The Uninvited Visitor

Some visitors are uninvited but the worst are those that leave briefly only to return again and again, always it seems when least expected. You can’t dissuade this particular uninvited visitor to stay away, though all of us try hard to do so. Personally, I have tried to be invisible hoping the visitor would not see me and would just leave. Admittedly, I have even tried to fake how I am feeling, so the visitor would not stop by. I have even gone away from home on trips just to try and avoid this visitor!

But time and time again, the uninvited visitor finds its way to me. This visitor intrudes when I have a bit of happiness. And, the visitor comes often when I least expect this visitor. You have this uninvited visitor as well. This unwelcomed, uninvited, intrusive visitor is grief.

When grief first came into my life, it crowded everything else out. When grief kept showing up again and again, I felt like I was trapped in the middle seat of an airplane on a journey I did not buy a ticket for. I felt smothered between row mates who had little if any consideration for me, leaving me feeling as if they no longer knew I even existed. As they leaned comfortably to the side or stretched into the aisle, I was left barely able to breathe.

As time waned on, I learned how to be a better traveler. I became better at integrating this uninvited visitor into my life. Some days, I almost forgot the visitor was still here. Those days came more often, now seven years after the death of my son. Sometimes though, it is as if grief deceptively lured me into a zone of letting down my guard.

It seemed when my guard is down, I suddenly found myself boarding the plane again with only a middle seat available for me to take. I have learned to use my elbows a bit on this journey. I use my elbows to combat the uninvited visitor rather than to hide, to run, or to fake how I feel.

This journey has a lot of turbulence. When I heard the news of the shooting in Florida, I grimaced knowing 17 families would be boarding the plane to begin a journey they would not want to be on. The Compassionate Friends will be there for them now and forever in the future. Together we will help all families with the uninvited visitor on this horrific grief journey.

Tony’s mom, Debbie

Debbie Rambis

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Comments (31)

  • Oh my goodness Debbie, I cannot believe how this describes my feelings. I am in the seventh year without my son Brady, and just lost my husband four months ago. They are in our thoughts daily but I don’t have the full blown melt downs as often, but like you said we let our guard down and wham, there goes that gut wrench feeling again that just leaves you breathless and wanting to give up. Thanks again for sharing this article.

    Love and Prayers,
    Sybil Walker

  • Oh how true ! I lost my daughter 40 years ago to brain cancer when she was only 21—we buried her a week before her wedding day. My husband and I had each other for comfort, and life slowly went on, and we learned to live again—but when he died, it opened an old wound—and now i have him to grieve for also. I am a christian, and I know I will see them again some day, but you never completely get over grief and loneliness. My heart goes out to those parents who just lost their children in the school shooting—so tragic—they too will have a long road to trawwwvel.

  • Tony’s mom, Debbie
    I agree with how you have likened the grief of losing a child to the uninvited visitor. It’s only been 6 months since our son Jason died in a car accident. Yes, we are on a journey we don’t want to be on.
    Love you, angel mom

  • Thank you for this article. It so clearly describes the uninvited visitor. We lost our son, Joseph, in November of 2014. And it has seemed like time or life has been suspended for now. We get up each day (my husband and I are retired) and put one foot in front of the other and push through our day. There are definitely days when we feel Joe’s presence helping us through and thank God for those times. Our hearts go out to the Moms and Dads who have lost their son or daughter in the rash of school/church/concert shootings. Thank you Compassionate Friends for being there for all of us!
    God Bless You,
    Roger & Nancy.

  • Dear Debbie,
    The uninvited visitor has been with me daily since I lost my only child, my Son two and a half years ago. Rich was 54 and was in good health, I thought. He had come over to see me which he did every afternoon when he got home from work. I bought a home on two acres which was next door to his two homes (I live alone and he checked on me) to make sure I was okay. He went home at 7:30 p.m. and two hours later I got the phone call that he was not breathing. Rich and I were very devoted to each other. He had his own business and I was his bookkeeper for 30 years. My life will never be the same, my heart is broken.

  • It has been 11 years, two months and two days since my 32 year old son passed away, eight days after he married his long time sweetheart. Leukemia took his life and his death took my heart. I have found that helping others helps me so I volunteer at church, nursing homes and community centers. I am a retired teacher so I substitute teach occasionally, but the grief returns. I will still have a meltdown occasionally, but it helps to count my blessings. I have a strong faith and that is really what has pulled me through.
    Your description of grief is so correct. I do feel squeezed, and so many people don’t understand. Thank you for describing what so many of us are feeling. God bless!

  • Debbie, thank you for this. I agree to an extent. My uninvited quest came soon after I lost my son. Going to church was difficult because I couldn’t sit alone. Someone would show up who saw me crying (I cried a lot) and said “I just needed to be with you.” But, now 8 years later, hardly anyone comes or calls. And, now, I’ve lost a husband of almost 45 years. However painful that is, it doesn’t compare to the loss of my son, Jabari. I miss him terribly and talk to him often. I am learning to really live alone. I think friends who have no experience with either a loss of a child (good for them) or the loss of a husband don’t know how to deal with me. It’s OK. I am making my way, slowly. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Your article hit the nail on the head! I too have short moments of peace and then, the horrific feeling of loss and the reality of my daughter Lisa’s death comes crashing over me.

    Immediately upon hearing of the shooting in Florida felt my heart go out to all of those parents who have lost their beloved child so suddenly and now
    face the many days, months and years of the uninvited visitor.

    I pray for them just as we all continue to pray and support one another.

  • You write so very well despite the grief. I refer to it as my “Silent Insanity” which, unfortunately, only a parent like us can truly understand. Thank you for sharing.

  • Love the way you wrote this, Debbie. Can’t wait to share at our next meeting. Thanks for all you do!!

    Patty Key, Lawrenceville, GA
    Ryan’s mom

  • Very well stated. It has been 30 years since our 20 year old daughter died and the univited guest is always lurking in the shadows!

  • I know that VISITOR. Even after 30 years since my son, Matthew passed, he knows where I am at all times. He never goes away.
    Thank you for that, Debbie. It was thought provoking…
    Debbie Thomas

  • I was thinking this week also that maybe some of the parents and family members of the tragedy in Florida might be helped by The Compassionate Friends and also reflecting back on the weekend I spent in Florida last summer. No parent should ever have to live life without their child but we are never alone.

  • When I saw the picture associated with this article I was overcome with sadness, once again. My 22 year old son, Shaun, was a pilot who was killed in an aviation accident almost 15 years ago. The “grief bursts” still come, although less frequently. My husband is fighting cancer and the idea that I will have to “fly solo” is daunting. Our traveling companion. grief, is always waiting in the “wings” to “fly standby.”

  • I loved reading your article Tony’s Mom, sweet Debbie. I will always remember your beautiful words. I never thought the grief of losing my Son. as the “uninvited visitor”. I will treasure this always. Truly a masterpiece! Thank you always. Donna The devastating massacre that occurred in Broward County hit us all so very hard. Not again. As I cried for the families of the children and teachers gone forever. I cried for their eternal grief.

  • What an amazing article. Thank you Debbie for all that you do for so many. We are blessed to know you and Mark.

  • Debbie, I understand completely your sentiments regarding the unwanted visitor. My 26 year old daughter will have passed 5 years ago this Sept. However, for me, with the passage of that amount of time, I have recently discovered something they don’t tell you (they meaning The Compassionate Friends and other Bereavement Groups): The Grief Turns Back into Love!!! Maybe it is too difficult for the recently bereaved to even consider this possibility but when it happened to me this past summer, it gave me a new lease on life and I found I could live again instead of just existing. Now instead of suffering grieving feelings, I feel a very deep love for my daughter and gratitude she was in my life as long as she was.

    I hope some of you newly bereaved will find this future possibility consoling.

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I needed this reminder. Sometimes, I feel so alone in my grief, and this is a reminder that I am not.

  • Thank you for the wonderful article. It’s been 21 months and 22 days since I lost my Afghanistan Corpseman Veteran to Suicide..
    I know this plane so well; Figuratively and realistically speaking. I fly to visit him each month. As I board the plane home, I look for a window seat so I can silently tell my 29 yr old boy that I will be back next month and look forward to when the lights go down in the plane as I softly cry for his lost life. The ride has gotten just a little less painful but that visitor still arrives each day. Thank you compassionate friends for always being here when I need you most. Vitos mom

  • I am a newbie to this journey. My son went to God on June 10, 2017 after a long and difficult illness. My visitor is daily, hourly, minute by minute. I have to work very hard to pretend this visitor is not right beside me as I go about my days at the office, places that my son and I went together, church, everwhere. My heart is forever breaking and my soul cries to God to help me understand why my son had such a difficult life. My faith is strong but I miss my beautiful boy so very much. I know he is in Heaven with the Angels and Jesus, and he is waiting for me….vibrant, healthy, with both legs. I feel so alone in my grief most of the time. My local chapter of TCF moved their meeting nights to a night that I am unable to attend and now I feel even more alone. The online community is my only bit of comfort. Thank you for this article – hopefully it will help me get through every month anniversary, his birthday, Mother’s Day.

    Kevin’s Mom

    • My son Chris went to heaven 3 days before yours (6/07/17) from an accident. It is still so fresh, but I know he is with the Lord and other family members; the only thing that makes it somewhat easier if that is even possible. I miss him terribly as we were quite close. Will keep you in my prayers. Grief is not the enemy, but a necessary and cleansing visitor. God gives it to us to help us heal.

  • I lost my Son, my friend, MY BUDDY! It has been 6 years November, 13th, 2011. I text him everyday and evening. I make his flowers. I MISS HIM TERRIBLY! I always look for the signs. I get my pennies with his birthyear on it. I have a red ceramic box with hearts on it where i place these most precious gifts from him. Im so thankful for everyones story and feelings. I feel this grief still and everyone else has moved on. I cannot. I whefe my heart necklace his picture everyday…he is always with me! Going places is tough as i know he cang be there anymore. All i know is im trying. He was my only son my baby. I adore him so much. FOREVER 27🎸❣️

  • This is so true. My son, Eric, will be gone 5 years this June. Sometimes the grief is so new, like it just happened, then again, subtle, but the pain is still the same. Since the tragedy in Florida, all I can think about is the pain and heartache that all those parents are going to have to endure and there is nothing anyone can do to take that pain and anguish away, nothing. Their lives are forever changed. There will always be a hole in their hearts and unless you have lost a child, you have no idea that there is actually real, physical pain associated with that hole. My heart aches for all of them, every member of all those families. I hope they find Compassionate Friends to help them, when they are ready. First, you must grieve, then you have to find help with the grief and in the healing and everyone at Compassionate Friends knows the pain and anguish because they have been there. It took my husband and I seven months to reach out but we were so glad when we did. It helped to know that we weren’t losing our minds, that our feelings were normal.

  • Good article. I’ve kinda found this uninvited visitor to be like the uninvited house guest that wears out their welcome. Although they are never welcome. They sleep on the couch, hog the bathroom take showers for hours and eat all the food in the refrigerator. They take over the house and don’t leave. After a while I was able to convince them to leave but it was only for a little while. They kept coming back. Ignoring them does no good. They want to be your BFF. They are like a fish in the refrigerator. After 3 days they start stinking.

  • What a great article. I lost my 24 year old son sixteen years ago on feb 22nd. Yesterday was a hard day and reading your story lets me know that i am not alone while still greiving after all these years.

  • I lost my son 28 years ago and it still feels like it was yesterday. I try to let others such as daughter grieve as if she hurts more than I or everyone else but it really tears me up…this was my baby, my son! No one can take that from me…I feel selfish.

  • Absolutely. This visitor finds us more often than not. A year and a half have passed and there are days I find myself in this middle seat screaming and crying. Losing a child will forever allow this visitor into our lives I’m afraid.

  • Wonderful piece ! Truthful and accurate. We all have this visitor and your metaphor is perfect. Commonality on this journey is reassuring. thank you, Debbie.

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