Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

When Tragedy Happens


What do you do when tragedies happen? When someone loses a family member?

We had that happen in the company yesterday. A young woman passed away. It was sudden, unexpected and horrible. She left four children and a heartbroken family. What do you do?

My first response is to hide. My heart breaks for the family. (We’ve known three generations of this family.) And pray.

If at all possible, I stay out of the way. My dad’s response is to take food. And as my boss, he usually assigns the task to me. So I go to the store and buy stuff the family can eat when they feel like it, even though they won’t be hungry again for weeks and weeks.

Then I take it to the family.

But you have to talk. You can’t just drop off the food and not say anything. What do you say to someone who just had their heart torn out?

I’m curious about how other religions comfort grieving loved ones. Do they suggest that the family member’s next life will end more happily? Or that they’ve been absorbed by God? Or maybe that they’re with their ancestors? I’m not being disrespectful. I’m really curious.

As a Christian, I depend on God to do my talking for me. What comes out is the Hope we have in Glory. I know not everyone is going to spend eternity with Jesus, and I almost never have an idea of a person’s spiritual wellbeing. (Unless I really know them.)

But what comfort is there if Heaven isn’t waiting? How do people who don’t believe in God live through the pain?

Who, besides Jesus, can give us the joy of knowing we’ll be with our loved ones once again?

When I had to tell our boys about a family tragedy when they were small, I spoke from my heart. I told them that the loved ones we lost were luckier than the rest of us. They got to go be with Jesus first, while the rest of us had to stay here.

It didn’t stop the pain (nothing could) but at least I reminded my babies that we will be with them again. We’ll be together in His presence for eternity.

And what could be more wonderful than that?




Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

8 thoughts on “When Tragedy Happens

  1. August 10th my oldest son (45) collapsed without a heartbeat, The EMTs worked on him for 40-45 minutes finally getting a reasonably stable heartbeat. He was in a coma for 19 days dying on August 29th with the funeral held last Saturday 9/3/11. He lived in Austin,TX. His 12 year old son is very active in Soccer, baseball, basketball, and flag football. For those 19 days while my son was in ICU, there was a constant flow of parents with their children visiting at the hospital. They also came to the funeral and in many cases provided food for the family. It wasn’t the words said by them but the actions of being there and offering comfort. For those that couldn’t be there, yes, the emails, text messages, telephone calls and cards were of great comfort. It isn’t the biggest flower arrangement that shows caring. In many cases it was just a kind word or someone sitting with you quietly. That someone you may not have even known.

    • Oh, Steve. I had no idea. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. We aren’t supposed to lose our children.
      Amy lived through that heartbreak. Talk about a brave soul.
      You’re right. It’s not the words or the flowers. It’s the caring.
      Thanks for reminding me.

  2. How do we reach out to those whose hearts are broken & aching? what do we say? What do we do? How can I help?

    I remember back when we went through our families tragedy. What do I remember others doing for us?

    I don’t remember what words were said, what food was given to us. My memory us so blurred from that time that I don’t even remember exactly who all came or called.

    What I do remember is that God reached down & held us so tight through arms of friends & family that He placed in our lives. Unselfish people who came just to be with us & hug us, & care for us. I remember that all over this great country people were praying for us.

    I hope I learned what God wanted me to learn during that time. I hope I learned to be just like those He sent into our lives.

    I love you

    • That was a tough one. Just having people there for us made such a difference. Like you said, I don’t remember words. I do remember the love.
      Hopefully, my words won’t be remembered. Only that our family cared and wanted to help.
      Still not an easy task. None of it is.
      Love you, too!

  3. As a Pastor I am put in this position a lot. What the Lord has taught me is to ask for wisdom and keep my mouth shut unless He opens it. You have family, some who believe some do not. Some want to judge some do not. All want to ask why and expect someone to tell them when you can not. Susan and Debbie you are right you just remember who was there. People get nervous and want to help so bad they say things that are wrong or even later seem inappropriate. They just want to help so bad. I would say with just your presents you ease tension especially after what your family has been through. When dad went on to be with the Lord and I was blessed with doing his funeral, one of the first things I thought of was Bruce speaking at the graveside at your mother’s . If he did it I can do it was my thoughts, then to look out and see him and your family present at his funeral (some of them, chapel was not big enough for all lol) gave me strength to get through it. You are strength to people who have adversity because of what you have been through. Not by what you say, just because you took the time to be there for the family. I love to to teach on Jonah, it’s meaning can be taught so many ways. I love to tell people I may be in a hard spot or a storm of life but at least I am not in the belly of a fish. When people lose a loved one and think they cannot go on and you show up and represent strength, I am sure you do not realize the stability and love your family represents. Hope this helps someone.

    • Joe Ray,
      So true.
      I love the way your mind works. Love that God made Jonah go where He wanted him to go, no matter what Jonah wanted. (Then he pouted. Silly Jonah.)
      So many people told us, “I don’t know how you can do this,” or “how are you able to get through this.”
      My answer was always, “Only with Jesus.” But we never really had a choice, did we?
      God made the world, He set the stars in place, created everything that lives and breathes (or that has ever lived or breathed.) I know He can send a big fish after me, even Oklahoma, if He wants to!

  4. Thanks Joe Ray. Love you. One thing I learned, always tell your loved ones you love them. That can never be said too much or too often

    I hope I never forget that.

    Love you,

    • Good advice, Deb.
      Something you do that you don’t mention is to SHOW your loved ones you love them. (You do a great job of it.)
      What was it Mama taught us? Actions speak louder than words.
      She taught us both of those things. My sibs learned well.

I'm so glad you dropped by my Small Town World! Hope you'll leave a comment. I really enjoy hearing from you!

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