In September 2001, Co-Director of the Centre for Holding Space, Heather Plett’s busy life as a mom and government manager ground to a halt and she found herself in a hospital bed trying to save the life of her unborn child. Three weeks later, her son died, and her life was irrevocably changed by the liminal space experience in the hospital and the grief that followed.
That pivotal event sent her on a quest to find the answers to some big questions about how to hold the kind of complexity, uncertainty, and grief she’d experienced.
A QUEST TO FIND ANSWERS
In November 2012, another death changed the course of Heather’s life and deepened her understanding of liminal space, grief, and complexity.
This time it was her mom who died while Heather and her siblings sat at her bedside.
Two years later, Heather wrote a blog post about How to Hold Space, sharing the story of how a palliative care nurse held space at her mom’s bedside. That blog post went viral, quickly traveling around the world until it had been seen by somewhere in the range of 10 million people.
“Heather gave a keynote speech to start off our international association’s annual conference and my response was, ‘Wow!’ It was beyond what we could have hoped for. Her presentation was well-organized, thought-provoking, and exceptionally relevant for our focus. As a person and speaker, she is authentic and engaging. Our participants loved her and her presentation, and it set an amazing tone for the rest of our conference. Participant evaluations included, ‘inspiring,’ ‘my favorite,’ ‘powerful speaker,’ ‘valuable,’ and ‘moving.’ It says a lot when the contents of her presentation were referred to throughout the rest of our 3-day conference. We are very grateful and will love to have her speak another time.”
– Lynn Thomas, LCSW, Founder/CEO, EAGALA, U.S.
JUST THE RIGHT FIT
In 2016, after reading about Heather’s growing overwhelm on her blog due both to significant life events and the sudden, rapid growth of her work, Krista reached out during her own time of career transition to see whether Heather could use her help as a virtual assistant. Having known Heather for many years from attending church together and watching her journey, Krista sensed that she had gifts to offer at that juncture that might allow her friend the freedom to get back to the work that really mattered to her.
Heather took a chance and hired her in July 2016. As it turned out, Krista was the right fit to hold space, not just for Heather, but for the work itself and she became a valued member of the team, her work evolving from virtual assistant to business doula to business manager.
In the Spring of 2017, in response to the growing demand for training on the principles of holding space, Heather created the online Holding Space Coach/Facilitator Program (later renamed the Holding Space Practitioner Program). Very quickly, the program filled up beyond what Heather had anticipated, though not beyond what Krista had imagined. At the beginning of its life, the six month program was offered twice a year with an average of 55 people per cohort. In 2019, the program was changed to an 8 month course with only one offering per year.
In order to support the larger-than-expected numbers of participants in the programs, assistant teachers (originally called “mentors”) were brought onto the team. At first it was only one, and then it grew to two and has since grown to include several Holding Space Master Practitioners and Master Practitioner Candidates.
Heather’s travel opportunities continued to grow as well, as she was invited to Australia for a second and third time, to New Zealand twice, to the United States a few times, to Costa Rica, and then to the Netherlands three times in 18 months (with eight sold out workshops).
Holding Space for Organizations
In 2019, a former participant of the Holding Space Practitioner Program received provincial funding to contract with Heather to develop a specialized program for the organization she worked for, CALP (Community Adult Learning Program) in Alberta. Heather developed a customized workbook and then supported two pilot projects consisting of an in-person workshop and online weekly training calls.
In the meantime, Heather was writing a book on Holding Space. In September 2019, she contracted with Page Two to publish the book and The Art of Holding Space: A Practice of Love, Liberation and Leadership is available to order now, has already been translated into Dutch and is in the process of being translated into Vietnamese.
CENTRE FOR HOLDING
SPACE WAS BORN
In late 2019, Heather and Krista began to have conversations about how to grow the work and whether they should become partners in it.
In November 2019, they traveled to Mesa, Arizona where they worked with Pam Slim in a business development process. Out of that conversation, the Centre for Holding Space was born.
As has been true throughout Heather’s journey with this work, the right people arose to help her and Krista build the Centre and, with folks such as the Page Two team, Pam Slim, Amanda Winn at Wholehearted Business , Alexandra Devandra of Aligned Law, Kara Bjornson of Meyers LLP Barristers & Soliciters, Ian McCausland, and the team at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, they spent the bulk of the first half of 2020 (pandemic notwithstanding) creating this website, editing and refining Heather’s book, writing a business plan, developing their partnership agreement, registering business names and trademarks, securing funding, mentoring Master Practitioner Candidates, refining the course and creating the certification program.
It was a labour of love supported by some spectacular midwives.