Monday, May 31, 2010

Punchy Tips for Great Unsolicited Advice

Hey kids! My tens of readers know by now that I'm going through what I'm starting to call The Whole Grief Thing. I may just start abbreviating it as TWGT just like the kids in Prince Caspian started calling their dwarf companion our Dear Little Friend, whic became DLF, and then they forgot what it had stood for...But I digress. But I digress because this whole post is a digression, sorta...The wonderful and inimitible Supa Freshwidow posed this question on Facebook:

NEWS FLASH: Some widowed people are "difficult!" -- Is it hard to deal with a grieving person? Do we have ridiculous standards, are we needy friends, and subject to mood swings? Are you more or less of a pain in the @$$ since your loss? Is that going to change, d'you think?

One of the responses to the question dealt with the issue of how annoying it is as a widowed person to get unsolicited advice. It being the wee hours of the morning (hello insomnia, my old friend), and I being a bit punchy, started coming up with ridiculous pieces of advice that could be offered. Because in some ways, a lot of the advice that one gets in this situation (no matter how sensible it may seem) often comes across just as ridiculous as some of the silliness I'm about to share. 

On a more serious note, before I launch into The Silly, I think people are driven to offer advice because they are discomfited by their friend's sorrow/pain, and want to Fix It. Sometimes this is driven by concern for their friend, sometimes this is driven by the desire to make the friend's pain go away so they can stop worrying about their grievng friend...They're ok? Ok, I can stop worrying now and all's right with the world...To have someone suffering on and on and on can feel something like a bystander watching the horrible BP Gulf of Mexico oil want to make it stop, but you don't know how, and you don't have any power over what gets done. And that can be enormously frustrating. 

I think people genuinely do want to help (for the most part), and whatever bits of advice they can think of, they throw your way, just in case it will help. Often, unfortunately, it has the opposite effect of what is intended (Cf: Law of Unintended Consequences). For the most part, people genuinely mean well, but hit a wrong note hard enough, and oh it is ouchy...Of course the whole "I'm going to avoid you because I'm at a total loss as to what to say" approach doesn't help so much either... 

Therefore, in the full spirit of Punchy Tongue-in-Cheek silliness, let me present (*drum roll please*):

Unsolicited Advice Gone Wild!

Cause if it's gonna be useless, it might as well be funny!

1. Paint your house. Every week! Start with fuschia. You can accessorize with turquoise trim! Your homeowner's association will thank you!

2. Join the French Foreign Legion. Because, well, why not?

3. Go on a round the world trip, visiting only cities and countries starting with the letter 'E.' Ekaterinburg, Estonia, and Ecuador, anyone?

4. Show your love for your dearly departed by cutting your hair very short and then shaving all your hair except that which spells out his or her name. Then dye it blue, because you are blue. You can declare your grief to the world and be hipster and avant garde too!

5. Tattoo his or her name on your forehead.

6. Start wearing your dearly departed's clothes, become a street person, and build a church brick by brick every night. Oh wait, that's already been done. (Cf: St Ksenia of St Petersburg)

7. Take up llama farming. Or alpacas. Lovely wool! Plus, they spit. What more could you want?

8. Make sure that you live in a yurt while doing your llama farming. 

9. Move to the northernmost part of Alaska and live out of an igloo in the winter and a sod house in summer. Insist on being called "Bubba." Even if you are female. 

10. Play the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach with a kazoo. 

11. Found a kazoo symphony in order to pull off item 10.

12. Eat only your loved one's favorite foods. Especially if they were, say, friend liver and lima beans. The nastier the better, in fact. As a bonus, you get to guilt trip over it if you don't!

That's all I can think of at the moment...Please help me out and suggest more! Thank you, my tens of readers! :)



  1. That's the way to go, Michelle! At least you can laugh.

    I think you're so right about how people react to a grieving friend. It's so hard to come up with things to say. About all I can say is "I'm sorry" over and over.

    And invite you to The Cat House Pool Party when the pool is done! Did you hear that we might have LifeSizeEdward as pool boy? Dave wimped out; all he wants to do is drink and watch US do the work.

  2. now i can't stop thinking about all those poor french people who can't join the foreign legion...-insomniac

    though this isn't the happiest of birthdays, still people are thinking of you...

  3. @Rita--I had a former professor who reacted like that the first time I talked to him after my loss. It was like "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" for about 10 minutes...but I appreciate it. It was sincere, and it was sincerely felt, and I could really tell he meant it!
    I'm looking forward to the Inaugural Cat House Pool Party. :)

    @insomniac--Thank you for the birthday wishes. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for being my friend! :)

    And *snork at insom* for the foreign legion comment! You are the best! :)

  4. On a totally unrelated note, I have no idea why that came out purple. And I just caught a misspelling...That's what comes of blogging after midnight.

    "I've been blogging...after midnight..."

  5. I am so sorry to read about your loss - what a terrible shock for you to endure. I can't imagine how awful it must be, trying to cope with the pain. My heart goes out to you, as his widow.

    My partner lost his Mother almost two years ago and he is still unable to function normally (he had nursed her through cancer, for the six years previous to her death, and some of that was horrible).

    I'm trying to "help" but in the beginning I was always saying the wrong thing. And even now I can't do much, which can make me very depressed, because I am so sorry for him. And angry. And sorry for myself. I genuinely want his pain to go away though, I don't just want him to shut up about it. I want him to be well, so that he can enjoy his own life, while he has it.

    Do you still have religious beliefs? Do they help you? I hope you don't mind me asking but I've been so down, trying to support Dave, that I've turned to the Church to support me. Very odd as I have NEVER been a church goer before. Religion has helped me but you've had a dreadful loss... Like I said, I hope it is OK to ask and I won't push it if you don't reply on the matter.

    Perhaps another suggestion could be "Why don't you take up alligator wrestling? They wouldn't stand a chance, with the mood you're in!". ;)

  6. Have you thought of writing a book about your grief experiences? You could help so many others going through similar things.

  7. @Blogmella--I love the alligator wrestling suggestion!
    In re: churchgoing: Almost exactly one year ago, I got a theology degree...My thesis was on theodicy. The problem of suffering. There's a post a little farther down that I wrote right after Nelson's death that deals with that...I'm sure I'll write more on the subject. But yeah, I do find my religious faith to be a great help. I don't know what I'd do without it.
    @Rita--Maybe my blog will turn into that, or something, at some point...Right now I'm still in the mode of "I'm out of bed and dressed, what more do you want?" I need a job...Even a part-time job...some kind of job...