Appreciating the Holidays

November is a transition month taking us from the vibrant colors of Fall to the somber grays of Winter. It is a time of rest and renewal, when the earth sleeps.

Even in California this is true as the light fades and the rain envelopes us in its shroud.

I like November because of its call for reflection and review.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not only because it promises an opportunity to connect with family and friends but because it invites our appreciation. We are asked to consider the things for which we are grateful.

Thanksgiving Table - Appreciating the Holidays

Gratitude is a great practice not only on Thanksgiving Day but every day of our life. It keeps us mindful of the bounty and beauty of life—the magic of being alive.

It is easy to get caught up in what is wrong and what is missing. Our lizard brain, the brain stem, nags at us to stay alert for threats while  advertising companies and politicians prey on our fears. Even the nonprofits we so fervently support to stem the tide of greed are prone to this method of arousal. It is worrisome, exhausting and disheartening.

Changing this fear mentality takes effort.

Sometimes it is simply a matter of focus, e.g. looking around the room and noticing all the things you appreciate: computer, telephone, warmth, chair, sunlight, lamp, cup of tea, a friend’s email or facebook post, my sister’s illustrated calendar, etc. This simple practice repeated throughout the day can lift the heart and restore a sense of well being.

However, when we are triggered, overwhelmed or disheartened by challenges, when we feel fearful, angry or in despair, we must begin from where we are. We must first acknowledge and release the feelings.

Here are some great questions to help the release by David Montgomery, MD from his book Loving to Heal:

  1. What are you resisting or fighting?
  2. What do you fear?
  3. Is the cause of the fear happening in the present moment or something that may happen in the future?
  4. What “shoulds” or “shouldn’t” are flowing through your mind around this fear?
  5. What is the imagined story that makes you want to fight it?
  6. Would you be willing to look for value in this situation? If yes, what might be gained?
  7. What feeling or outcome would you prefer? What is your best case scenario?
  8. How can you rewrite the story to allow yourself to accept the situation and get relief from the fight?

David explains that we get a better outcome when we focus on what we want rather than on what we don’t want. His questions can help us discover what that is.

As you move into the bustle of this Holiday Season, take some time to envision how you would like things to unfold. Rather than focus on your dislikes, arguing family members, for example, create a vision of harmony and ease. Imagine them treating each other with respect, patience, acceptance and kindness. Practice this imaging every morning before engaging with family. Sometimes it may take a while, so don’t give up.

If something triggers you, take some time out. Breathe deeply and go through the questions listed above. See what happens. Don’t despair if you blow up.

FAIL means First Attempt In Learning.

Last Suggestion: If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, it is usually better to notice the elephant in the room rather than to ignore it. What you resist persists.

Invite the deceased to the table. Give him/her a place. Not the whole table, just a place. Share some stories of love and appreciation. Tears are encouraged. Crying with others can be releasing.

Most people who have known grief will tell you that the fearful anticipation proceeding a holiday is often far worse than the actual event.

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WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief, Loss and Death Expert Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps professional women struggling with grief and loss to have peace-of-mind, closure and a life worth living. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at


  1. Thank You for sharing experiences yesterday

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