Embrace the Grief, and God In It

Our hearts have been really sad around here the last few days. We lost a dear friend. For 14 years she brought such joy, companionship, and unbridled affection into our lives. Our daughter was a senior in high school when this puppy moved in. She has lived with us in four different homes, and relished the addition of two new grandchildren. She has been a delight and God has taught me much through the simple love and trust of this dog. I totally get how much dogs reflect his glory.

Saying goodbye has not been easy and the hole her passing left in our home is a huge one even though this has been a long time coming. Her health has been fading for some time and before every trip I took this last year, I’ve told her goodbye, not expecting to have her here when I returned. But she somehow kept hanging on. Finally on Sunday she literally could not take another step. Tears well up in my eyes whenever I think of her, which I do a lot. I used to try to run from grief by ignoring its cause. Now days I embraced it as a counterpoint to times of joy. The grief I have at Sierra’s passing is only because she was such a treasured part of our lives for so long. I’ve concluded that grief is good. It is part of saying goodbye and it is incredibly healing. And the love of many of our dear friends who appreciate our loss has been helpful as well.

Yesterday I received an email from a dear friend whose family is going through some grief of their own. He was on staff at a fellowship that over the last four years, at the Lord’s direction, has been dismantling all the structures that defined their life. Recently they sold the building and held their last gathering there over the weekend. He mentioned how sad how children and wife were, that there were so many great memories attached to that location. I get that! It’s wonderful to have so many memories of good times with God’s people. Saying goodbye doesn’t always mean something is wrong, but that it’s time has come to an end, and new possibilities await.

I know it is rough to let go of something or someone we deeply loved or enjoyed, whether it was our choice to lay it down or death ripped it from our hands. We can be sad leaving wonderful things behind, but that doesn’t have to deter us from pressing on to what Father has next for us. People who live to avoid future sorrow miss out on so much of life. Our joys today may well turn into the losses of tomorrow, but those same losses open up space for new things and new relationships to come into our lives.

I remember when our first dog died 21 years go. I swore I’d never get another dog, that the pain of losing her wasn’t worth it. I’ve been through this enough times to know that the joys far outweigh the pain. Not only will we embrace the pain of losing Sierra, but we went to see a litter of golden retrievers last night and picked out a new puppy to grace the Jacobsen home. She’s only four weeks old, so we won’t get her for a couple of weeks, but we’re already preparing to add her to our family.

Life goes on. A new chapter opens, a new pup becomes part of our heritage, and the empty space Sierra left will be filled. The new one won’t replace Sierra, we will still have her memories in our heart, but we are ready to make some new ones, too. If our first dog hadn’t died, we’d never have had Sierra, and I wouldn’t have missed her for the world.

Perhaps the greatest danger to our journey is not the difficult times but the good ones. They invite us to pitch our tent where God only invited us to pass through. Some try so hard to hold on to their past, or are so hurt when things change, that they resist change as a bad thing. Grief is a great thing. It’s part of celebrating a treasure and letting go of it. Then we are able to walk on into the future knowing all not lost and that God still has some wonderful things to share with us as the journey continues.

And for you dog-lovers, someone sent me this clip. It’s a great reminder that God put dogs on the planet to reflect a bit of himself to us!

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20 Comments
  1. Rusty May December 22, 2010 at 10:04 am

    After reading this blog, I went and hugged my dog. Still praying for you Wayne. May you and Sara have a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for the gift you’ve given me of learning to live in the Father’s affection. I can truly say I know how deeply He loves me. Blessings.

  2. Kelly December 22, 2010 at 10:05 am

    been hurting with you, Wayne – and thankful for Sierra’s life and joy – love the pic of two precious ones! have a great Christmas!

  3. Kathy Wimberley December 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Thanks, Wayne, I needed to hear that today.

  4. Robert David Cyders December 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Thanks Wayne for sharing your loss, your memories, and your joy. I carry your grief with you and love to be a part of what you bring to my own journey with God. May this Christmas bring joy to you and your family. So looking forward to hearing the news of the grand kids and the puppy interacting. Blessing my friend.

  5. Sandy December 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for this. I needed to read this today. Not because I am loosing a beloved animal or family member, but because I am loosing traditions. My family dynamic has changed a lot in the last few years and this year Christmas is proving to be difficult. Divorce, new fiances and the families they bring, new babies, long distances, all these things are making this years Christmas celebration very different. On top of that, this may end up being my first year of not seeing the inside of a Church building at Christmastime. All of the traditions of Christmas that defined Christmas for me are being stripped away or have been stripped away and I find myself wondering what Christmas really does mean to me without all the traditions connected to it. There is a big part of me that wants to hang on to the old traditions and “pitch a tent” as it where. But I know that I can’t. So now I have to decide that it’s ok to let go of the old traditions and look for the new ones. But still hold the old ones in my heart and remember them fondly, and yes, even grieve for them.

    Loss is loss…whether it’s a person, an animal or a tradition. Thanks for the blog.

  6. Tommy Donahue December 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Sounds like a prison to praise… Thanks for the word bro!

  7. Rusty May December 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    After reading this blog, I went and hugged my dog. Still praying for you Wayne. May you and Sara have a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for the gift you’ve given me of learning to live in the Father’s affection. I can truly say I know how deeply He loves me. Blessings.

  8. Kelly December 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    been hurting with you, Wayne – and thankful for Sierra’s life and joy – love the pic of two precious ones! have a great Christmas!

  9. Kathy Wimberley December 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks, Wayne, I needed to hear that today.

  10. Robert David Cyders December 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks Wayne for sharing your loss, your memories, and your joy. I carry your grief with you and love to be a part of what you bring to my own journey with God. May this Christmas bring joy to you and your family. So looking forward to hearing the news of the grand kids and the puppy interacting. Blessing my friend.

  11. Sandy December 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for this. I needed to read this today. Not because I am loosing a beloved animal or family member, but because I am loosing traditions. My family dynamic has changed a lot in the last few years and this year Christmas is proving to be difficult. Divorce, new fiances and the families they bring, new babies, long distances, all these things are making this years Christmas celebration very different. On top of that, this may end up being my first year of not seeing the inside of a Church building at Christmastime. All of the traditions of Christmas that defined Christmas for me are being stripped away or have been stripped away and I find myself wondering what Christmas really does mean to me without all the traditions connected to it. There is a big part of me that wants to hang on to the old traditions and “pitch a tent” as it where. But I know that I can’t. So now I have to decide that it’s ok to let go of the old traditions and look for the new ones. But still hold the old ones in my heart and remember them fondly, and yes, even grieve for them.

    Loss is loss…whether it’s a person, an animal or a tradition. Thanks for the blog.

  12. jon December 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Wayne,

    Those crazy canines do become a part of a families fabric. I’m sorry for your loss. i’ve been there, and now with two dogs a part of our own family I’ve learned much from them. Enjoy your new puppy when it comes. Our second dog was a rescue dog, it has come with issues but didn’t mind not having to house trane it.

  13. Tommy Donahue December 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Sounds like a prison to praise… Thanks for the word bro!

  14. jon December 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Hey Wayne,

    Those crazy canines do become a part of a families fabric. I’m sorry for your loss. i’ve been there, and now with two dogs a part of our own family I’ve learned much from them. Enjoy your new puppy when it comes. Our second dog was a rescue dog, it has come with issues but didn’t mind not having to house trane it.

  15. Kathy December 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Just had to comment, I love dogs they keep my perspective straight when all the world around me is in a mess. I am sorry for your losss we too have watched many of our four-legged “children” go in and out of our lives but so happy you are getting another. We have a crazy golden named Chester just hope you have a really good vaccum:) kathy

  16. Kathy December 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Just had to comment, I love dogs they keep my perspective straight when all the world around me is in a mess. I am sorry for your losss we too have watched many of our four-legged “children” go in and out of our lives but so happy you are getting another. We have a crazy golden named Chester just hope you have a really good vaccum:) kathy

  17. Joyce December 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Wayne, thank you so much for this post. I am one of those people who love dogs. I have gone through the same heart ache many times…. each time I would vow never to go through that kind of pain again. But my love for dogs and the joy and love they have always brought into my life, always led me to open my heart once again. Like you, I’ve been through this enough to know that the joys do far outweigh the pain…

    Thanks for that link to God and Dog…It is so true! What a great way to be reminded of Papa’s love…now, every time my little Dusty looks at me with those adoring, “I love you Mommy” eyes, I will be reminded of how much I am loved…

    Thank you….Merry Christmas. I am sure that as you enjoy those precious grandchildren, you will also enjoy the anticipation of a new member to the Jocobson clan…

  18. Joyce December 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Wayne, thank you so much for this post. I am one of those people who love dogs. I have gone through the same heart ache many times…. each time I would vow never to go through that kind of pain again. But my love for dogs and the joy and love they have always brought into my life, always led me to open my heart once again. Like you, I’ve been through this enough to know that the joys do far outweigh the pain…

    Thanks for that link to God and Dog…It is so true! What a great way to be reminded of Papa’s love…now, every time my little Dusty looks at me with those adoring, “I love you Mommy” eyes, I will be reminded of how much I am loved…

    Thank you….Merry Christmas. I am sure that as you enjoy those precious grandchildren, you will also enjoy the anticipation of a new member to the Jocobson clan…

  19. Sue December 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Wayne, I understand the pain you and your family are going through. They are part of our families, they bring us so much joy. We lost our 15 yr old min. Dachshund a little of 2 years ago, it still hurts. We now have a new member, a min. Dachshund named Cappie we got from a rescue farm, he is such a sweetie, but he can never replace Frank our 1st Dachshund. I know your new puppy will be so loved and spoiled just as ours is. Looking forward to seeing more pics of the newest member to your family.

  20. Sue December 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Wayne, I understand the pain you and your family are going through. They are part of our families, they bring us so much joy. We lost our 15 yr old min. Dachshund a little of 2 years ago, it still hurts. We now have a new member, a min. Dachshund named Cappie we got from a rescue farm, he is such a sweetie, but he can never replace Frank our 1st Dachshund. I know your new puppy will be so loved and spoiled just as ours is. Looking forward to seeing more pics of the newest member to your family.

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