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A Year After William

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The scales had already been tipped negatively in my life and I’d reached a place where many years of slight errors in judgment had compounded over time. I had been traveling and away from home far, far too much, burning my candle at both ends, and shortly after one of my returns home, our English Bulldog, William, suddenly passed away. It was August 11, 2016.

Fighting through the quick sand of the initial grieving stages took nearly 6-8 months where I could begin to feel my own heart beat again. I started the conversations with myself, of turning my sadness around by picking up self help books, promises of going to the gym, making new plans with my husband and friends – but nothing seemed to work. Even at the 10 month mark I found myself having exhausted countless weeks, months, adding simple positive actions into my life, nothing that anyone could really see, yet I didn’t feel a difference. I wanted to be happy, but nothing made me feel happy.

There is no instant fix for life and no matter how hard you try you cannot think yourself to happiness.

I would find myself fighting so hard to try and “fake it ‘till you make it” to try pulling myself from the deep hole I’d sunken in to. The grieving process is so strange and unusually complex. Williams death brought Grant and I closer together, yet also made me feel very alone. There were months that felt a fog of sadness and confusion. I went through phases of anger because I couldn’t seem to move past the heavy sadness of our loss. “It’s just a dog Jacey,” I would try and coach myself. But every time I tried to minimize or downplay my pain, it would only root itself deeper.

The biggest lesson I learned this year was that you cannot fix a feeling. You cannot force yourself to move on faster than you are ready. You cannot constantly question why you feel what you feel – you just do. Some things in life just take time and you will always find answers in time. Throughout the past year when I could not find an answer, this was always my philosophy. And with the continued goal of adding small positive actions to my daily life, I wasn’t really realizing that slowly but surely the scales were beginning to shift.

Today is August 11, 2017. It’s been exactly 1 year since our William died and my scales have finally tipped in the positive direction. Last year I was in Texas on this exact week, shooting the exact same project with Cotton Inc. just after William had died – heart broken. And while the past year of my experience has felt like a decade, it wasn’t until I was back home this week shooting that I realized how far I had come. The minute I saw this beautiful red dress I knew where I wanted to shoot it. I kind of felt like this shoot paid a tribute to William in some tiny way. This dress makes me happy, the family farm makes me happy and my dear William always made me happy.

My brother Justin had a drone and we were playing around with it – just as we used to make home-made movies when we were kids. KT Merry, my photographer, enthusiastically snapped amazing photography and Haleigh held her reflector playing music. Grant acted silly and made me laugh the entire time we shot and Charlie buzzed around capturing video. My parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents all came together for dinners and helping hands on the shoot.

When we were taking photos of this dress in the field at sunset, I wanted to get one last shot with the drone of me running through the fields. I was barefoot, legs completely scraped up from the stalks as I ran through the cotton rows. My heart was racing, sweat dripping down my neck and the sun was beginning to fade over the horizon behind my back. I ran deep into the 300 acres of white cotton, my red dress snagging on the crop and then suddenly I stopped and turn around to face the sun with a smile on my face. I was happy – finally.

Have you ever experienced heavy grief? How did you cope? I hope this post can help in some way if you are battling through finding your happiness. 

 

 

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0 Leave a Comment Aug 11, 2017
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  • I think happiness is overrated, and what I mean by that is that of course it is a delightful feeling but it is so brief and it can’t compete with grief that is just never ending. It is great that you finally felt that lightness. But in my opinion, it being content that helps the most. Grateful, and being grateful is something that you have remind yourself of every day, even through the worse days. Losing a dog sucks, and it is never just a dog, it is your family, and they depend on you, and love you, no matter what, so it is heartbreaking to lose your dog. Love your piece, stunning photos too.

    Simona
    http://www.lakenmoon.com

    • Jacey

      Simona, your words are beautiful! “Happiness is overrated…” I do agree with you in that feeling balanced and living a life feeling content is the greatest happiness of all. The highs and lows don’t make me feel complete… it’s the ordinary days, sitting on the couch with my family doing nothing more than watching Netflix and ordering pizza. I appreciate you reminding me of this. So often we seek happiness which does not exist outside of the walls of our own lovely lives that we live in. I am so grateful for your note. Thank you, Jacey x

  • I can deeply relate to your love ❤️ of William, and his unexp passing. I used to have three Beagles myself, they all passed within a timeframe of within 3 years. The brother Beagle died of lymphoma, then the mom Beagle died shortly after, then the sister Beagle died in 2012. She was the last one that said good bye to me, that practically shattered my already broken heart 💔. I don’t know how I managed through out all that. When I first heard about William, I remember you were at a photo shoot, I thought to myself that you are a strong minded woman, and you will pull through this, but deep down I sensed that it will be very difficult as I experienced this pain myself three times over. ☹️ Something’s so tragic such as these will only strengthen further in life. When something we love ❤️ becomes a memory, the memory becomes treasure.

    🌸🍃LA BIJOUX BELLA 🌸🍃| By Mia | A Creative Lifestyle Blog

    • Jacey

      Mia ~ Crying. Sometimes I read comments and get the strangest sense that a person “gets me” and I got that with your note. I can’t really explain it but I think the comment about you reading how I was on my photo shoot really hit me. That day was horrific. I knew it would be hard but damn…. You are absolutely right in saying that something we love becomes a memory and then a treasure. It’s been such a long journey but we’re finally starting to see the light again. Thank you so much for the note. It really did mean a lot to me. x Jacey

  • Jacey, I understand how devastating the loss of a fur baby is! I have four of my own now and have lost three in my lifetime. They are our children…sadly, many people don’t realize this. No one would ever say c’mon, it’s just your child but so many people seem to think it’s crazy to be heartbroken for so long when its “just” a dog or a cat. These exquisite creatures are everything. I always say, we humans should take lessons on how to love from them. I”m so sorry for your loss. NO amount of time will erase him from your heart. I believe he will be there to great you when you get to heaven! I also, believe that (when you are ready) you will love another pup in this earthly life and although he or she will not replace William…there is a comfort in knowing you are giving another pup a great life. To love and be loved by a dog or a cat is one of the greatest gifts on this side of heaven. You will see your sweet angel again. I know it!
    XO! Gina
    http://www.classyeverafterblog.com

    • Jacey

      Dear Gina ~ Thank you so much for the kind words. It really does mean a lot knowing that there are other dog lovers out there who understand the process. Jacey x

  • Love this post and the gorgeous photos! So glad your are feeling so happy again!

    http://www.krystalschlegel.com

    • Jacey

      Thank you Krystal <3

  • Kat

    This was really beautiful. I think one of the hardest things about losing a pet is how shocking the grief is. I didn’t have a dog until I was 9 years old. She ended up living until I was 26. She was the first pet I’d ever had, the sweetest little dog, my little foot warmer in the wintertime, the family dog Bridget. Since she was a rescue, her age was estimated to be around 2/2.5 when we got her so by the time she passed, she was nearing 20 years of age. It was a remarkably long life but in the end, you could tell she needed to let go. One day she did. She disappeared in the night and we never saw her again. Our vet told us that like many animals before her, she went to bed down and die. It happens. The pain we felt, my whole family, was just unbearable. It was a hard punch to the gut. I didn’t eat for weeks out of grief. You tell yourself it’s just a dog but dogs aren’t just dogs. They’re family. My mother’s grief over losing Bridget was so strong she couldn’t throw anything away and just a month later she adopted another dog to fill the space. It’s been nearly 8 years now. I have a dog of my own and my parents are madly in love with their “new” dog Dasha. But my mom still admits she still grieves for Bridget. They’re family and losing family is never easy. Years ago when my college roommate lost her father I remember something someone told me: “There is no right way to grieve. You grieve in your own way.” You loved William with your whole heart, of course it was painful to lose him. I’m glad you’re finally happy again!

    • Jacey

      Kat ~ Thank you for opening up and sharing this with me. You are right: Our dogs are our family. It’s crazy how much the dynamic of my house has shifted since we lost William. Also, your feelings of loss sound similar to mine {not eating etc…}. I’m happy to hear your Mom adopted a new dog and hopefully you all can find peace in loving memory of Bridget. – Jacey x

  • 100% this. I love that you are sharing this. It’s such a raw, lost feeling when you lose a pet and I don’t think people without them understand the grief and how it can overwhelm you. I lost my black lab of 14 years one month after you lost William and I still tear up to this day at random times when something reminds me of him or I simply miss him. I’m so happy to see you are learning how to work through the pain, it really is work. But as cliche as it sounds, time does heal and then you start to remember all the good things about them, not that they are gone. They will never be gone, they are in your heart always.

    • Jacey

      Wow ~ It’s so crazy how many people lost pets around the same time as William. It really helps us in a weird way – thinking that they’re all up in heaven together. . . I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for leaving this sweet note <3 Jacey x

  • Dana Mannarino

    This post was so beautifully written, Jacey. I can’t relate because I never had a pet in my life, but I could only imagine what you went through. I really loved your outlook on the grieving process – you’re right – you CAN’T force yourself to be done with some feelings. Some feelings will linger longer than others and that’s OKAY. It’s so nice to see you’re feeling happy again!

    Pink Champagne Problems

    • Jacey

      Thank you Dana ~ Jacey x

  • Louis Dupond

    Great dress and fantastic pictures! Now about your post … I think almost everyone has a big issue with time … we think we control everything … we think we can do what we want, we think our relatives and cherished pets will be close to us but there’s always a but … sometimes an event helps us to realize it … (some people don’t and they will complain their whole life … sad!); important is lessons learned … everyone has 24 hours a day … decide what you want to do with YOUR time … cry, laugh, run, blog 😉 In Rome they were used to say … Carpe Diem .. this is how I live … and I’m happy to do so 😉

    https://4highheelsfans.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/tuscany-pisa/

    • Jacey

      So so true Louis ~ I have a very hard time with letting go of control and it’s been such a learning lesson for me. I absolutely LOVE your “Carpe Diem” note and your inspiring post. Thank you for writing x Jacey

  • Melody

    As I sit here tearing up, I can’t help but think of the pain you guys went through with Williams passing. I also can’t help but think of my furnugget Boomer whom I lost 3 years ago. The pain I felt was like no other. I still have my moments when I wake up and look at a pic and go right back to the day when we lost him, where I didn’t leave the house for 4 days straight. When I couldn’t even have anyone mention his name because it broke me. I can say that 3 years later I am finally at a point where I can at least mention his name and not break out in tears! Some days are better than others, but I promise they do get better. Love ya Jace!

    • Jacey

      Thank you so much Melody ~ The amount of comfort sweet notes such as yours brings to myself and my husband are priceless. It’s truly what has helped get us through the past year. I love hearing stories like yours. Jacey x

  • So sorry for your loss. Dogs are a huge part of our lives, they give so much love. My little darling picks up on my emotions and when I’m down she follows me from room to room. I catch her staring at me with so much concern in her eyes. Your loss and sadness are very real but feel proud of yourself for working through it. From what I see on your blog you had a great year professionally. Life is full of surprises, some good, some bad we just have to keep moving forward. Glad you’re feeling happy again.

    • Jacey

      Thank you so much <3 Your kind note really did bring a smile to my face. xx Jacey

  • Stella Rios

    It is an overwhelming sadness and I understand it all too well. I have lost 3 labs… all older in age and living full lives, but it doesn’t lessen the sadness and emptiness one feels without them. I lost my last one December 30, 2016 – – strangely enough, God had sent me another angel of a dog Buddy a year prior. It is amazing, but I feel like he has a lot of the qualities that my dog Bella Bleu had . I feel her coming back to me in another dog body (crying now..) So thankful… xoxo

    • Jacey

      Ugh. Stella ~ I feel your heart. Wow – 3 labs! We had 2 black labs growing up named Sam & Libby. Black labs are the best breed! So loyal, tails always wagging and incredibly loving. Thank you for the sweet note – Jacey x

  • Kristin M.

    This post comes at an interesting time for me. I have a 9 year old Golden Retriever that I rescued 4.5 years ago. I say to myself so often that she is love of my life. As the saying goes, “who rescued who?” We are constant companions and best buds, probably because I work from home and take her everywhere with me. Now that I’m seeing the first signs of her slowing down with her age, I’m literally plagued with fear of even thinking about her not being by my side. I’ll crawl on the ground and just love on her and beg her to never leave me. It probably sounds ridiculous. I’ve grown up with Goldens my whole life and we’ve lost 5 to date. The grieving is absolutely horrible, but all of those were our family dogs growing up. This one, this sweet girl, she’s all mine. I start crying (like I am now) even thinking about waking up one single day without her. Is it odd to be grieving something that hasn’t even happened. I’m so screwed.

    Thank you for sharing this open, honest post and from one dog lover to another, you’re a darn awesome dog Mom to both William and Polly. xoxo

    • Jacey

      Dear Kristin, Your sweet words brought tears to my eyes. It is so obvious how much you love your Golden and I’m absolutely positive she feels it each and every day. It’s the best gift you can give to a pet. It definitely doesn’t sound ridiculous. I remember talking to William before he died. I asked him to please go peacefully and not let us see. He died very quickly on the hospital table as the vet tried to revive him. I 100% believe that we can communicate with dogs on some level. The day may eventually come for you, but your Golden will always be with you in spirit. I cannot tell you hard this loss was for me, it was awful. But I can tell you that I am happy now and time does march on. People are just as resilient as animals. <3 Sending lots of love and positive vibes your way. Jacey x

  • Rach

    Trying to heal from grief is hard and it takes time. I think what helped me is admitting that it did happen. I’ll admit there’s still sadness but admitting and understanding helped me heal. I think everyone in this situation handles different and it is worth trying everything to see what works for you. I am so glad to hear you are feeling better and without a doubt William is your angel watching over you guys.

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

    • Jacey

      Hi Rach ~ That’s a really good tip. Sometimes we try to push down the pain and when you finally submit and let the tears fall – it does feel better. Jacey x

  • I understand the loss of your beloved dog . I have been crippled by grief in my life . I have endured the loss of my most precious mother . I was unable to function at full level for several years . Emotional loss and grief are apart of life . Don’t let others define the emotions you feel . On another point I love ❤️ this red dress , gorgeous, red is the big color for this fall !
    Jandrew
    Dress The Part
    http://www.jandrewspeaks.com

    • Jacey

      Dear Jandrew, I cannot imagine the level of sadness you have probably gone through. I am terribly sorry for your loss and my heart is with you. Thank you so much for taking time to write such a sweet note. Jacey xx

  • Alyssa Thomas

    Oh Jacey. This post had me in tears. What a beautiful tribute to William and to your own happiness. Grief is a strange, sneaky thing and no one else can define grief for us. We just have to experience it to know it. How wonderful how hard you love William.

    • Jacey

      Thank you so much Alyssa x Jacey

  • Oh Jacey. Sending so much love and peace to you today. There’s been an alarming amount of great loss in my life, from my mother to my dearest and closest grandparent, to that childhood dog I grew up with for 16 years. I 100% get this on so many levels. In some ways, I’m still dealing with all of those loses even though most days I don’t feel it. I put a LOT of that energy into creative outlets from choreographing a huge dance piece about grief to throwing myself into my photography. There are so many different ways to cope. Cheers to you for being able to see how far you’ve come. If it counts for anything, I’ve seen the change over your snaps and Insta stories, too. Proud of you. <3

    xoxo,
    Dannie

    • Jacey

      Dannie ~ Thank you so much for the sweet note. It sounds like you have been through hell and back. I like what you said about throwing yourself into creative projects. I’ve always found that it helps me too when I’m playing piano, snapping photos or doing something that I can kind of “zone out” to. I’m happy you have those outlets as well. Also, thank you for the note about seeing the change on my social media. I went through a really rough patch where I didn’t want to post at all, so it’s nice to be back and have sweet notes such as yours that remind me of why I love doing this. Wishing you all the best. x Jacey

  • Kate

    Thank you for sharing, and thank you for this post. I just lost my dog Benny two weeks ago yesterday, and I feel very much the same as you described. I have children and a husband, but my heart still breaks for my boy Benny! Sending you love and support, and glad you are feeling happiness again!

    • Jacey

      Dear Kate, I’m so sorry to hear about Benny. Hopefully you are finding comfort in the arms of your children and husband. I know in my heart that Benny is with our William and they’re making friends in puppy heaven. <3 Sending positive vibes your way. Jacey x

  • Hayley Elizabeth Swinamer

    I understand the grief. You are so right in everything you said here. Time scale, intensity, no quick fixes. So much love and positive thoughts to you, and to everyone here in the comments who have lost their fur babies too. So happy that you are feeling happy again. If it’s even the smallest positive thought, or consolation to you, this past year on the blog, you’ve still made it all look beautiful, no matter how bad you may have been feeling. xo

    • Jacey

      Thank you Hayley!

  • Terri Crawford

    This was just beautiful….. nothing more to say !! I’m glad peace has finally found you Jacey …. many blessings….

    • Jacey

      Thank you Terri! x

  • The Gold Lipstick

    Aww

    Mireia from TGL
    https://thegoldlipstick.com/

  • Karla

    This is the very first blog post I read today after spending the morning losing my beloved Labrador girl, my sweet Morgan…I can barely breathe. Going to set reminders to re-read this often, thanks for sharing.

    • Jacey

      Wow Karla. The stars must have aligned for you to come across my post! I am truly sorry for your loss and really hope my experience helps. I cannot imagine how sad you must be today. My heart is with you x

  • Thanks for this post (topic and beautiful photos!) and for sharing your experience. I’m so glad you’ve found your happy again. Everyone handles grief differently and at the end of the day, it just takes time. I’ve had pets pass away, but the strongest grief I’ve experienced was during separation leading up to divorce. My counsellor kept having to remind me that I was feeling this way because the end of a marriage IS a death. Thank goodness for meditation, yoga, friends and family. And my own strength. I’m in so much of a better place all around, my life has changed in the best waym and I’m grateful for digging down for the patience I don’t always have with myself and allowing myself to grieve – nstead of skimming over it. We choose happiness for ourselves but sometimes we need to wade through the muck first!

  • So beautifully written, honest and raw.

    So happy the scales have tipped in the positive direction again. Sending hugs all the same.

  • Angela Johnson

    Jacey, This blog post brought tears to my eyes. I was 18 when we lost our first family dog (I’m now 30). That pain stabs you in the heart, and it took a long time to heal. As I read over your words I realize a tiny bit of pain exists to this day. Dogs are family, and they love you endlessly with no judgement. I think that is why they are sometimes the hardest companion to lose. I now have a Labrador/Pyrenees mix of my own and I cannot even imagine him not being in my life forever, but I have to enjoy the time I have now. Thank you for sharing! Each day/year gets easier. I’m so glad you are finding your happy again! Beautiful photos! xo Angela

  • Jacey this is such a touching blogpost! I’ve been following your IG for some time now, but I just can’t seem to get enough of your bog posts. You’re such a great writer…

    I lost my Leila “Jacq” back in 2015, and it took such a long time to feel true happiness. This post brought back so many similar experiences, and It was touching to read your final words. “I was happy – finally.” So powerful, and I truly appreciate you opening up and sharing. So many of us feel alone in this time of grief and it’s comforting to read that we’re not alone. So many of us are sharing the exact same experiences. Sending you a big “happy” hug!

    xx, Tiffany

  • Katherine

    Sending love your way today, Jacey! We lost my childhood dog this year. It really is a loss like no other. Thank you for being so honest about the special grief of losing a pet– so many can relate, yet it’s rarely talked about. Pups are the best. xx

  • Kritsida

    I’m so sorry for your loss! It’s seriously still so hard for me, but I continue to try to celebrate all her memories.
    x. kritsida
    http://aperfectcanvas.net/

  • Jessica

    Jacey, so it’s 4am here in CA and I’m wide awake because I’m coming up on a year of having lost my Mom and well, sleep just doesn’t come easy these days… frankly, not much comes easy these days. My grief has been a whirlwind, utterly confusing and frustrating sometimes (like right now) and perfectly, heart breakingly, beautiful in other ways. I just keep trying to tell myself that my feelings are my feelings and there is no right or wrong way to get through this. And I keep waiting for that moment when I too can turn my face to the sun and smile and know true happiness again. I know she’d want that for me. Thank you for sharing your words with all of us strangers, they help more than you know.

  • Alexia Mickens

    Omg you have no idea how much I needed this!! Time heals all wounds, im learning this. We gotta stop beating ourselves up and just let it happens gradually. All we can do it be intentional about taking positive steps forward and let time do its thing! Glad you made it to the other side. I know I will too! xx

    See my latest post:
    // being intentional
    born bred BE – a blog by Alexia

  • Hi Jacey, I too am a mother of bulldogs… Currently my oldest, Wynnie, 10 1/2 years old is starting to have seizures. My heart aches knowing that her life cycle may be coming to a close and typing this really hurts.
    I am sending you a cyber hug with hopes that you know you are not alone.
    Thank you for sharing with us 🙂 XX
    Tanya

  • Tiffany M

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing about your grief and sadness
    over losing William. I’ve been going through the end process with my
    beloved pup, Star, and it’s heart wrenching and heart breaking. I do not
    wish this type of loss and heart break on my worst enemy! I keep trying
    to tell myself that she is just a dog and that I’m being silly for
    being so upset. But they are not just dogs- they are part of our lives.
    Our children. Our friends. And when something happens to them that we
    can not fix or heal it paralyzes us and leaves us helpless. I denied
    that I am depressed over this but as I notice how short and cold I am
    with everyone around me I’m starting to realize just how sad I truly am.
    I have an appointment to put her down this week and after reading your
    post (and comments from others) I know now that I won’t be the only one
    who will and ever has felt grief like this over losing their beloved
    friend. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your loss and for helping
    me to see and understand that it is okay to grieve and that there is no
    timeline for it. It takes time and our hearts will heal but the paw
    prints from our pups will forever remain on our hearts. My heart goes
    out to you <3 Tiffany

  • Amanda Champion

    This post had me in tears! So well written and as a regular reader and fan, I’m so happy to see you’ve come out the other side of things now.

    xo, Amanda
    http://www.aglamlifestyle.com

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