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From warm hugs to empty stares | Beaumont woman says empty chairs at Thanksgiving table will serve as heartbreaking reminders

The Southeast Texas woman said her mother died in 2020, one month before Thanksgiving.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Some Southeast Texans are joyously getting ready to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. Others are suffering from holiday blues, as they remember their loved ones who did not live to see this Thanksgiving. 

One Southeast Texas woman is aiming to make Thanksgiving for others a little less lonely, even though multiple empty chairs at her table serve as heartbreaking reminders.

“She was my only parent,” Mary Barnette, Beaumont resident, said. “My father died before I was born. My holidays were spent with her and it's extremely hard.”

In 2020, Barnette lost her mother during the pandemic, one month before Thanksgiving. Barnette said her last few exchanges with her mother were through a nursing home window.

“My mother died from isolation. She had dementia,” Barnette said. “Even at my age, I never thought that I would be an orphan, and that's the way I feel.”

As she grieves her mother’s death, Barnette said it is hard to see the good in the holidays.

“So, it's just really tough to try to, in my case, fake being happy for the holidays,” Barnette said. “It's just kind of a movement at this point. You just go through the moves and try to get through the day.”

Instead of embracing the woman who gave her life, Barnette said she is left with multiple empty chairs at her table.

“Not only do I have my mother that's missing, I have nephews that are not there as well,” Barnette said.

Barnette said she is suffering from the holiday blues.

“When you get to the point where you don't want to celebrate holidays anymore, that means you're in a bad spot,” she said.

However, Barnette is hoping to find light, healing, and hope in this dark season.

“I need help through the grieving process,” she said. “I'm going to reach out and find someone, who's more than likely a pastor, that I can go speak to on the spiritual level to do some deep-rooted healing.”

In the meantime, Barnette plans to spend her holidays by helping those in need.

“I'm going to feed the homeless,” Barnette said. “I'm not going to celebrate Thanksgiving myself. I'm going to spend it with someone that needs it.”

According to a survey done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64 percent of people said they suffer from holiday blues. Signs of the holiday blues include fatigue, tension, frustration, sadness or isolation.

Barnette encourages those grieving the loss of a loved one to surround themselves with family and friends. For those grieving this holiday season, there are resources across Southeast Texas. 

The Spindletop Center offers counseling services. For more information you can call them at (409) 839-1000 or visit their website.

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