"The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through."
~ Parker Palmer
These words ring so true for me in working through the grief of saying goodbye to my father. I am one of the lucky ones. With close friends who seem to know that simply being present and attentive is all that is needed to feel comforted and cared for.
In his article "The gift of presence, the perils of advice", Parker Palmer articulates many things I try to embody as a coach and friend, though I admit I don't always succeed. As 'helpers' we often feel the way we must show care and compassion to those who are suffering is by coming up with a bunch of solutions to lift them up and help them out of the tunnel. Yet in doing so, we place ourselves above.
We look to solve the problem instead of love the person.
The person who needs time to just be and heal. Who is most helped by those who want to know how you are doing today, who help you pay attention to your needs and remind you that "you are doing and being enough just as you are", who give you that extra helping of grace when you're less gracious than usual, and believe - even in times when you are not so sure - that you have the capacity to work through this valley in your own time and stand with you as you find your way through the dark.
This is confusing territory, as I actually love it when people share things like book or music recommendations, lines of poetry, or some of their own experiences with grief to show me I am not crazy. So this is not a call to stop sharing pieces of uplifting beauty. In essence the perils of advice are the perils of telling someone how to fix themselves, which can feel like you're being told how to stop suffering and it's time to get over it. Instead the gift of simply showing up and being present is more than enough.
I love Palmer's advice at the end, which in the giving he acknowledges is, of course, a contradiction.
"(1) Don’t give advice, unless someone insists. Instead, be fully present, listen deeply, and ask the kind of questions that give the other a chance to express more of his or her own truth, whatever it may be. (2) If you find yourself receiving unwanted advice from someone close to you, smile and ask politely if you can pay a little less this month."
Read the full article here.