The Spaces in Between

When we randomly came upon a photo of my late sister last weekend, T started to cry.

It caught me by surprise, because while he’s expressed sadness about her death, this was the first time he’s cried.

It was a reminder that grief is a process and that while so much has happened in the last three months, the wounds are fresh.

I recently learned about the concept of liminal space – which is described as “the place a person is in during a transitional period. It’s a gap, and can be physical (like a doorway), emotional (like a divorce) or metaphorical (like a decision).”

These in-between spaces appeared in different ways in my life in recent years: the transitions to and from remote work during the pandemic, Ma’s stroke and recovery, my sister’s cancer diagnosis and recent death.

This Forbes article provides a wonderful overview of liminal space as well as practical tips on how to best navigate through them.

I encourage you to read it but here are a few tips that stood out to me:

  • Ask “Why Not?” instead of “What If?”
  • Learn to meditate
  • Practice acceptance and being present
  • Remember positive experiences
  • Focus on what you can control not what you can’t

As a parent of a child with FASD, you often feel like you’re in constant liminal space.

You’re always learning about and facing different challenges brought on by a complex invisible disability that is often misunderstood and comes with so much stigma.

Practicing self care, remembering to be kind with yourself and each other and having a sense of humour are so important to navigate these spaces – as are advocacy and educating yourself and others about FASD.

In general, transitions are hard for individuals with FASD as a result of impairments related to executive functioning.

Transitions are a work in progress for T and effective strategies include providing advance notice and reminders, breaking tasks down into smaller simple steps, giving him time to process the instructions, and being patient.

Now that I think about it, these also provide a great model for how we should live in the liminal spaces that we find ourselves in.

When I learned late last year that my sister’s cancer was essentially terminal, I decided to reduce my personal and professional load, including stepping off work committees not core to my portfolio.

I explained to colleagues, who were understanding, that 2023 was going to be a transition year (I didn’t know the term liminal space yet!) and I want to create space to transition through these changes.

The recent experience with T crying over the photo was a great reminder about who T is at his core – a child who is genuinely kind and full of love – and that he too is going through liminal spaces.

When we allow ourselves to journey through the in-between spaces, we also open ourselves up to the surprises tucked within.

Peeking through the fence during a visit to Riverdale Farm at age 2. Time flies!

24 thoughts on “The Spaces in Between

  1. Aw T. *hugs to you and your fam* Also thank you for teaching me the term “liminal space”! I was just talking about how being in that space makes me feel with my therapist this past week and it just feels so much more comforting to have a name for it.

    1. Thanks Caitlyn! I know you wrote about your recent life transitions and I agree with you that it’s always nice when you can name and label something you’re experiencing. 😊🙏 Hope you’re staying well. Take care.

  2. That’s really interesting about liminal space. I haven’t heard that term, but it makes sense, especially after a traumatic experience

  3. This made my heart ache Ab. Such a beautiful post. I feel for all of you. I’ve not heard the term liminal spaces before but I can relate to being at an in between stage in my life. I think the danger is – if we don’t let ourselves grieve – we get stuck there. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to surrender. Sending the best to you and yours Ab 🙏

    1. Thanks AP! 😊 Yup, your move to Singapore is definitely a liminal stage. And you are absolutely right that we should allow ourselves to let go to the emotions in order to move forward. Hope you and yours are well! 🙏

  4. I’ve never heard of the term liminal space, but the concept of being in a transitional space is something that most people have to face at some point (or multiple points) in their life. And it’s generally not easy and the amount of time you’re in that space is different each time. It’s good that T can open up to you about this stuff and recognize that it’s okay to feel your feelings. At least he has a strong support system to help him pass through this in between stage.

    1. Thanks Linda. You will laugh as you just mentioned my love of horror movies earlier this week. I actually learned about this term because there’s a growing genre of horror called liminal horror that deals with dream or nightmarish like spaces. It’s amazing where inspiration comes from these days! 😆

  5. This is so beautiful, Ab. It can be such a challenge to face those periods of transition and change, but I think your approach of mindful awareness and stepping back a bit is good one. Take the time necessary, for yourself and with T, to navigate those liminal spaces and find a path forward. I love the perspective of opening yourself up to the surprises tucked within the unknown. There are gifts and small pockets of joy everywhere, even in period of grieving, if we just keep our eyes open.

    1. Thank you Erin. 😊 You’re so right that when we open up ourselves to surprise, there are pockets of joy everywhere indeed. 💕

  6. Beautiful post. I had two thoughts when I read your post: Yes, photos have a way of making the grief we’re feeling in our hearts real and that, for me anyways, tears are a good thing. They help let the hurt out. Beautiful post. Nothing easy about loss. Sending positive thoughts and prayers and the hope that time will start to heal some of those wounds.

    1. Thanks Brian! When I read your touching post about the car ride with your son, it made me think one of the best ways to navigate and anticipate changes in life is to be present and maximize those connections as you did that day! 😊

  7. I guess those spaces are actually good for us though they come with so much uncertainty at times that it’s hard to handle them.It’s good T expressed his emotions in the best way he knew how

    1. Thank you, Faith! 😊 And good morning . I’m just getting up and this was a kind comment to start the day. And I appreciate it comes from someone who has a teacher’s perspective! 😊 Take care.

  8. Great article Ab. I have encountered many of those liminal spaces in my lifetime- some easier to navigate than others but I think I have grown emotionally each time I pass through one and on to the next. Your family is fortunate to have each other as you all confront each new space.

    1. Thank you Deb. 😊 I like that you mention the growth through each door you’ve walked through. I think that’s the one value of each of these spaces that we encounter.

  9. Wow, Ab, what a fascinating post full of perspective. I love how you teach about liminal spaces (I was unfamiliar with that work), relate it what parenting T has taught you, and address what we can do to navigate through. It makes me think that both you and I were writing about change today.

    And I love the Forbes tip to write it down – this is wonderful therapy! Please give T an extra hug from me – and one for yourself too. I can’t imagine how impactful the last few months have been. Loss takes a long time to integrate. <3

    1. Thank you Wynne. 😊 Yes, I noticed the common theme under our posts today. Must be that kind of parenting day/week. 😆

      I love the “write it down” tip too. So practical. And will do re: extra hug. 🙂

      Enjoy the rest of your week as well!

  10. Thank you for sharing this interesting and enlightening article! I would add that perhaps T is going through “It’s the space between what is and what will happen next” more often than we do and navigates it with less ease. It’s great that you recognize it and provide him and yourself the tools to deal with this.

    1. Thank you Margie. 😊 You nailed it with your response. He struggles with transitions because of the unease and routines are so important to him. It’s been one of the most eye opening reminders of this parenting journey. 🙏

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