Is Grief a Guest in Your House this Holiday Season?

I remember walking home a few years ago after experiencing a loss. Grief felt like a shadow looming behind, trying to catch me. I was doing my best to beat it, walking faster and faster. Afraid of the grief, its pain, sadness and despair, I practically ran home. Once inside I went to my favorite contemplative spot in our house, our master bedroom couch with the view of a mountain range. I sat down, finally allowed the grief to join me and cried. I sank into the sadness and experienced its intensity.  Grief sat with me for a while and then gradually moved on. Not that the grief left forever, but it loosened its grip for the moment. My body knew what I needed to do; I just needed to trust it. I needed to allow grief to be my guest.


Children are a great example of this. When a toddler is unhappy, we know it, don’t we? They feel it, sink into it, seek love and compassion, and then let it go. We adults can learn from them. Children allow grief to be their guest.

Maybe you want or need to welcome grief as your guest? For some, “welcoming” feels too generous, but “allowing” feels more possible. Use whatever terminology sits well with you.

If you have a loss that you’re grieving this time of year and this is the holiday season for you, are you struggling with the disparity between the pain you’re feeling and the joy many of those around you are experiencing? Perhaps allowing your grief to be your guest will help. Here are some tips to support you as you do during the holiday season:

  • Create a plan for your time and daily activities. Create a back-up plan too.

  • Keep your plans and activities simple.

  • Lower your expectations.

  • If you’re grieving a death of a loved one, honor them as part of your activities.

  • Get support from family, friends, grief companions, clergy, and mental health counselors.  

If you’re still in the throes of your loss, allowing your grief as a guest might feel overwhelming. Honor where you are. If you are open to the idea, I invite you to use The Guest House, a poem written by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, as inspiration:


This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.



A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.



Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.



The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.


Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.