WACO, Texas – For many, the holiday season is the best time of year – but for some, it might be the hardest season of the year.

Christina Gibson is the lead crisis counselor at the Heart of Texas MHMR, and she says there is no right way to feel during the holidays.

“Despite the fact that it’s the holidays, you still have permission to grieve,” Gibson said. “And so the more that people can give themselves permission to feel whatever they do feel, the more that people experience rest and health during the holidays.”

Ashley Bernardi lost her dad when she was 11, and says she’ll never forget her first holidays without him. She and her family do activities and volunteer work in his honor.

“But what I have found, especially in recent years is that there are ways you can keep their memory alive and have a relationship with them even through death.

Gibson says grief looks different for everyone, but the most important thing to do is express it and recognize it.

When feeling lonely – she says to reach out and connect with someone.

“Find ways that you can engage others, and even if you feel like you don’t have a lot of energy, you don’t have to be in an extroverted space just to reach out to one person,” Gibson said.

For stress and anxiety, Gibson says recognize your limits.

“Take a break and take a step back and practice those things before it escalates to a point of things really getting uncomfortable or challenging,” Gibson said.

She says overall the most important thing is connection, and finding people who are safe. Whether that be a professional, a friend, or family member.

“It’s incredible how much life it can give and how much healing it can provide when somebody just has a safe space where a person isn’t expecting you to work through things right then or have a certain kind of emotion,” Gibson said.