The holiday season has begun and many people will find this a difficult and painful time. This reaction has received more attention and awareness in recent years, but is always worth revisiting. The effects of a poor economy continue to affect many families in our country. Many Americans have lost jobs or even homes making a time that emphasizes abundance and generosity difficult. The holidays can always be disturbing for those dealing with loss. Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving all emphasize family, festivity, warmth and safety. New Years is a time of hope and optimism for the future. When real life doesn't contain those elements the contrast between our hopes and fantasies and reality is particularly painful. In fact, this time of year now requires you to consider how to best deal with your anxiety. Consider these examples:
- people who have lost a loved one through death or disease
- couples who have separated or divorced or whose relationships are struggling
- the many military families who fear for a loved one who is far away and in danger
- people facing serious illness or financial losses.
Some families struggle with estrangement from a parent, a sibling or a child. Holidays emphasize the unity and happiness of intact families making those losses harder to bear at this time of year. December is also the peak time for spending and shopping. Many retailers count on a major portion of their annual earnings to come at this time. Most Americans have used this time to make major purchases and look forward to sharing and exchanging gifts. For many people finances make this difficult creating painful choices about whether to add more debt to already over-burdened family budgets or deal with the possible guilt or embarrassment by letting their friends and family know they are struggling financially. Parents can feel inadequate if they can't afford to buy gifts for young children. Many small business owners have fought to keep their shops and restaurants open until the holiday season, hoping to catch up with low revenues from the rest of this difficult year, and many of them will be disappointed. So what is the best way to cope with the holidays if this is a stressful time for you?
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The first step is realizing that you are not the only one who does not have a picture perfect Hallmark holiday card family. Our casual friends do not reveal their painful wounds but close ones do. It is important to remember that very few people live a charmed life and escape all losses and wounds. Others share our grief and it can be helpful to confide in those to whom we feel close. Much relief can be found when another person says, "I know just how you feel. I miss my (mother, father, brother, etc.) so much at this time of year." A lot of the appeal of social networking sites is the ability to share times of stress and receive care and support from many virtual friends in a convenient way. Online support groups such as those for divorce, cancer, and families of the mentally ill or addicted are also very helpful.