A Holding Space

A cacophony of sounds erupted as I entered the store. My attention turned to one sound in particular, a screaming child pleading with his mother to hold him. “Mommy p l e a s e pick me up, hold me mommy…… please hold me.”

I was struck by the intensity of this toddler’s imploring. Tears streamed down his reddened face as he stared up at his mother while tugging at the wide pocket on her sweater. I wasn’t sure in the moment why I was so entranced with this scene unfolding before me. I slowly moved about the store peeking around a corner, curious how the scenario would play itself out as I continued to hear the plea become more frantic. The mother was in conversation with the store clerk while simultaneously gently stroking the top of the boy’s head as he cried. Other customers gave looks of being annoyed. A backdrop of harsh judging stares from a handful of people filled the space surrounding the scene.

After a minute more, a change transpired. The mother knelt down eye level to her boy speaking in tones barely audible. With his eyes wide, he pointed over to the dog that was lying down near the front counter. Within seconds she picked her child up, reassuring him the dog would not harm him. The mother was explaining to the salesperson that her son had been bitten by a dog a few days prior and was still shaken by the event. I heard this mom apologizing to her son for not knowing he was frightened. The mother had no idea that there was a dog within eyeshot of her son.

The child’s weeping to hold him in his fear clutched at my heart. It took time before I was able to understand what was being awakened in me. I drove home with tears rimming the bottom of my eyes. I thought about my oldest brother who passed unexpectedly a few months ago. The thought tugs at my mind… was he scared when things went awry in his body? My other brother assures me it went quick, he says with confidence, “Patti, he didn’t suffer.”

Yet. My heart still aches knowing he was alone. I am cognizant of the reality that I don’t have control over all the frightening things or uncertainty that looms over the people with whom I care deeply. I can however use this space today to remind us all of the importance to “hold” and be present to those we love this holiday season. My feet are held to the fire as well.

It hasn’t always been easy for me to ask to be “held” when I’ve been emotionally unsettled. This season, I feel my brother’s absence. I will be mindful about the importance to give hugs and ask for hugs when needed as sadness grips at my heart.

Metaphorically speaking, when have you had a “dog” experience?

You know……. an occurrence when you felt alone in your plight or filled with fear upon waiting on scan or test results? Perhaps you were devastated from the hurtful behavior of another or re-traumatized by an event that you didn’t know how to begin to share. Or… your heart was aching, missing a dear loved one.

The importance of asking for comfort when we deal with unrest during the holiday season is imperative. The notion that we are supposed to be jolly all the time and hide our sorrow or pain is ludicrous. It is unreasonable to think we should ignore our needs for comfort during times of fear, trepidation, sadness, or loneliness. As adults we don’t often ask to be “held” or be “picked up” when our hearts are racing or are filled with despair. There is a lie we tell ourselves that are strength lies in us being stoic, ignoring our distress so as to be perceived by others as resilient. Since opening the Center I have found the “strongest” are the ones who allow themselves to be vulnerable. Brene Brown’s quote is ever more valuable to remember. She declares with passion, Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.”

With that lovely reminder, my wish for you and for me, is that we create a tender space for the myriad of emotions fluctuating between pure joy and melancholy.

May we pause, reflect and experience significant emotions that accompany the holidays.

A season of joy is present as I look forward to my grown children coming home for the holidays.

I’m upbeat about the upcoming year in anticipation of more wonderful new experiences at Wellness Within.

And… may we be comfortable being uncomfortable asking for when we need comfort as well as not missing opportunities to give comfort to those we love.

With arms wide, in love and light,

Patti Brown About Patti Brown

Patti is the founder and executive director of Wellness Within. She is certified in mind body medicine from The Center of Mind Body Medicine and is a licensed psychotherapist. Patti’s vision for Wellness Within is to provide a healing oasis to equip individuals and families dealing with a life-threatening illness with the resources, tools and support needed to heal and thrive. She believes we are all equipped with a wellspring of resources that exists within to facilitate present moment joy and transformation even in the face of difficulty. She is one of the leading voices in the community advocating for wellness in the presence of cancer. She is a frequent speaker on integrative cancer wellness practices and cancer survivorship.


  1. Kathy Maxwell says:

    Dear Patti, thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts. I have had similar experiences with hearing children cry, needing attention, and need to remember that as adults we too need comfort and compassion, and may need to ask for it. I’m sorry to learn of your loss and my heart goes out to you. I will always have hugs for you and appreciate all the comfort and wisdom you share with me and others. Love and hugs, Kathy Maxwell

  2. Lala Montesini says:

    Yes!! We too often don’t realize how essential we are to someone, until you open your arms. Happy Holidays to you and to all our family at Wellness Within! Big hugs to everyone!!!!

  3. Christy Stauts says:

    There are so many beautiful and insightful takeaways from this story. How we view others through the lens of our own experiences and how reactive we can be to that, both good and bad; for some judged the mom harshly, while others like you felt a curious and emotional response. Your right in that our culture teaches us to put on a brave face, and especially with all the cancer marketing with words and phrases like, “she’s a warrior”, “she’s so brave”, “your cancer journey”, or “your so strong”. We end up carrying our fear, grief and worries inside of us as we attempt to take care of others and manage their fears by appearing strong and resilient as we carry our heavy burden of cancer and trauma. When I became a mother I stopped judging so harshly mothers with screaming kids in a store, knowing that we don’t know where that family is in the development of teaching their children, and we don’t know their situation.I try to think that everyone is trying to do the best they can. Thank you for this wonderful price and for sharing how your grief of your brothers passing was still a process you were going through and understanding, yet through it your still finding lessons and sharing those with us. Thank you for that gift.

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