying to let them know they are not alone, now they have to figure out what to say to me about my loss or a stranger’s loss. Again, it might have them stay silent about their grief so they can avoid any unhelpful advice, empty platitudes, or awkward sharing.

Doing the ritual, I noticed that we added nothing. We offered no simple platitudes. We didn’t try to manage their grief or tell them about ours. We just witnessed. That space of no-judgment allowed many to shed tears and share stories about those they loved who were lost in a huge variety of ways.

For a fundamental experience that will touch every single one of us too many times, I am truly curious how to cultivate my ability to provide safe space for the grieving. In the words of Brene Brown, “What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” Welcome to my inquiry. I leave you with these two questions:

Where can you be a safe space for yourself? Try thinking of the last time you were struggling. Where did you allow yourself to feel how you felt and get support for yourself? Where did you shame yourself or make yourself wrong for how you felt?

Where can you be a safe space for others? Again try thinking of someone you know who was struggling. Where did you feel like you are good at creating this for others and where can you grow your ability to allow others to be however they are.

The magic of creating safe space is the permission to just be who you are and however you are. I may never know the impact being with those grieving at the event had for them, but I know that it was life changing for me.

As we turn towards the darkest part of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, I wish you bright blessings. If you are honoring those you loved who have passed, I honor them too.