The Honor of Holding a Story

by Andrea Kolber


Sometimes I see it clearly. My job, if it’s nothing else, is to hold the stories of people. I didn’t always realize (although maybe I should’ve) that stories are my jam. I should’ve known because I’m such a book nerd. I love fiction and non-fiction and all the stories. I’m also an existentialist and a meaning maker—so you can count me in for finding the layers behind a random rainbow.

And so like I said, I’m a story holder aka a therapist.

If I’m honest with you (which I try to be), sometimes working in mental health is hard—really hard. It’s tough to be the person someone wants to have the silver bullet. It’s challenging to be the person a client shares their deepest hurts and hard with. It’s difficult to know my own limits and how much I’m responsible for, when there is a ton of pain in the world, including my own.  

But also…it’s one of the most sacred, precious experiences I've known. 

It’s right up there with singing at church in the middle of a chorus I love. That’s what it’s like sometimes, when a person is ready to do their work— we counselors and social workers and psychologists and pastors, we create a space and invite a brave soul to unpack their heart. We can’t heal it, of course. We simply get to facilitate the process.

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I remember in grad school when I told one of my supervisors, “I know it’s weird, but I’m drawn to grief and pain. She looked me in the eye and said, keep going—you’re going to do good work. You should look into trauma and get more training there.”

And so now, after gaining more tools, training, and synthesizing all these elements-- I have the honor of making space for people in a way I had never thought possible. Who could of thought?

Every once in awhile, I tap into the gratefulness of what is happening before me— I get to witness warriors being made. Occasionally, I see people drastically changed. It’s not every day, that’s for sure. But sometimes I see how this is a tiny representation and reminder that healing, change, and growth happens every single day and sometimes we have the honor of playing a part.

The thing is, I don’t think this is contained to just therapeutic relationships. In a way, I think all of us are learning how to hold a story for someone; how to be safe for them. How to love them like Jesus loves.

The power of a story is breathtaking to me. I’m grateful for those who’ve gone before and held mine and who hold them still.

If today all we do is make it okay for a person to share who they are and how they became who they are, I think we’ve done a lot. Let’s keep making room. Let’s open up the table. Let’s invite each other in. Let’s keep holding the stories.