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.