I saw this article on Grief Digest Magazine (online) and wanted to share it. It's a great resource for articles and information from the bereavement community. You can click on the link to take you directly to the article or read it below.
February 23, 2012
By Andrea Gambill
Advice is like breath; everyone has some, but sometimes it isn’t pleasant!
…and, it’s pretty much worth what you pay for it—most of the time.
Probably nobody gets as much unsolicited advice as the bereaved. It comes in like an avalanche—especially in the early days of grief. What always amazes me is how firm-with-confidence it is when it comes from those who have never had a similar experience. It is almost always liberally spiced with “you should…,” or “you shouldn’t…”; “you need to…,” or “you must never….” Or even, “I bet you wish…” Then there’s the ubiquitous, “If I were you…” And the virtually unforgivable, “Why didn’t you…?” Unwelcome advice is like sandpaper on the soul. It hurts, and it does no good at all.
It’s almost always well intended, but it’s usually born out of frustration on the part of the donor. Our wannabe-comforters are completely baffled by us, and they are overwhelmed by our pain. If that sounds a bit too “forgiving,” try to remember back to before you were bereaved and how you felt when you encountered someone who had just experienced a devastating loss. I know I’d love to get back some of the words that spilled out of my never-to-be-silent mouth!
I know a lady who never has a clue. If I say I have a headache, she will say, “Why don’t you take an aspirin?” I want to reply (loudly), “Gee, I wish I’d thought of that!” People don’t mean to be stupid, but they are often flailing around in the deep end of the pool when they can’t swim. They need some education—given graciously and with patience—because, “a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down…,” But “teaching” and exercising patience can be tall orders for the wounded who are already suffering a pain that is beyond describing!
But, wait a minute! It’s not all bad news. Sometimes, there is great advice swirling around out there if we can just let our hearts be quiet for a minute and learn how to sift and sort. There are still souls who are tender-hearted , compassionate and wise beyond the obvious. Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s do a little testing. Let’s consider who is giving the advice. Is it from someone we have always considered wise and trustworthy? Is it someone we truly care about—perhaps even admire? Is the counsel coming from the heart or the head of this person? Does s/he really genuinely care, or is it just an attempt to impress you with their great wisdom? Is this someone who has your future and your soul at the top of their prayer list, or is it someone who wants to exert power and control (even if they don’t realize their own motive)?
In other words, let’s take a deep breath and try to be discerning. After all, we can’t lose anything—except maybe something (or someone) we really didn’t need anyway. We may be bereaved and in deep pain, but we have not lost our own prerogative to choose our own paths and decisions carefully.
“Caring is comforting, but advice may not be. If caring is coming from a deep and sincere place in the heart, it can’t fail. If it’s just an obligatory duty, or a quest for power and control, it can’t succeed.”
This is only one of the reasons support groups and grief literature (like Grief Digest) can be so helpful. Since advice is an issue that bereaved people have all endured, many different responses to it have been learned and shared. Maybe each of us can edit some of those responses with small personal revisions that will help. You get the idea, “Two heads are better than one.”