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Grief, complicated grief and mourning - What's the difference?

Grief vs. Mourning

People commonly use the words “grief” and “mourning” interchangeably, but they aren’t synonyms.

Mourning is the outward expression of loss and grief. It involves tasks that help a person accept the reality of the loss and work through the pain to adjust to a new environment without their loved one. This isn’t a simple undertaking. It requires coming up with a new self-identity without the person who has died. 

Grief is the process of experiencing the physical, social, and psychological reactions to the perception of loss. 

While universally felt, grief is not universally experienced in the same manner between two people. Each person has their own unique emotional defenses, cultural touchpoints, beliefs, and support network that impact grieving. No two people are the same or experience and process grief in the exact same manner. 

People experience grief physically, emotionally, behaviorally and spiritually. Sadness, depression, vulnerability, and helplessness are common emotions to experience. Others may go through periods of denial, confusion, or disorganization. 

What Causes Complicated Grief?

In some cases, grief can transform into complicated grief. Complicated grief refers to a type of grief that is intense and long lasting to the point that it interferes with our mind and body’s attempts to heal. This type of pain is overwhelming and disabling, often shattering the attachments and connections that define us. Feelings of victimization, thoughts of retaliation, and anger intensify complicated grief.

Almost all the factors that can trigger complicated grief can be present for a drunk or drugged driving victim or survivor:

• Death of a child
• Sudden death
• Perceived preventability of death
• Financial complications
• Lack of social support

What can you do?

While intensity may wane and the symptoms subside, there is no such thing as closure to the loss of a loved one from a traumatic event.  The loss will always be felt.  And that’s ok. However, you can take active steps to make your grief more manageable:

• Plan ahead for “triggers” like holidays, birthdays, and the crash anniversary. 
• Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to others. Most want to help, but may not know how.
• Ask for help. MADD has a Victim Help Line with victim advocates available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Grief is normal and unavoidable. But there is hope. Drunk and drugged driving victims survivors can learn to cope with their grief and eventually find happiness in spite of their loss.

MADD’s Victim Advocates seek to help victims find the right approach for each individual. If you are a victim of drunk or drugged driving, please call our national 24/7 Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP.


Voices of Victims: Brandon Tyler Bennett

By Brandon's mother, XXX Holden

PFC Brandon Bennett served as an enlisted soldier in the Texas Army National Guard starting in 2010, even before he graduated high school.

He is and will forever be a member of the 236th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade currently located in Lewisville, Texas. Brandon enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard just 25 days after his 17th birthday, because he had a passion for protecting others since he was a little boy. In high school at L.D. Bell, he even had the National Guard emblem on his senior class ring, which shows his determination and dedication for serving others and our country. On his landmark 18th birthday, he was at basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina doing exactly what he wanted to be doing, which was beginning a life of service.

Brandon touched so many lives during his short 20 years on this earth! To his many friends and to his family, Brandon was an extremely kind, loving, and generous soul. Whether providing safe haven for those with nowhere else to go or by simply lending a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, he always tried to do the best he could to make any situation better.

Brandon was known as a great soldier, a great "battle buddy", and an even greater friend to all he touched. His life ambition was to become a police officer, to serve the community we live in.

Since the sentence in Texas for intoxication manslaughter ranges from 2-20 years in prison, I am absolutely elated that the perpetrator received the maximum sentence of 20 years for taking the life of my son, Brandon Tyler Bennett. Even though 20 years is not nearly enough to pay for my son’s life taken, it does display some justice served for the crime.

Every day, we live with the reminders of our Brandon, especially since the crash occcured two miles from where we live in our own neighborhood. Brandon lived his entire life within an area of less than 10 miles. The elementary school, junior high school, high school, and community college are all in the same neighborhood. Memories of his childhood and young adult years are everywhere we turn; where he attended schools, played baseball/football/soccer, birthday parties, friends’ sleep-overs, and the list goes on and on.  No mother or family should have to endure this much heartache and pain every day when this senseless act could have easily been prevented.

MADD was with us every step of the way during the emotional, heartbreaking journey. It was invaluable having a MADD representative present through the entire trial to not only support us, but to also to help us make sense of the proceedings. 

Ultimately, drinking while intoxicated always has the potential to end tragically. There are no do-overs. Just don't do it.


MADD names 2016 Legislative Champions

MADD’s 2016 Legislators of the Year


MADD is excited to announce our “2016 Legislators of the Year”
— 69 lawmakers across the country honored for their dedication to saving lives and advancing MADD’s ultimate goal — creating a nation of No More Victims of the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving.

We thank the following elected officials for authoring and championing live-saving legislation in 2016: 

California: Senator Jerry Hill (pictured to the left with Program Director of MADD California-San Francisco Bay Area Natasha Thomas) authored SB 1046 to improve California’s ignition interlock law by incentivizing the use of an ignition interlock after the first offense and requiring interlocks repeat offenders and offenders who cause injury or death. SB 1046 would allow all first-time drunk driving offenders the choice between using an ignition interlock for six months or receiving a one-year license suspension with the possibility of route-restricted driving privileges after 30 days. The legislation is awaits the Governor’s signature. 

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (pictured below with Executive Director of MADD San Diego Steve Lykins and former National Board Member and longtime volunteer Nina Walker) authored AB 2121, which would require training for California bartenders, servers, and managers in responsible beverage service (RBS).  Specifically, AB 2121 seeks to help individuals who serve alcohol meet their statutory requirement to not serve obviously intoxicated patrons or minors by requiring participation in an RBS training program approved by the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC).  AB 2121 also is pending the Governor’s signature.

Colorado: Rep. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Polly Lawrence have proven themselves to be strong defenders of crime victims’ rights. Rep. Fields and Rep. Lawrence co-chair the Crime Victim Rights Caucus to educate other legislators on important victim rights issues. During the legislative session and throughout the year, Rep. Fields and Rep. Lawrence fight for the rights of those who have been so unjustly impacted by the crimes of others.

Senator John Cooke and Senator Mike Johnston also worked with Rep. Lawrence to pass important legislation to strengthen the victim impact panel program in Colorado. The purpose of the Victim Impact Panel program is to educate people convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs about the lasting and long-term effects of substance impaired driving and to change thinking and behavior to prevent future DUIs. Each year, MADD conducts 156 separate Victim Impact Panels in 19 cities across Colorado — educating approximately 13,000 drunk and drugged driving offenders. 

Connecticut:  Fourteen lawmakers teamed up to work on SB 365 or Public Act 16-126, creating a DUI child endangerment law, as well as HB 5629 or Public Act 16-182 An Act Concerning A Diversionary Program for Persons Under Age Twenty-One For Motor Vehicle Violation And Crimes Related To Underage Drinking. They are: Representative Al Adinolfi, Representative Joe Aresimowicz, Representative Christie Carpino, Senator Eric Coleman, Senator Leonard Fasano, Representative Mary Fritz, Representative Stephen Harding, Senator Tony Hwang, Senator John Kissel, Representative Themis Klarides, Senator Martin Looney, Representative Rosa Rebimbas, Representative Richard Smith and Representative William Tong.

Washington, DC:  Councilmember Mary Cheh authored the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act which was signed into law this summer. The measure also requires ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers for at least six months.  

Florida: Senator David Simmons and Representatives Scott Plakon and Robert Cortes authored DUI reform legislation SB 1244/HB 555 in 2016.  Originally, the legislation increased penalties for drunk drivers who refuse a chemical test, including to require all offenders who refuse to utilize an ignition interlock.  Due to pending Supreme Court cases and concerns from lawmakers, the legislation was amended to require ignition interlocks for six months for all drunk drivers. Representative Katie Edwards authored HB 1363 increasing the use of ignition interlocks through DUI courts. 

Georgia:  Representative Tom Rice authored HB 205, which creates a first-time offender interlock law and allows any drunk driver and offender who refuses a chemical test to utilize an ignition interlock.  Prior to the passage of this legislation, Georgia was one of only a handful of states that failed to utilize ignition interlocks for first-time offenders.  MADD is also pleased to honor Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle for his efforts in guiding this lifesaving legislation through the Senate. 

Indiana: Representative Timothy Wesco authored successful ignition interlock fix-up legislation HB 1130, which will help boost the number of interlocks used in Indiana. 

Maryland: Delegate Ben Kramer and Senator Jamie Raskin authored Noah’s Law, making Maryland’s ignition interlock law a model for other states. Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo authored Alex and Calvin’s Law, which toughens the state’s penalties for serving alcohol to those who are under 21.

Massachusetts: Senator James Timilty authored all-offender interlock legislation SB 1895.  The legislation was amended onto another bill that passed the Senate — the furthest all-offender interlock legislation ever made it in Massachusetts. The legislation ran out of time in 2016. Massachusetts is one of only two states that fails to utilize interlocks for first-time offenders (Idaho is the other). 

Michigan: Representative Klint Kesto authored all-offender ignition interlock legislation HB 5456. Senator Tonya Schuitmaker authored SB 808, which would allow the Secretary of State to create a MADD fundraising license plate and assign all proceeds from the sale of these plates to assist MADD in carrying out its mission.

Mississippi: Representative Patricia Willis, Representative Andy Gipson, Senator David Parker, Senator Sean Tindell, and Representative Kevin Horan worked on legislation to strengthen its ignition interlock laws and improve coordination of DUI records throughout the state. 

Missouri: Representative Caleb Jones for his efforts on HB 2255, which allows any person who is required to have an ignition interlock device installed to apply to the court for a variance to drive an employer-owned vehicle without the device. The exemption shall not apply in certain situations, and the offender may not drive the employer-owned vehicle with certain passengers or for personal use.  HB 2255 was amended onto SB 657 to eventually become law.  

New York:  Senator George Amedore and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas authored S4769A and A4719B, which improves the drugged driving law. Assemblyman John McDonald III, Assemblyman Dean Murray and Assemblyman David McDonough also cosponsored this legislation. S4769A and A 4719B gives prosecutors and law enforcement the tools necessary to hold drugged drivers accountable  — including those who drive under the influence of bath salts, synthetic marijuana and difluoroethane. Current New York law allows driving under the influence of these substances.

Ohio: Representative Gary Scherer authored HB 388, or Annie's Law, which incentivizes the use of interlocks for first-time offenders. The legislation passed the House in May and is pending consideration in the Senate. 

Pennsylvania: Senator John Rafferty and Representative Keith Greiner authored SB 290/HB 278 requiring interlocks for all first-time offenders with a BAC of .10 or greater.  The legislation was signed into law by Governor Wolf earlier this year.  

Rhode Island: Senator Stephen Archambault authored all-offender ignition interlock legislation SB 2370 requiring all DUI offenders applying for a hardship license to have an ignition interlock.  Representative Gregg Amore authored the House version of this lifesaving legislation. 

South Carolina:  Representative Eddie Tallon authored H 3165 to address the problem of DUI offenders simply moving to mopeds and being able to continually drive drunk without any recourse. 

Senator Larry Martin authored S 178 attempting to address the state’s serious issue of losing DUI cases over minor issues with the videotape of the arrest, and S 428 to require approved responsible beverage service training for those who sell alcohol. 

Tennessee: Senator John Stevens and Representative William Lamberth authored ignition interlock fixup legislation SB2065 and HB 1843.  

Representative Lamberth also authored with Senator Randy McNally HB 1478 and SB 1572 boosting penalties for offenders on their sixth offense. 

Representative Mark White authored legislation improving DUI reporting (HB 2199 and HB 1427).  Senator Mark Norris authored similar legislation to improve DUI reporting (SB 2577 and SB 2576). 

Senator Norris also authored SB 1156 boosting penalties for impaired drivers making certain DUI offenders illegible for probation.  Representative G.A. Hardaway authored similar legislation HB 0401. 

Representative Joe Pitts and Senator Kerry Roberts authored Tyler Head’s Law (HB 1514 and SB 1730), establishing a roadside memorial sign program for victims of impaired driving.  

Senator Doug Overbey and Representative Dale Carr authored SB 35 and HB 576, effective January 1, 2017, which makes those convicted of vehicular homicide, when alcohol and or other drugs are involved, ineligible for probation.

Vermont: Representative Willem Jewett authored all-offender interlock legislation H 560, which, was amended onto H 876, making Vermont one of three states plus Washington D.C. to enact an all-offender interlock law in 2016.  

Wisconsin:  Representative André Jacque and Senator Roger Roth authored legislation allowing for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant for first-time offenders who refuse an alcohol chemical test. The legislation, SB 29, was signed into law.  

Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Jim Ott authored legislation making all fourth drunk driving offenses felonies. 

Senator Van Wanggaard authored interlock improvement legislation SB 222.

Senator Chris Larson authored all-offender interlock legislation SB 484.


Why We Walk: Annie Rooney

Anna Louise Rooney, fondly known as Annie, of Chillicothe, Ohio was killed by a drunk driver the night of July 4th, 2013. Annie was traveling home after borrowing a friend’s bike for an upcoming race when an oncoming driver crossed into her lane and hit her head on going 80 mph. 

Annie was just 36 years old when her life was cut tragically short by a drunk driver. She graduated from Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio in 1995 where she was a star athlete. Annie went on to graduate from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1999 and the Law School of Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon. Prior to returning to Chillicothe, Annie took up residence as a prosecuting attorney in Bozeman, Montana, where she served her community by aggressively prosecuting domestic violence and DUI cases.

Annie had a passion for adventure and fed that passion through travel. She traveled and lived all over the world including every continent except for Antarctica (however that was on her list!) exploring every inch of this world that she could. She was dearly loved by many; known for her charm, sense of humor, moral courage, her generous smile, and her unique ability to make others feel loved. One of Annie’s most memorable characteristics was her boundless energy filled with her unending optimism. 

Professionally, Annie was a successful prosecutor and a tireless advocate for crime victims. Her hard work and dedication continued to inspire those around her.

One of her former colleagues best described her through this quote, “She was the one you looked at and (were) just amazed by. You wanted to be like her, but you couldn’t figure out how.” 

In Ohio, Annie has been the inspiration for a new proposed law, pending in the Ohio General Assembly, called “Annie’s Law”. The bill, championed by Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, would require ignition interlock devices in any vehicle operated by convicted DUI offenders. Meaning that a driver has to pass a Breathalyzer test in order to be able to start the vehicle. The Rooney family has advocated for this bill as a tribute to Annie’s life and to make sure that she didn’t die in vain. Drunk driving offenders convicted of operating a vehicle while under the influence could ask a judge to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles in exchange for a shorter driving suspension.  With the ignition interlock device installed in the offender’s car the vehicle won’t start if there is alcohol on the driver’s breath.

Not only has Annie inspired a law, but she has now become the inspiration for “Team Annie” in Walk Like MADD, for both the Central Ohio Walk (October 1, 2016, Homestead Park, Hilliard, Ohio) and Greater Cincinnati Walk (October 22, Summit Park, Blue Ash, Ohio). The team members are walking to end drunk driving in Ohio, so that tragedies like Annie’s don’t continue to happen. Team Annie has raised nearly $1,900 for the Greater Cincinnati Walk Like MADD and more than $2,000 towards their $3,000 goal for the Central Ohio Walk Like MADD.

Will you help Team Annie reach its goal and help put an end to drunk driving so that there will be no more victims? Support Team Annie by clicking here or here


Quiz: What's the lifesaving power of ignition interlocks?


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