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Holding Space For The Holidays

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Hi folks, once again this is Emily Gillies guest writing on Joy’s blog. It is a pleasure to write to you again and

continue sharing angles specific to my realm of work with the Centre for Holding Space. Joy and I rescheduled the November retreat to January 20-22,

2023 and in doing so, we recognized the concepts from Holding Space and Somatic work are so needed as we near the holiday season.

As this may be the first time families have gathered together in a couple years, there may be some relationship stress starting to be felt, especially if you have differing viewpoints. Changes in traditions and family dynamics are a lot to navigate!

How well do you know yourself, your needs, your capacity, your baseline nervous system state, your indicators of activation, and your options for regulation?

Being able to do a real-time and honest check-in with ourselves is essential to initiating difficult conversations and moving forward smoothly. When I think of these things for myself I realize that while my awareness has grown over time, but these answers are tricky. They change all the time. And likely to shift even more as the holidays approach.

I am finding it helpful to reflect on some questions ahead of time, so that I can be more resourced for these challenges and less reactive, and avoid getting lost in anxiety, indecision, or disillusionment.

It is still new for me to navigate the holidays as a divorced woman and mother of two boys, and these last two years have been especially strange and challenging. Related to my sons, I grieve the loss of the special moments we are not creating together as they celebrate with their Dad’s family instead. Part of my heart aches when I wake alone on Christmas


So some inquiries I hold for myself are;

  • How do I hold space for myself at that time?

  • Do I talk to supportive people about this ahead of the day and give voice to my grief?

  • Do I plan activities for that morning or just leave the gap of time to really be present to what arises?

  • What will I do for the precious time I will see my kids, and how does it change when creating those family memories as a single parent?

With my family, I wonder about;

  • How it will be when a large group is back at my brother’s home?

  • Will everyone be comfortable in physical space together?

  • Will we talk about the topics we don’t agree on?

  • If they are set aside, will that be a relief or an unspoken tension?

  • Will we habitually observe the same traditions or will there be choice-points and awareness of how we come together?

There are no right or wrong answers for any of these questions.

Right now, I don’t even have the answers myself. The first step, as I mentioned, is to peer inside my own heart and mind. I’ll sense what issues are feeling most present, then use the lenses of ‘needs’, ‘capacity’, ‘boundaries’, ‘nervous system activation and regulation’ to gain some clarity on options for moving forward. That’s a first step! What questions might help you to plan for navigating those tricky relationships over the holidays?

We are excited to offer support as we round the corner towards the holiday season.

So before I turn the talking piece back to Joy, I invite you to join us for one of our online workshops 'Holding Space for the Holidays') to dive into these topics a little deeper. There are two opportunities: Nov 27 & (updated) SATURDAY Dec 10 (2:00-4:00pm CST via zoom). Advanced registration is required and these sessions will NOT be recorded to allow for privacy and authentic sharing. These workshops stand alone and are also a great way to dip your toe into the work we'll be focusing on in our upcoming in-person retreat. I hope you can join us as I would love to be in conversation with you about the challenges you are anticipating this holiday season. ~ Emily

Joy & Emily are the co-creators of the 'Connections & Containers of Support' Retreat taking place Jan 20-22, 2023. This unique retreat blends foundational principles of Holding Space along with somatic practices and nervous system self-awareness. Registration is open and the early bird deadline is Dec 21.


Joy Onyschak has been guiding adults from from overwhelm to ease in their hearts and bodies for over 13 years. As a Somatic Guide, she incorporates Conscious Connected Breathwork, somatic movement, and the art of Holding Space to help her clients find the wholeness they seek. She works with clients worldwide online or in-person in Winnipeg, Canada. She hosts intimate retreats and events at her Southern Manitoba property. Explore her conatiners of support at , and connect with her through Instagram , Facebook or email

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