On the surface, yes, this post is about our fur child, a lovable Yorkshire Terrier my husband named Emjay, but underneath it's about the delicate intersection of grief and gratitude.
Emjay passed away 3 weeks ago. He was 15 years old and he had a very good, long, happy life. We're still heartbroken, missing him every day, but I'm also grateful that God allowed us to experience a version of parenthood through him. He brought laughter and joy to our home and filled a void that was created by my infertility.
I don't know exactly when I became one of those pet parents, but things aren't always what they seem. When I'd find myself amongst a group of women and the conversation would inevitably turn to the latest goings on with their children, I would often join in with a story about Emjay. Some would laugh along and others would make a face or roll their eyes thinking I didn't notice. In their eyes I immediately became one of those crazy pet parents who treated my dog like it was a person. But no matter how much I loved him, I knew he was a dog and not a child. I was never trying to compare my finding time to give him a bath or rushing home to let him out as the same as them having to juggle picking up their kids from school and getting them to their after school activities on time. I just wanted to participate in the conversation and that was my only frame of reference. That's how I could relate.
So as you read this post, I hope you won't take my sharing as the musings of a grieving crazy dog mom, but instead as a woman who wants to encourage you by sharing how she is making her way through a season of grief by focusing on gratitude.
We all experience grief, deep sorrow, anguish, sadness or distress. Sometimes it's over the death of a loved one, but we also grieve the loss of a career, loss of a relationship or loss of a dream. Unfortunately, grieving is a process that we will all go through more than once in our lives, but when we find ourselves in those periods of anguish, we can slowly pull ourselves out by focusing on gratefulness. We grieve because we have lost something. That means there was something we were grateful to have. Don't let your grief overshadow your celebration of the person, the relationship, the job, the thing you lost.
The infamous "dog pants" that my husband hates, but Emjay and I loved because they are super fuzzy, soft and comfy.
I still feel a deep sorrow over Emjay's death and I have a feeling that will be with me for awhile, but when I feel those sad thoughts starting to bring me down, I do my best to refocus on being grateful that we were blessed to have him as part of our family. I'm grateful for all the hilarious antics he got into over the years that made us LOL for real. All the times we found him trying to hide his treats in random places in the house so he could save them for later. The time he totally embarrassed me at an office party by stealing a babies stuffed animal and then falling into a koi pond as the chase ensued. The time he barked his head off trying to protect us from a squirrel and then sheepishly went quiet when my husband took him outside and the squirrel barked back at him. I'm grateful for all the times he kept me company while I was packing boxes of encouragement or working at my desk. For the times he would get up with me in the early morning and sit quietly by my side while I prayed. I'm grateful for all the times I didn't feel well and he would stay right under my feet like he knew I needed comfort. And for the times he would sit in the middle of a pile of laundry like he was telling me he needed a bath too. I smile when I think of how he'd open his own Christmas gifts every year and seemed to always know which one was his under the tree. I'm grateful for the when he would snuggle up on my lap every time I wore what my husband calls "my dog pants". I'm grateful for how he kept me company when my husband was out of town and for his part in making our house feel like home. For these moments and so many others I am forever grateful that God chose us to be his family.
Yes, I am heartbroken, but I wouldn't be heartbroken if I didn't have so many memories to be grateful for. I don't have all the answers to help you through your grief, but I promise that if you focus on gratitude it will ease your pain.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.
Emjay Jackson in the clouds | photo credit Christopher Malcolm Photography
Yep, I know that roller coaster of emotions Elizabeth. And I know how the love of furry kiddos can help to ease that pain. Ultimately I pray that God will bless you – in due time – to conceive and give birth to a healthy happy baby or to experience motherhood through adoption or fostering or some other means. Like you said, we must accept His Will, but I am still praying that He will bless you with the desires of your heart. Hugs.
I can so completely relate to you and your journey, except on my journey of two attempts of IUI, test after test for IVF to get so excited just to be told your insurance doesn’t cover IVF, to still wanting to fulfill becoming a mom, that I’m finally blessed with health insurance that will cover one IVF treatment, to the weekly testing of being told your body is just not going the way we need or want it to. It’s been a frustrating roller coaster ride of so many emotions, from anger at God, to deep depression on what’s wrong with me, how come my sisters were able to have kids and I can’t. To being so angry at the world and everyone around that could just so easily conceive. I have been Blessed with two furry kiddos who I just love so very much. So if it is Gods Will for children, it’s his will not my wants or desires. God bless.
Oh Nancy! Where do I even start with a reply! Thank you for sharing your story. As I was reading it I laughed, teared up and said Praise the Lord! Your story touches my heart and reminds me that I still have love to give. 💗 Thank you for encouraging me.
Nancy Lorenz said:
Oh Jamila, I too am grateful to have had the joy of Mothering a 5 lb. yorkie named Lizzie! She brought me so much joy in her 13 years with us. She first helped me get over the grief and trauma of losing my first Yorkie named Annie who was only 6 years old when she was hit by the Avon lady as she drove up our driveway not looking for a small puppy. I was so heartbroken and didn’t know how to deal with the anger, frustration, hurt, and grief I was feeling. My daughter who lived 3 hours away drove all the way to our home to comfort me and to help me find another fur-baby as everyone thought a replacement was what I needed! We hunted and hunted and found little Lizzie at a Breeder 30 miles away. As much as she was adorable and cute I still had a deep grief down deep in my soul for the loss of Annie and the way she had died. But God was soon to get me through all that as potty training began, shots, NO! Do not chew that! Don’t bite especially with those tiny razor sharp teeth! And before you know it she joined us in bed at night, sat in a doggy high chair at dinner and went everywhere I went and not that my mind and heart totally left the thought or the love of my Annie, just Lizzie started filling in the cracks with her love and baby licks and mommy pay attention to me stares and her unconditional love shined through everything! So one evening a year and a half ago when Lizzie who had just turned 13 started acting weird and had what I would call a stroke and I knew I was soon to loose her too. The next morning taking her into the vet the inevitable happened and we lost her too! This time grief came in a different way and was almost to the point of being overwhelming to my soul. I was so greatfull for the time I had with her and the chance to be her mom for 13 years and to love her and she me I just sat there. I couldn’t cry, I really couldn’t think, all I could think about was that at least this time I didn’t have to see my dog get hit by a car but that she died a natural death because God needed her up in heaven too! Maybe to keep Annie company as they ran in the great rolling hills and fields of heaven as I like to think that that is what they are doing.. Then without any warning I started crying, great uncontrollable tears rolling down my face and wondering what I should do next. Was I going to allow myself to give my heart to another little doggie soul and give her unconditional love? I had lost two already, but the love they shared with me and me with them was unconditional and needed by us both! Would a third puppy need a new human mom and would a human mom need another fur baby. Was there room in my heart for giving to another? Well, to answer that my husband came home at lunch after knowing that I cried uncontrollably all morning and said enough was enough. He knew my heart for these little fur babies and knew I had room for at least one more. Yes, there is room for one more. Search we did, and when I saw this little sweet underbite of a mouth and not knowing if she was a full breed or not and really not caring if she was, all that mattered to me was that she needed me and I needed her!! And here we are today and I am so blessed to have Coco and Coco to have me and knowing that God led me to this little furbaby to take care of.
Whether there is another furbaby in your life or not God has given you 15 years of the most incredible love a person can feel and that is the unconditional love of a sweet furbaby named Emjay!
Zenobia, this is so sweet. I love this story and how you took in Angel. My favorite thing you said was “Two leftover ladies, bereft of our loved ones, starting over with grief in our hearts.” How sweet is it that God brought you two together and you’ve been able to be a comfort to each other. I love that. His grace is so beautiful to fill our lives with little furry companions. Thank you for sharing your ramble. It put a smile on my face too!
Sister(s) Jamila and Nancy! I am so touched and blessed by both your posts on your beautiful fur babies and I wanted to share with you a story that is a little different. It’s about my Angel.
Angel is a five year old toy poodle who rescued me.
I am almost 71 years old and still work. I have had a life of extreme ups and downs. I am writing a book about the way God brought me back from death and a life of all kinds of things and when I came out on the other side, some of my children still will not forgive what they did not understand and though they were not abused, they hold their opinions.
Along the way, we have had many pets, ranging from goldfish, birds and gerbils, to a rabbit and many dogs and cats. We loved and cherished them all, and as the children became adults, the number of animals diminished. I worked long hours and felt it unfair to keep a pet who was alone for hours.
God blessed me later to raise grandchildren. We had pets again and life came back to me. I felt as if God was trusting me one more time to have children. In my lifetime I have been pregnant eleven times ( beginning at age sixteen) but only six survived. Out of the six, four remain.
In 2012, I was transferred to the place that I live and work as an office assistant, Life Coach for seniors, activities coordinator and much more. God has truly blessed me, but when I went home to my little apartment, there was no one but me. I had just lost my middle son, a forty year old, to AIDS, and I was still raw with pain. Due to the nature of his illness, there were many who treated me differently. Plus, I was a little stand-offish as well.
I cried myself to sleep a lot and felt sorry for myself.
One of my neighbors had two poodles. A standard named Lucy and Angel, who is all black and was about nine months old at the time. She would actually “smile” at me and try to run and play with me when I brought mail or packages to Helen, their human mommy, who was very ill.
In a month, our manager did a welfare check on Helen and found her passed away in her apartment. Lucy and Angel were standing guard over her, whimpering and crying.
I had never been inside Helen’s apartment,but when we went inside to clean things up, all the blinds were drawn and every available space was covered with doggie pads and the stench was tremendous. When I thought about it, I had never seen the dogs being walked or exercised and other residents took the opportunity of Helen’s death to talk about her and say nasty things about her. When her adult children came, they were hostile and had all kinds of judgement against their mother. They began giving away all her good china and things she had treasured for years. Then, it came down to the Lucy and Angel. “Someone has to take them, they said, or we will have them put down”.
My heart was racing! Oh no! How could I afford a dog on my small salary and social security? I could not have two dogs, so I would have to choose, and before I knew I blurted out, “I’ll take Angel”.
Another resident who was moving away, took Lucy, so I was loaded down with a huge crate, doggie bowls and what was left of her dog food. She had no toys, nothing to cuddle and I felt that we were just alike. Two leftover ladies, bereft of our loved ones, starting over with grief in our hearts.
I had not lived alone for over fifty years and Angel had never lived alone. I went right out and bought a boatload of “stuff”. Toys, clothes (yes!) and a bed. Poor Angel cried and cried and I did my best to comfort her. People asked “Why did you take THAT one?” “She is the whiny one” they said, and at home, it was true. Angel walked around whimpering and I knew she was looking for her “other” mama and for Lucy, whose new owners had already grown weary of her whimpering and taken her to a pound. I can only have one pet in my apartment so I had to deal with the pain of Lucy’s loss. I focused more on my heartbroken little girl and as a result, she is a very happy little lady….still shaky and shy around strangers, but happy as a clam when I come home, which is right down the hallway from my business office.
We have grown in these five years. I have started to write and do public speaking again. I am blessed to lead a women’s bible study and God is bringing my family together again.
I know that one day I might lose Angel. Right now, my focus is on her sweet laughing face and the love we share. God is good to give us fur babies. I know this is a ramble, but I wanted to let you both know how blessed I am with the stories of your babies. Blessings to you Jamila and Nancy! <3
Thank you for sharing this. I will remember this as I care for my sister and know our time together is short.
Maryann D. said:
Sending much sympathy for the loss of your precious Yorkie. Anyone who has lost a loving pet, knows the pain. My sister lost her two Chihuahua’s within a month of each other, but then a tiny Yorkie came into her life and helped with her grief. I still miss my sweet poodle who passed about 30 years ago and a wonderful cat that passed away 8 years ago. They are always in our hearts and yes we can still laugh at the funny things they did and always remember the love our fur babies gave us!