SHEENA BARNETT: Death and holidays don’t mix well

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Hey, it’s Christmas. With Christmas comes magic, and there’s some magic in those two little words: There seem to be, in those words, a million subliminal excuses to do what you want because, hey, it’s Christmas.
Throw a party, because hey, it’s Christmas.
Eat all the s’mores cookies you want because hey, it’s Christmas.
Be happy all the time, or at least pretend you are, because hey, it’s Christmas.
It’s the last one that gets to me.
Sure, I’m happy this time of year: Christmas and the holiday season in general are pretty awesome. There are lights everywhere, and people are generally nice or more generous, even if they don’t really mean it. And did I mention the s’mores cookies?
But I’m sad, too, and I feel weird for being sad this time of year. Everyone seems to be telling you to be happy, wear a sparkly ugly holiday sweater, throw all your worries out the window – merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan! – so it’s not OK to be sad.
But for those of us who have lost anyone recently, or near the holidays, this is a tough time of year.
I believe there’s never a good time of the year to lose someone you love, but the holidays can be especially difficult. It’s a time of getting together, whether it’s with family or friends or both, and a loss is a reminder of how we’re missing some precious people.
For me, it’s my grandma; today is the two-year anniversary of her death.
Earlier this year, my mom gave me one of my grandma’s rings. It’s diamond-shaped, and at each of the points is a birthstone for her then-four grandchildren (it was made for her before I was born). I’ve worn it since this summer, proud to wear it but also sad she’s not here to wear it herself.
As I’ve gone through the holiday motions this season – putting up a Christmas tree, buying and wrapping gifts, clogging in Christmas parades and looking at lots of light displays – the ring’s gone with me everywhere.
Sometimes I’m genuinely in the holiday spirit; other times, not so much.
I’ve learned time doesn’t heal all wounds. It doesn’t get any easier. I haven’t gotten used to it.
For every fun time I have dancing in a parade, I’ll wish she could’ve seen me; for every cookie I bake, I wish she was there to try it; when I go shopping, I see things I wish I could buy for her.
But I’ll go to more parades, I’ll bake more cookies, I’ll go to holiday lunches and get-togethers and wrap more presents, all with her ring on my hand. I’ll allow myself the sincere, if a bit cheesy, feeling that she’s with me, especially with this little piece of her on my hand.
Hey, it’s Christmas.
Sheena Barnett writes for the Daily Journal. Contact her at

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