A hospital chaplain reflects on grief and loss, mindfulness and healing, in this “beautifully written” meditation on the spiritual, emotional, and philosophical implications of end-of-life care (Jan Chozen Bays, author of Mindfulness on the Go)
As a hospital chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn has been present with those suffering from suicide, trauma, disease, and unforeseen accidents and has been witness to the intense grief and powerful insights that so often accompany loss. She weaves together memoir, philosophical inquiry, and cutting-edge research on death/dying to chronicle how we, as individuals and as a culture, handle everything from grief to mortality.
Glenn is also a professional birth doula with a deep and committed mindfulness practice who has thought deeply about the significance of human love and loss. She asks us to embrace the task of being present with what is—through courageous and mindful expressions of compassionate presence—and helps us to accept the fact of our own mortality on a visceral and emotional level, not simply as an intellectual abstraction.
Holding Space concludes by integrating key insights drawn from working directly with the dying into a moving and compelling meditation on the healing power of “holding space” for all involved in caring for the dying, a healing sorely needed in our culture at this time.
About the Author
Amy Wright Glenn earned her MA in Religion and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She taught in the Religion and Philosophy Department at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey for over a decade earning the Dunbar Abston Jr. Chair for Teaching Excellence. Glenn is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, a DONA certified birth doula, a hospital chaplain, and founder of the Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath, and Death. She is also a contributor to PhillyVoice. Glenn provides online and in-person trainings to birth and mental health professionals regarding pregnancy loss. Her first book, Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula, was published in 2013. To learn more: www.birthbreathanddeath.com
“Doula, chaplain, theologian, mother, wounded daughter, philosopher, lover, Amy Wright Glenn writes with poetry and power… Holding Space, part memoir and part spiritual exploration, is brilliantly written and asks the central question we all face in this life. ‘What does it mean to love, die and let go?’”—Patricia Harman,Arms Wide Open and The Midwife of Hope River
“This book is like a superhero, showing us how to run bravely toward the darkness and come out the other side as a human being. Amy deserves not just praise for writing in gorgeous, clear prose, but deep thanks for creating a gentle guide we all need for that one thing no one escapes: death.”—Tina Cassidy, Birth “Holding Space does just that for each of us. In a clear, intimate voice, Amy Wright Glenn shares her own experience and wisdom and by doing so makes a space for her reader to develop the same. For anyone going through loss, this book will feel like a treasure.” —Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness and Real Love “This is a beautifully written book about the challenging practice of remaining present—holding non-reactive space—around emotions of grief, sorrow and loss. This practice is brought alive through many touching vignettes from the author’s life and work as a hospital chaplain and as a doula for the poignant transitions of birth and death. I recommend Holding Space highly for hospice workers, religious and medical professionals, and for anyone facing personal loss.” —Jan Chozen Bays, Mindfulness on the Go and Mindful Eating
“To be human is to be born, to live, and then to pass on. I have long believed that we do ourselves a great disservice by remaining insulated from the realities of birth and death. In this exceptional book, Amy Wright Glenn offers profound wisdom and support to help us navigate that most tender journey of death and dying. Holding Space is a beautiful contribution to finding peace in one of life’s most important passages.” —Susan Stiffelman, Parenting with Presence
“This is a beautiful, gracious book of earned wisdom from a writer who is gifted with the capacity to be present with a loving heart to life’s most essential moments, from birth to death. Highly recommended!”—Miriam Greenspan, Healing Through the Dark Emotions
“Amy Wright Glenn knows what it means to hold space in both sorrow and joy. This is essential reading for those choosing to follow their vocation to be with the dying and the dead with compassion, mindfulness, and presence.” —Lee Webster, President, National Home Funeral Alliance
“Amy Wright Glenn offers a deeply personal account of her journey as a daughter, mother, chaplain and doula. It should be required reading for those involved in end-of-life care, grieving, and healing.” —Alexandre Rotta, Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
“Many parents are uncertain how to talk to their children about death. Through personal stories and spiritual teachings, Amy Wright Glenn offers insight into the way death is a natural part of life. Her honest reflections remind us to hold space for children, elders and ourselves to be more fully present with one another.” —Rev. Amy Freedman, Unitarian Universalist Minister of Religious Education
“A compassionate, wise, and insightful book––Holding Space will help you move through life’s challenges with courage, compassion, and the doula’s skill of holding space by embracing all moments with love.” —Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Founder of Orgasmic Birth
“In Holding Space Amy Wright Glenn delivers a thoughtful and poetic meditation on bringing mindful presence to the two major transition points in life: birth and death. Utilizing stories from her personal life and her experiences as a birth doula and a hospital chaplain, Amy reveals how we can keep our hearts open to both deep sorrow and ecstatic joy in these ‘sacred thresholds.’ You will find wisdom, love, and tenderness on every page of this very special book.” —Henry Fersko-Weiss, Executive Director of the International End of Life Doula Association, Caring for the Dying
“The wisdom this book contains makes it worthy of being a key reference on the subject. For those, like me, who keep in our personal libraries only books that have a timeless quality and which beg to be read again and again, this will be among them.” —Suzanne Arms, Founder of Birthing the Future
“Amy Wright Glenn dares to enter the holy space of birth and death simultaneously. She teaches us to hold not only our loved ones’ hands––those breathing and those who have crossed the threshold into death––but to embrace love and fear together in our open hearts. ‘Death is not a disease,’ Amy tells us. As a mother of a newborn who died in my arms, whose body I prepared for burial on my bed moments after birth, I agree.” —Dianna Vagianos Armentrout, Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart
“Holding Space is a beautiful book. Amy Wright Glenn intertwines stories of her personal growth with meditations on moments of deep meaning. In doing so, she helps us all to hold space for our grief––which is to say, she helps us to hold space for ourselves and for our loved ones. This book is full of insights, lessons, and kindness.” —Elizabeth Heineman, Ghostbelly
“Amy is a woman who has the courage to trust her intuition and open-minded relations to the world around her. Whether serving bereaved families or sharing the raucous joy of her son's antics, Amy is a young, fresh voice to carry the torch for all women; all explorers of humanity.” —Nina Angela McKissock, RN, From Sun to Sun “No topic is more avoided than death. In this book, Amy Wright Glenn creates a safe space for the readers to both cognitively examine death as well as benefit from reading a trustworthy travel guide with regard to the experience of loss. Holding Space leaves the reader better equipped for whatever journey into loss awaits them.” —Bob Mattingly, Executive Director of the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education
“This is an incredibly moving, honest and insightful book. Amy Wright Glenn skillfully and artfully offers tools and wisdom for those of us present with individuals at the most intimate, vulnerable and profound times in their lives.” —Aditi Sethi-Brown, MD, Hospice and Palliative Medicine Physician Mission Health Systems, Asheville, NC
“Holding Space is a book that everyone should read, for our collective conscience would be better off for it. There are people in life whose shoes you’d like to walk in or whose head you’d like to be in, yet Amy is one of the very few whose heart I’d like to feel in. “ —Tracy Cassels, PhD, Founder of Evolutionary Parenting