How to comfort someone grieving

For many people, this is a season of celebrations. However, the holidays are often a difficult time for those who are coping with grief due to a death or serious injury. At this time of year memories of past holidays can be overwhelming, what may have been a joyful time in the past may now seem meaningless.

Friends and relatives sometimes fail to realize how significant their role can be in the healing process during the holidays. You can be a healing agent to those you love this holiday season.

Helping Tips

Here are some ways that you can help a loved one struggling with the holidays:

  1. Stay in touch, sometimes loved ones distance those who are grieving, they may be trying to protect them, but when contact is lost the victim or survivor can feel abandoned. Offer to come visit; even if they don’t feel like going out, they may want to have you visit or call to check in on them.
  2. Invite victims and survivors to social outings. Don’t assume he or she should go or wouldn’t go. Simply ask, and accept the response. It won’t hurt to ask a second time a few days later if the first response was negative, but the decision is still theirs.
  3. Invite those who are grieving to attend a holiday vigil to honor their loved one.
  4. Ask to help with specific tasks. “Call me if you need me” is not always a useful offer as often those grieving don’t want to burden others. Instead say, “I’d love to do some shopping for you when I do mine. May I?” or “I imagine decorating the house will be hard this year. May I come help you or do it for you some morning?”
  5. Be a good listener. The holidays will draw out deep feelings for surviving families. Many will feel they must talk about their loved one. Hear their feelings and accept them. Learn to be comfortable with silences and don’t feel you need to interrupt them. If you don’t know what to say it’s ok to be quiet or tell them you care about them.
  6. Write a holiday letter. Many things can be said on paper which may be difficult to say in person. A letter can be treasured, read again and again, and kept forever.
  7. Give a gift or make a donation in honor of the victim or survivor to their favorite charity.
  8. If a loved one has been killed, it’s good to speak their name often. It is important for someone who is bereaved to speak and hear their loved one’s name. It may be painful, but the pain is already there and the opportunity to talk about the one they miss so much will be cherished.

If you or a loved one would like to talk with someone about coping during the holidays or for any reason, please call our 24-Hour Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP (877-623-3435) or visit to chat online.

Giving Tuesday Resource Center

How to serve as a MADD #GivingTuesday Ambassador

Thank you for helping MADD spread the message about Giving Tuesday, which takes place Tuesday, Nov. 29th.

We have an exciting new opportunity to make this year even better – Nationwide will DOUBLE all Giving Tuesday gifts – but ONLY if we raise $24,000. I know we can achieve it together!

Throughout the day, MADD will honor and remember one victim of drunk and drugged driving every hour of Giving Tuesday as a reminder that we are giving for those we CAN save and those we’ve lost.

These next few weeks are crucial. Help us inspire others to give back on #GivingTuesday. Here are six ways you can help:

  1. Update your profile picture: Add our Giving Tuesday Twibbon to your profile picture. We even have tweets, posts and graphics available in our Giving Tuesday toolkit.

  2. Volunteer: Give back by giving your time. Ask your local MADD office how you can assist them on Giving Tuesday.

  3. Invite other ambassadors: Giving Tuesday is more fun with friends, family, coworkers, and partners, so we encourage you to ask others to join you as a Giving Tuesday ambassador. You can do this via email, on social media, or in-person. If using social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.

  4. Send an email: Send an email to your friends and family inviting them to participate on Giving Tuesday. Don't know what to say? We have you covered with a pre-written template in the toolkit.

  5. Share your story: I am giving in honor of my son, Dustin. Let people know why you are giving. I am sending an email to my friends and family – and you can too!

  6. Get social: Tweet, post, snap, and share through whatever social media channels you use to help us build momentum. Use #GivingTuesday with all your posts.

I know we can do it!

Thank you,


Colleen Sheehey-Church
MADD National President

Facebook post:

  • I’m giving to MADD’s #GivingTuesday in honor of [ENTER VICTIM NAME]. Join me to end drunk driving. #NoMoreVictims {Click here to post this}
  • MADD gives back all year long by helping victims of drunk and drugged driving. Let’s make sure they can keep up the good work next year! Join me on 11/29 for #GivingTuesday {Click here to post this}
  • MADD aims to raise $24,000 on #GivingTuesday, 11/29 to receive a dollar-for-dollar match! A different victim of drunk and drugged driving will be honored every year of the day. Help me fight drunk driving by giving to MADD on #GivingTuesday. {Click here to post this}
  • [Enter BUSINESS NAME] will DOUBLE your donation when you give to MADD on #GivingTuesday, 11/29. Help us end drunk driving #NoMoreVictims {Click here to post this}
  • You up for a challenge? @Nationwide will double MADD’s #GivingTuesday donations but only if we raise $24,000. Let’s give back and help make our roads safer! {Click here to post this}

Twitter posts:


Giving Tuesday banner


Social graphics

Sample Email

Invite your friends and family to join with you on Giving Tuesday

Justice! DA’s DUI unit earns first murder conviction for marijuana

A California District Attorney DUI-focused unit led by a California District Attorney's Office has earned its first big win this summer in the fight against drugged driving – a murder conviction for a drugged impaired driver. 

Rodolfo Alberto Contreras was sentenced in July to 20 years in prison after being convicted by a jury of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired by marijuana, and DUI by marijuana causing injury. 

“As we begin this statewide discussion about legalization of marijuana, we cannot ignore the potential consequences of making it more accessible,” said County of Kern District Attorney Lisa S. Green. “I hope our legislature will take the appropriate actions to ensure law enforcement has the tools to cope with the increase of cases similar to this one.”

Contreras ran a red light at an intersection in Kern County around noon in March of 2014. Driving close to 80 miles per hour, he lost control of his Honda, crossed the center divider, and struck an oncoming Ford Explorer. The driver of the Explorer, David Aggio, was killed on impact. His wife was seriously injured.

Contreras' Honda split in two, hitting two additional vehicles. Fortunately, no one in those two vehicles was injured.

Witnesses described the 400-feet of debris as resembling an “airplane crash site.” 

Contreras had smoked marijuana that morning. His blood was tested after the collision, showing 16 nanograms of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. He had no other drugs in his system. When a witness told him he had killed someone, Contreras said, “I want my weed,” according to the Office of the District Attorney County of Kern press release.

Funding for the DUI-focused unit, now in its sixth year, comes from a grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

7 Phrases NOT to Say to Drunk and Drugged Driving Victims

Drunk driving crashes recklessly into a life, senselessly and selfishly destroying families and breaking hearts before continuing down the road to dispense more tragedy. This crime kills about 10,000 and injures around 290,000 people a year, leaving hundreds of thousands to pick themselves up and continue carrying on despite the overwhelming loss.

When someone loses a loved one to drunk or drugged driving or is injured in a crash, many people feel a common urge to offer comfort, but some words hurt more than others. Here are the top seven phrases NOT to say to a drunk or drugged driving victim.

1. They are in a better place. Although usually well-meaning, these words may resonate badly with someone who has lost a loved one in a drunk or drugged driving crash as they would rather have their loved one here with them.

2. It was just an accident. Accidents are something unforeseeable and unexpected. When someone chooses to drink and drive – that's not an accident. It’s a crash waiting to happen. Drunk and drugged driving crashes are 100% preventable.

3. Texting/speeding/any other distracted driving is just as bad as drunk driving. No doubt, other dangerous habits kill and injure people on our roads, such as speeding and distracted driving. But those two categories combined don't equal the number of deaths, not to mention injuries and property damage, caused by drunk and drugged driving. Comparing it diminishes the problem.

4. Saying nothing at all. After a drunk driving crash, friends can sometimes avoid saying the loved one's name or just simply not know what to say, so they keep their distance. But drunk or drugged driving victims want and need that support and permission to talk about their loss. Be a friend that will listen and stay close, even if you are uncomfortable. Follow the victim's cue. If they want to talk about their loss, just listen. If they don't want to talk, just be there for them.

5. You’re lucky to be alive.  Drunk driving victims and survivors might not feel lucky at all. They may feel traumatized, lost, and raw with emotions. Such statements may actually do the opposite of what you intend and hurt the person you are trying to comfort.

6. You need to forgive. Every victim feels differently about the crash and about forgiveness.  Some feel like they will never be able to forgive the person who caused the crash, others feel like it's very important for them to do so.  There is no right answer, so don't push people to do something they may not be able or ready to do.

7. Aren’t you over it already? There is no closure  following a drunk or drugged driving crash.  When someone is injured or killed they don't just “get over it”.  Crashes affect people in different ways throughout their lives, and they will likely never go back to where they were before the crash happened.

If you or someone you know is dealing with the devastation caused by a drunk or drugged driving crash, don't hesitate to call our 24/7 Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP. Then, you will be connected with a victim advocate, who can help you navigate the courts, locate local resources, and connect with people experiencing a similar grief. Additionally, we have online chat available on our website during normal business hours.

Discover more about victim services today.

Voices of Victims: Phaedra Marriott Olsen

On Mother's Day weekend, 1996, Phaedra, age 22, a preschool teacher who had also done some modeling on the side, was enjoying a concert with some friends not far from her hometown.  The two car loads of youth who were completely sober were driving home in Morgan County, Missouri, as a misty rain began to fall.  Unbeknownst to them, a drunk driver with a .08 BAC was heading their way as he crossed the center line of Highway 5.  Phaedra's friends in the car in front managed to see him in time to swerve.  The drunk driver clipped them and headed straight for Phaedra's car.  As he topped the hill around a curve, she had no warning and he hit her nearly head-on.

Phaedra's injuries were numerous and life-threatening.  At the hospital, doctors discovered that the impact of the crash had ripped her aortic valve from her heart.  Most people would have died within minutes, but Phaedra had not.  In an emergency surgery to repair it, surgeons struggled to stop the bleeding.  They quickly realized that she would bleed to death on the operating table if something wasn't done immediately.  So, to save her life, they cut off the blood flow to her lower extremities to slow the bleeding enough to make the repairs to her heart.

She spent 3 weeks in a coma and 5 1/2 weeks on life support before waking to learn that the decision to save her life had cost her the ability to walk.  In addition, she also had plates in her arm and both legs due to both ankles, a left femur, and a right forearm being broken.  Her pelvis had been broken on both sides as well as 4 ribs.  Both lungs had collapsed and her liver had been lacerated.  Her gallbladder, appendix, and spleen were damaged and all had to be removed. 

Phaedra's son was 4 years old at the time of the crash.  She missed his first day of kindergarten because she was still in the hospital.  As he grew up, someone else taught him to ride a bike, played in the ocean waves with him, and rode roller coasters with him while she sat on the sidelines and cheered, quietly wishing she could be the one beside him.

In 2000, Phaedra began working for MADD Missouri.  She became a Victim Specialist helping other victims by providing emotional support and guidance through court proceedings.  In 2010, she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA, again bringing awareness to the dangers of drunk driving by choosing it as her official platform.  In 2012, she moved to Tennessee as the Underage Drinking Specialist for the MADD Tennessee state office.  She built the program up from a presence that was non-existent to the top program in the country, talking to thousands of teens annually about the dangers of underage drinking and sharing her story with kids, parents, and DUI offenders.

Phaedra's original scars may have healed, but the impact of a DUI crash lasts for a lifetime.  With no spleen, Phaedra is more susceptible to illness and her immune system is unable to fight simple infections.  An ear infection can end up in a hospital stay.  Independent and resolute, Phaedra drives, works full time, and is now the mother to an 8 year old daughter, as well as her grown son and step-daughter.  People are amazed at how she lifts her wheelchair overhead, in and out of her car, and is not deterred from anything she sets her mind to doing.  However, her determination takes its toll on her body.  She recently had to have surgery on her arm because a problem with one of the plates had caused a fracture in her arm.  Because she is constantly lifting her chair and transferring herself in and out of it, the injury to her arm caused a significant hardship on her ability to proceed with life as normal.  And because of her immunity problem, the healing process was also complicated.

But those who know Phaedra, know that despite the lifelong affect drunk driving has had on her life, the thing that stands out most about her is her positive attitude.  She never waivers.  For years, she has fought to serve others who have been impacted by the crimes of drunk and drugged driving and underage drinking and to spread awareness about their dangers by sharing her story.  She is an inspiration to all!  And she will continue to fight until MADD fulfills it's vision of No More Victims!

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