"Beth knew every single [Christmas song], and she made us all listen to Christmas songs like two weeks before Christmas," he shared.
When you're forced to confront the tragic death of a loved one, it's always the firsts without them that add to the weight of your grief. The first birthday, the first anniversary, and the first Christmas without them. After losing Beth Chapman to cancer, widower Duane "Dog" Chapman is now facing a quieter Christmas, his first one since the death of his wife of almost 13 years.
The year has been extremely tough on the bounty hunter and his family, and the onset of Christmas has only been a searing reminder of no longer having his wife beside him. He is still trying to keep her memory alive by doing things the way she used to do.
"Beth was old style, old-fashioned. So, you know, that means the tree and the presents. All the stockings hung up… so I'm trying to keep that exact tradition," Duane Chapman told ET over a phone interview. "I've got it all decorated. All the stockings are hung. We always left -- when the kids were young -- cookies for Santa, and I think I'll do that this year also."
But in his efforts to honor her his wife, every little detail is taking him back to memories from the many years they spent together. "Every little ball that's on the tree, every ornament, you know, there's 20 years plus of ornaments on that tree, so as I hung [them], I remembered where and when we bought each one," the reality star said.
Without Beth Chapman's presence in the house, without her humming along to Christmas songs, the holidays may seem extremely different for the Chapman family.
"Beth knew every single [Christmas song], and she made us all listen to Christmas songs like two weeks before Christmas. As we decorated the tree, she'd put on Christmas songs. Every night before we went to bed she'd put them on," Duane Chapman admitted. "So I think the girls are taking it the hardest without being able to sing with mom."
As he spoke about his family's Christmas plans, he added, "For the holidays, probably half of us, including me, will be in Colorado, and then the other half is in Hawaii, and of course Leland is in Alabama. So this year, everybody's all spread out."
Of all the many things life has put him through, the 66-year-old said that losing his wife has been the hardest of them all. "It's the worst thing you could ever go through," he admitted. "I've been to prison, I've been let out of prison. I've captured some of the worst sons of b*****s in the world, and nothing is worse than this. It seems like yesterday. Six whole months already. And pretty soon it will be a year. It's really hard when you start thinking about how long it's been. I think that's the worst of all, because I can't believe it's been six months. The first few months I didn't care whether I lived or died. As a matter of fact I kept getting upset every time I woke up in the morning."
After months of dealing with the grief, the reality star admitted that "things are slowly changing".
"I'm doing much better with my health. I've almost quit smoking. That patch is a miracle. It's just amazing and I'm taking blood thinners for the blood clot in my lung and exercising," Duane Chapman shared. "I always have worked out every day and I'm double that now. So yeah, I need to live to get through my mission in life."
After living one of the most difficult years of his life, he's glad that the year is coming to an end and is looking forward to the new year, knowing that nothing can be as painful as what he dealt with in 2019.
"What a terrible year I had. Ended this year with Beth being gone, so I know that 2020 has got to be better cause nothing can be that bad," he shared. "I'm just gonna kick off the new year. I'm hoping to start season two on Dog's Most Wanted right after the holidays are over and so I'm gonna be the most bounty hunter they've ever seen. We're going to go after all the dangerous, no-good bastards that we can, so I'm kinda looking forward to beating up all the bad guys."
Trying to move forward with new plans ahead of him, Duane Chapman is "glad to get 2019 behind me."