By Dr. Gloria Horsley, an internationally known grief expert and author. Gloria is the founder of the Open to Hope foundation.
Having a loved one killed by a careless or drunk driver brings acres of sadness and anger, often unrecognized especially by those who have yet to experience a personal loss. When my son, Scott, was killed by a careless driver I knew that people felt uncomfortable with what to say, but I also desperately needed their presence as friends and family. Oftentimes, following a traumatic event, loved ones do not know what to say and sometimes, disappear. The old saying, “actions speak louder than words” is very true when there is a death. To offer better support for those grieving a loved one, here are some ways to help:
- Follow cues of how to speak of a victim’s loved one; say their name out loud.
- It is okay to be silent, to admit that you do not know what to say. Do not feel like you need to fill every moment with talking; your companionship is enough.
- Do not minimize the loss, or begin any sentence with “at least…” “At least you knew him for a little while,” or “At least he didn’t suffer.”
- Call just to check or send an invitation to lunch; Offer to come over, your presence is a gift.
- Share memories, stories and anecdotes about fun times; It brings joy to know that other people remember a loved one.
- Remember anniversaries and birthdays and that a loved one is not forgotten; A simple text, “Thinking of you today,” can mean so much.
- Do not disappear. Often family and friends are very present in the first weeks, but then evaporate as their lives return to normal.
- Rather than asking “What can I do?” reach out and make concrete gestures; drop off groceries, mow the lawn, etc. In the fog of grief, those grieving may not know they need help but some desperately do.
- Do not invalidate the feelings of those grieving by comparing losses.
- Don’t let your fear of saying the wrong thing keep you away.
If you are worried that something you want to say will be hurtful, err on the side of compassionate silence rather than risk causing further harm to the bereaved. Regardless what words you choose, remind the bereaved that you love them, that you remember and miss their loved one, and that they are not alone on this journey.
HealthDay reported today on new research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the risk factors in early adolescence that later lead to driving under the influence and riding with a drinking driver.
Of note in the research are five things that, if they happen at age 14, predict that as an older teen, they will commit DUI or ride with a drinking driver:
- If they’ve been exposed to peer marijuana use
- If they’ve used alcohol in the past month
- If they have positive beliefs about marijuana
- If there is marijuana use in their family
- If they perceive alcohol as prevalent
This new, third party data reinforces much of what MADD has said for years – that underage drinking is dangerous and can lead to serious, often deadly consequences. One of MADD’s most important mission prongs is the prevention of underage drinking.
It is crucial not only for parents to talk with their children about underage drinking prevention, but also for teens to understand the important role they play in protecting themselves and their friends from underage drinking and related consequences, such as riding with a drinking driver.
That’s why MADD developed two programs to make the prevention of underage drinking a community-wide priority. The first program, Power of Parents®, equips parents and caregivers with the tools they need to have early, ongoing conversations with their children about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking. The second program, Power of You(th)®, empowers teens to take a stand and help their peers, adults and entire communities understand the importance of underage drinking prevention.
This October, MADD and community partners across the country are promoting the Power of You(th) program’s #ProtectUrFriends campaign, empowering teens to protect themselves and each other from the dangerous and often deadly consequences of underage drinking. Together, we can create a community-wide priority to prevent underage drinking and its tragic consequences to keep our teens, roads and communities safe.
For more information about MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs and this October’s #ProtectUrFriends campaign, click here.
Saturday, September 26th might have been a rainy day in Atlanta, but it by no means dampened the spirits of those in attendance at the 11th Annual Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash event at The PGA Tour Superstore in Kennesaw.
Thanks to the generous support of the Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes-Benz and many others, more than 1,100 registered participants and volunteers braved the pouring rain to remember those who have been killed or injured by drunk driving; to inspire people to turn their pain into purpose; and to commit to a future of no more drunk driving victims.
Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank (whose fiancée, Angie Macuga, co-chaired the event) spoke to attendees before the Walk and Dash kicked off, then led a team of 150 participants in the event.
“Having the support of Mr. Blank and the Falcons as well as so many more in the Atlanta community plays a crucial role in delivering MADD’s mission locally and across the country,” said MADD CEO Debbie Weir, who attended Saturday’s Walk. “We want victims and survivors to know they will always have a place at MADD, and we want entire communities to know that together, we can make sure that drunk driving ends here.”
State Representative Geoff Duncan (District 26) spoke at the Walk as well. Representative Duncan is a strong supporter of MADD and is working tirelessly to strengthen Georgia’s underage drinking and drunk driving laws in order to better protect the public and keep Georgia roadways safe.
“I know firsthand what a crucial lifeline MADD provides to victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving,” said Atlanta Walk Like MADD Co-Chair Amy Kissam Sands, whose 22-year-old stepson, Tyler, was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver. “Having Representative Duncan and other valued and trusted community partners join us to make sure these resources are available to those who need them will make a difference to so many people.”
KSU Police Chief Roger Lee Stearns, and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Matthews also attended the Walk.
More than 80 Walk Like MADD events take place across the country every year, and each one plays a vital role in raising much needed funds and support that stays in local communities to prevent drunk driving and serve victims.
The Atlanta Walk, in particular, had strong turnout and support from highly engaged youth in the community. Elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students showed up in force to get the message out that youth engagement is crucial in order to prevent underage drinking and related consequences; and that they can help play a pivotal role in eliminating drunk driving as well.
Thanks to the extraordinary work of Atlanta Walk Like MADD co-chairs Angie Macuga and Amy Kissam Sands, along with many MADD Georgia staff and volunteers, Saturday’s event surpassed its $100,000 fundraising goal and raised more than $155,000.
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the Atlanta Walk Like MADD. Your commitment means that more lives will be saved, and more victims will be served in Georgia.
The Haiken family began volunteering with MADD New York in 2009 after a crash that hit too close to home, like many of our dedicated volunteers. A family friend and 43-year-old mother of two was killed on her way to her job at LaGuardia Airport in New York. The driver was uninjured and had two prior DUI convictions.
A middle school student at the time, Sara Haiken immediately saw the senselessness of the tragedy and vowed to do something about it. She began volunteering with her local MADD chapter and in 2012 – as a high school freshman – Sarah was selected to join MADD’s first-ever National Teen Influencer Group.
She and her mother, Cheryl, visited the MADD National Office, where Sarah took part in the teen review committee that helped shape what is now the cornerstone of MADD’s Power of You(th)® program – “The 411 on Teen Drinking” booklet. Since that time, Sarah has remained actively involved locally as well as nationally by returning to the National Teen Influencer Group each year. This year, Sarah is a senior and beginning her 4th year as an active member of the group. Not only has Sarah’s involvement with MADD grown over the years, but so has her family’s. Last year, her mother Cheryl became Chair of the MADD New York State Advisory Board.
Sarah is forever going above and beyond to participate in and expand MADD’s mission. This summer, she helped conduct a Power of You(th) training at MADD’s National Conference in Washington DC; conference attendees ranked this session in the top 5 for the entire conference.
Also this summer, Sarah contacted and requested an internship with Dr. Robert Turrisi at Pennsylvania State University, the lead researcher behind MADD’s Power of Parents program. Dr. Turrisi accepted Sarah into his program, in part due to her dedicated work with MADD.
As she undertakes her senior year of high school, Sarah has elected to become more involved in saving lives and preventing underage drinking by continuing to work through Pennsylvania State University. She will conduct her own research study this year under the supervision of Dr. Turrisi, focusing on the motivations behind high school students who are willing to ride with a drinking driver. Sarah will begin her research at the end of September and hopes to release her findings by the end of the school year.
What started as a teen coping with a tragic loss by reaching out to MADD has evolved into a young woman with a bright future and a true difference maker – inspiring her family, her community, and people across the country to create a future of No More Victims™!
Teen alcohol use kills about 4,700 people each year — more than all other illegal drugs combined. Teens have so much to look forward to – homecoming, graduation, pursuing a career, having a family and more. The choices teens make today will impact the rest of their lives.
Thanks to the support of National Presenting Sponsor State Farm Insurance®, MADD developed its Power of Youth® program to empower teens – individually and in groups – to influence each other, younger kids and even adults to take a stand against underage drinking, and to never ride with an impaired driver.
For the 2015 fall launch of Power of Youth, MADD asks teens to #ProtectUrFriends by talking to their peers about not drinking alcohol before turning 21, or getting in the car with an impaired driver. Teens can post a photo with their friends and use the hashtag #ProtectUrFriends to be a part of the conversation.
One important resource for teens is The 411 on Teen Drinking. This booklet contains useful information to help teens resist peer pressure, influence other teens to not drink before age 21 and never get in the car with someone who’s been drinking. From now until October 31, anyone who downloads the booklet will be entered to win weekly prizes and a grand prize, an Apple Watch Sport!