There is no other way to put it.
These are the first holidays without Stephanie and I am in physical, psychic, and emotional pain. Today I was walking Lily, the English Bulldog I bought Stephanie for her 17th birthday, and I broke down. I'd been depressed for days and had felt something coming on, but I didn't expect to find myself leaning up against a grizzled oak tree, sobbing. Lily wandered around at the end of the lead, sniffing here and there, enjoying the early evening, while I tried to right myself.
Last Thanksgiving was horrible. Just horrible. Stephanie should have been spending the night after getting a bellyful of good, home cooking. I made vegetarian selections just for her, but she barely touched any food. She went through a lot of vodka and not much else. She hadn't washed her hair. Alcoholism was tearing her apart, and thus, it was tearing the family apart. Sean was worried about her. I was worried about her. I was battling co-dependency with her. It was terrible watching what she was doing to herself, and yet, when we confronted her, we were met with angry tirades filled with "I am NOT an alcoholic!" Perhaps you know someone like this.
Though Stephanie did not stay the night, choosing to have her brother drive them both over to his place, she eventually came around and got help. She was sober when she died, as far as I know, and was helping others in AA. But last Thanksgiving will remain in my mind, stuck there, worrying at me and tearing me up again and again. I celebrated an early Thanksgiving over the weekend with my son and his friend, but the real Thanksgiving is coming up. How will I cope? I may have quite a few more breakdowns by then. After all, it's the first holiday in 25 years in which my daughter hasn't been at the table.
I understand why some parents who lose their children stop celebrating the holidays, even if it's only a temporary boycott. I'm tempted to boycott the holidays, but I will not make it a complete boycott because of my son. He'll still get gifts and some holiday cheer from Mom. But I will never forget those last holidays with my daughter. She struggled with her addiction through every one of them. Only her birthday - in January - was a sober celebration.
Each and every moment through these holidays will be a challenge and will carry a memory. Someday I may have the presence of mind to string together my experiences as a bereaved parent into a book or something. For now, it's hard to string together words into a sentence.
Hug your loved ones a little tighter. You never know when that last hug will be - well - the last hug.
Peace - D