The holidays are supposed to be a happy time of the year. We have time off, we get to see our families, our kids are excited about this magical time of the year, etc. But for many people the holidays only mean stress, anxiety, and grief. If you have lost a loved one, you may be experiencing this grief already. I call it holiday grief. It is most prevalent if you have lost someone in the past year, but it can stay with us year after year after year. We don't realize what an impact it makes on our ability to be happy when we are still holding on to grief. So here are some ways you can manage your grief, or if you are not grieving, managing your stress during the holidays.

First of all, acknowledge that you are grieving. No one can tell you how long you are allowed to grieve. However, when grief impedes your ability to function in the present, then it needs to be addressed. When you are experiencing depression, anxiety, anger, (all the things that go along with grief, but are so intense they block out any other feelings), then they probably need to be dealt with appropriately. Grief affects people in different ways and that is mostly due to our belief system. If you believe that there is a place where that person has gone that is good, comforting, and freeing, then you will probably handle your grief in a more positive way. But if you either have no beliefs about what happens when we die, or your beliefs are negative in some way, then you might be feeling some emotions that really impact your own life. You may be feeling guilt over being the one that survived, or you may feel that you did not get to say all the things you would have liked to say to that person, or because you don't have a belief about where they are, you may be feeling lost or afraid for them. I have said before that belief is a powerful thing and the absence of belief is still a belief. So, you may want to explore what you believe and if your beliefs don't work for you, you may want to explore what other people believe.

If you do have a belief system that is positive and hopeful for a place where there is peace, connectedness to (i.e. God, Source, Goddess, universal presence, Buddha) then there is a certain comfort that can be taken from that belief that will serve you during the holidays. Celebrating the life of the person that is no longer here may be a way to make the holidays feel more pleasant and inviting for everyone. Our society has a lot of social conventions around grieving and rules about how one should act when they grieve. You have to decide if that is what you want to do and if that feels right for you. Doing something that feels positive for you, but may cause some confusion for family or friends may be just the thing you need to help you feel better during the holidays. In the end, no one can tell you how to grieve! As long as you are not hurting yourself or anyone (or anything) else, you create the ritual, mind-set, belief that works for you.

Dealing with holiday rituals. Do you find yourself doing the same thing for the holidays every year and hating it? You really have to ask yourself why you do that and what would be the cost if you actually did something that made you happy for the holidays. I can hear you saying, but Mitzi, that is so selfish, what will the family think? If you are worried about family repercussions, feeling selfish, or ruining someone elses holiday then you are probably not having a happy holiday anyway and maybe it's time to help everyone be happy for the holidays by changing the way it's done. Sometimes the only way to manage holiday stress is to create a new holiday tradition. It may cause stress in the beginning with family and friends, but the potential joy for everyone, especially your immediate family could be immeasurable. Many people have found that the ability to create a new tradition with the people they truly love has changed the way the holidays feel for them. If people get upset, they were probably going to get upset anyway. We have to learn that we cannot please everyone, and we are not responsible for everyone elses thoughts and feelings. When we try to care take other people we invariably end up losing ourselves in the process. This brings us feelings of resentment, stress, and makes the holidays miserable. That old saying about don't keep doing the same thing and expect different results would definitely apply to this situation.

Creating new holiday rituals. If you have children, sit them down and talk to them about what they would like to do for the holidays. The greatest gift is to see the magic and wonder of the holidays through the eyes of a child. It may even get you back into the holiday spirit if you will take a moment and share that magic with them. If you are experiencing the holidays on your own, find something you enjoy doing and plan to do it during the holidays. Changing the way you think and feel about how the holidays are supposed to be celebrated will go a long way in helping you create a holiday that works for you. Stop trying to make the old ways work and find a new way. Maybe this holiday you go and help out at a homeless shelter. Maybe you can make a ritual of seeing the newest movie on the holiday. Maybe you drive to some place beautiful and take in a new environment. I could go on and on and on. You just have to give yourself permission to do things differently this year. And remember, you are no good to anyone if you are unhappy. It is better to say hey, I'm not coming over this year because I've decided to do something else, then to sit there and endure the holidays with friends or family. Believe me, people know when you are unhappy!

Finally, remember the "reason for the season". It is a time of thanksgiving. Being grateful for at least being here and breathing everyday. It is a time of renewal, anticipation of what is to come. It is a time to believe in something greater than yourself. Realizing that, if you believe it is so, you are not alone.

Author's Bio: 

I am a clinical social worker, hypnotherapist, Reiki master, meditation teacher, and motivational speaker. I have been doing traditional psychotherapy for over 15 years and working with spiritual principals and practices for over 20. I am skilled at helping individuals reduce their stress, anxiety, and depression, through the traditional and alternative therapies I have created.