With recent tragedies like mass shootings and hurricanes, the upcoming holidays may be harder for many to cope with.

KVUE reached out to Jan Phillips, a licensed therapist who specializes in grief and loss, for advice on how to deal with an already stressful time.

"It's hard because so much has happened and we are all so wild-eyed with oh my gosh what's next? How can this happen? I don't feel safe or secure," Phillips said.

She said we have to be careful when it comes to digesting incidents like the Sutherland Springs shootings where 26 people died after a gunman opened fire inside a church on Nov. 5.

She said while we should empathize, we cannot take on other people's grief or problems.

We can empower ourselves by helping out by volunteering or giving money. But Phillips said it's important to keep ourselves in check.

"Is this too much for me? If it's too much you just kind of pull back and take that deep breath and realize I have control right here, right now and I'm going to do this right here, right now. I don't know about this. I can't change that," Phillips said.

Six weeks before Thanksgiving is when people start getting what Philips calls "raggedy" or anxious.
Even those who haven't experienced loss get stressed right now.

"We're told it has to be perfect. Is it the right toy? The right food? The right setting? Gasp!!! The pressure is enormous! Being able to step away from that pressure to figure out it doesn't have to be perfect. It has to be good enough. It has to be what makes me happy," Phillips said.

Phillips is an expert on grief from an academic side and a personal one. She lost her 17-year-old son to a train accident in 2000. Five years later, she lost her husband to cancer. The single mother of two knows what grief is, and she wants to make sure you don't take on too much of it this holiday season.

"Holidays are all about family in this Norman Rockwell picture and my picture has a couple of holes, and it's hard when you think about who's not with you," Phillips said.

Phillips also said it's ok to cry but if you're depressed for more than a week, you need to get professional help.

Hospice Austin is hosting a free event called Surviving the Holidays, where a panel of experts will go more in-depth about coping mechanisms.

The event is Thursday, Nov. 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Westover Hills Church at 8332 Mesa Drive.