Grief: The Uninvited Holiday Guest

Every year since my father died, I hope the uninvited guest doesn’t show.

Every year around this time I think, “Maybe this will be the year that he won’t make an appearance.”

The season begins and at first things go well. I can feel quite fine for a while, even unexpectedly buoyant as the muscle memory of the holidays catches me by surprise—and I let my guard down. I actually begin to fully consent to the joy.

I fool myself into believing I won’t have to contend with him this year, and all he brings with him when he barges in, unannounced and uninvited—the mess he so recklessly tosses into the fan. For a while I begin to feel like I’ve been given an annual reprieve—and I exhale.

And then it happens: A song on the radio, a smell coming from the kitchen, a photo on my timeline, a keepsake unwrapped for the first time in twelve months—and there he is sitting close beside me again: this Grief that doesn’t take a holiday.

At first I’m rightly pissed off at the intrusion, furious that he’s once again broken open those locked away rooms in my heart that I try all year to fortify. I resent the lump in my throat and the tears streaking down my cheeks and the void I’m feeling again because he’s here.

I don’t want this right now. I don’t want him in this house. I want Grief to let me be for one freakin’ season so that I can receive those tidings of comfort and joy that I’m supposedly entitled to but never seem to get my arms around.

I want Grief to leave.

But then I realize that he hasn’t come here uninvited to do me damage. He’s come here to surprise me with a gift that I hadn’t asked for, wouldn’t say I wanted—but so desperately need.

The gift Grief gives me is this terrible, painful bittersweetness that reminds me just how well loved I was by my father to be feeling such sadness now. This heartbreak is a monument, these tears a tribute.

That’s why Grief is here. He is the tax on loving people, and the fact that I am feeling such a deficit in his presence is a celebration of how blessed I’ve been, to have someone to grieve so fully over.

Grief is here right now to give me the gift of feeling it all again freshly, so that I never forget how beautiful those holidays were, how easy gratitude was, how effortless singing a song of joy could be.

And yeah, maybe this is all much more difficult now, and maybe I’ll never have a holiday quite like that again because of the subtraction that’s taken place—but this uninvited, unannounced Grief reminds me that just as my father left a legacy of love with me, so I’m given these days to do the same with those I hold dear.

I have this season and these holidays and this moment to be present with those I treasure; to make memories and create traditions and notice beauty—because that is what those we so miss right now did with us while they could, and it’s why we miss them.

They shared their now with us, while grieving the then they missed too. They celebrated life while being visited by Grief too. This is what love does. It dances through tears. 

So while I tried my best to avoid him this holiday season, and while I don’t like some of what he brings when it shows up, I think I’ll invite him in for a while.

I think I’ll welcome Grief this year.


34 thoughts on “Grief: The Uninvited Holiday Guest

  1. My husband is back!!! I had a problem with my husband 8 months ago,which lead to us apart. When he broke up with me,I was no longer myself,I felt so empty inside .Until a friend of mine told me about one of her spells that helped her in same problem too that she found on a television program. i emailed the spell caster and I told him my problem and I did what he asked me. To cut the story short,Before I knew what was happening,not up to 48 hours,my husband gave me a call and he come back to me and told me he was sorry about what has happened, I’m so grateful to this spell caster and i will not stop publishing his name on the internet just for the good work he has done for me.If you need his help,you can email him at ([email protected] com)…..thank you sir great Dr.Mack for all that you do and i greatly appreciate

  2. Oh how I get this . My oldest daughter died last year Christmas morning . And both my heart and lives will never be the same. The sorrow is so heavy this year I feel. I will always miss her and want her back to hold her one more time .

  3. Sometimes the memories aren’t so sweet; they may be painful due to unresolved conflict, words left unsaid, wounded feelings. But it’s still necessary to face this grief, to learn from it, to forgive them and yourself, and allow healing to replace the pain. Perhaps it’s good the holidays force us to slow down enough to let this happen.

  4. When I lost my 21-year-old son to suicide in July, I made the commitment to myself that I would do my best to experience the grief as it came, instead of trying to numb it or ignore it or push it down. It’s not that I’m particularly stronger than anyone else; it’s just that anything else felt to me like dishonoring what he and I meant to each other. This brings me back to that. I don’t exactly invite grief in, I guess, but the door’s unlocked and and the kettle’s always on.

  5. This is my 1st Christmas at home since my mom unexpectedly & tragically passed 2 years ago. It is soo much harder than expected… I do take comfort that she knew how much she meant to me & I to her. I will miss her every day that I live but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Thank you for helping me see the blessing I was given.

  6. I lost my husband 10 years ago to pancreatic cancer. I was with him during his last moments. I am still grieving. I miss him so much. Each day is different. I may be ok one day, and the next the grief just sneaks up on me. Of course it gets worse around the holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Does it ever get better? Is there something wrong with me that I still cry at the drop of a hat after all this time? I can’t listen to music on the radio because a song will bring back a memory and I’ll start crying all over again

  7. Grief slapped me over and over and over again on Saturday. I cried most of the day and again on Monday. As I sat at my computer screen Saturday sobbing, I said outloud to myself and 3 dogs who could hear me and 1 who couldn’t “I don’t know why I’m crying!” Ugly crying. I do know, of course, but the intensity of the overwhelming sadness took me by surprise. I woke up that way and ended my day exhausted and dreading the next day. It’s only been 14 years and almost 2 months. And still when I sob, like you, it hits me in the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of me and completely takes me by surprise. I cannot go to wallyworld to see others buying gifts because all I buy in the last 14 years is dog food. My boy is dead. His son is dead. Parents, oh, yeah, long dead. So glad they were not alive when Andy died, it would have killed them. So the aloneness may have been why I cried so. It has been a tough year full of emotional landmines. Some years are harder than others and this one was a stinker. I made it through and I am so thankful for my blessings, but wish I could have focused more on the reason for the season instead of my own sorrow. It is good to read words that perfectly capture what my Saturday was like (and a little bit of Monday). Thank you for sharing and yes, pain & tears are the price of love, which I gladly pay, but the gladness is not in that moment of ugly crying, it is afterward when you catch your breath and realize how this life has affected you so much, with so much love.

    Best to you. I will miss my daddio forever and am so thankful I had him for my dad.

  8. I Lost my Dad on November 4 2018 from brain bleed caused by leukemia. We were blessed he lived 8 months longer then he should have and he didnt suffer the way leukemia suffocates its victims. I didnt grieve for the first month he was gone then one day I could have swore I saw him walking up to the house from the back yard with his silly sun hat. For a brief second I felt joy but it was quickly gone. From that point I have cried daily. December 24th was his birthday and the univited guest came and hasnt left me yet. I wish he would go away so I can remember the good times and not his dying day. I suffer from depression and have for 25years with no relief and no medication will work so my Dads death weighs on me constantly. I often hear it will get easier but I cant see that. My mom also suffers from severe depression. Her depression started 2 years ago when my Dad was diagnosed with leukemia and she is barely functional. Her memory is gone and her grief is a daily battle. When will this uninvited guest give us a chance to heal! I am not sure how much more I can take.

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