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