it was the end of the world as I knew it, and it wasn’t fine

when someone you love dies

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When someone you love dies, you have choices about how you’ll react and continue to live. What follows is my story of choosing to be defined by grace instead of tragedy.


They were the hardest words I have ever said in my life.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your name.”

The night before, I had been watching a movie with my fiancé when the doorbell rang. I answered it, expecting it to be my sister having lost her house key. It was not my sister. It was two uniformed officers, a man, and a woman.

We all know what that means.

I stepped back from the door in alarm. My heart tried to pound its way out of my chest as I called my parents to the door.

“There’s been an accident,” they said, their eyes an odd mix of discomfort and compassion.

My 18-year old sister, who that morning had been off on a final summer adventure with her friends, had skidded into an oncoming vehicle on the rain-soaked highway.

Rain poured down in rivulets on the crushed car and tears poured down in rivulets on my crushed heart. It was not only my heart that was crushed that night, but the hearts of my family and three other families who were affected. Two sweet daughters and one fine son were snatched away from this earth. One sweet daughter was left behind to bear the guilt of surviving, to hold the grief of three friends lost in an instant of crushing impact.

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Tragic. Horrific. Life-shattering.

Those who have lived with grief know the feeling of being surprised by grief at any point.

Walking in a sea of people, inwardly screaming at them for their apathy. Sitting in botany class and suddenly streaking out to the bathroom to wail in a stall. Walking into church to so many people singing words that they can’t possibly mean

Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your name

and singing them with tears pouring down cheeks and heart squeezed into a breathless knot and hands curled white-knuckled over the edge of the pew.

Some have asked me, “how can you possibly have faith when the world is so obviously wrong?”

I don’t know. I’ve questioned that. My faith hasn’t been a steady growth line. It looks a lot more like a heartbeat monitor, holding fairly steady but with blips of incredible highs and lows.

But in the end, I have chosen not to be defined by the tragedy. I could have lived my whole life under the name “Christie-the-surviving-sister”, but instead I choose to be defined by grace. To live under the new name He has given me, not under the name the Adversary would like to pin me under.

What is your name?

How do you define your life? Is there a tragedy, a life-circumstance that has you trapped?

Over the past few years I’ve created quite a few resources to help in those circumstances that seem hopeless. I hope you’ll find something in this post to help you. 

1. A 5-day devotional series

Find peace in your storm

If you’re interested in some of the techniques I’ve used to redirect my anxiety and fear after this trauma, please sign up for my 5 day devotional series, Finding Peace in the Storm.

2. A resource to help your children when someone you love dies

NAVIGATE helps parents navigate the grief and loss with children. It features stories from Christian bloggers and mothers who have been through incredibly hard moments with their families.

To receive the resource straight to your inbox, sign up here.

3. A picture book with the reminder you need

Quinn says goodbye: front cover

Many years after losing my sister, I wrote a short story that distills the most important truth I learned during that time: life is hard sometimes, but we can trust that God is with us, even in the pain. In the story, Quinn loses her little pet, and gets angry that God would let this bad thing happen. Her mother reminds her that God doesn’t always keep the bad things from happening, BUT he promises to be with us through it all.

Click here to learn more about Quinn Says Goodbye.

4. These articles on grief and loss

Earlier this year I shared this post on Lisa Appelo’s blog on the connection between grief and anxiety. Read When Anxiety Flares in Grief: 4 Steps to Calm Anxiety.

This article by a friend of mine has been very encouraging to many: How to survive when your child dies suddenly.

When you’re struggling with finding inner peace in a hard time, read 3 Truths To Remember When the Storm Rages.

If your loss is related to a pet, I recently wrote this article on how to help a child deal with pet loss.