Being There: How Caregivers Can Help Children Cope With the Loss of a Parent
November 20, 2014
Originally featured in the 2014 fall edition of MADDvocate.
Not only did Myra Constable lose her husband, Carie, in a drunk driving crash just before Christmas in 1999, her 23-month-old son, Nicholas, lost his father. Sadly, Carie was found alone in his car the morning after the crash. An autopsy revealed that his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.
Shortly after Carie’s death, Myra’s mother called the local MADD office for help, and soon Myra became a regular speaker for MADD Victim Impact Panels. Telling her story became a key component of her personal healing journey.
Also after the crash, Myra began to notice some changes in her son’s behavior. It began when people started coming by more often. Family and friends would gather, blanketing Myra and her son with embraces and tears.
“I first noticed that Nicholas was very clingy to me, especially when I would leave. Over the next couple of years he became really possessive,” Myra recalls.
“He did not want anyone else to hold him or anyone to talk to me.”
At that moment, Myra knew that she needed to help her son find his own path to emotional wellness.
Read the rest of Nicholas and Myra’s story, and how to help grieving children cope in MADDvocate.
Going the Extra Mile
September 19, 2014
Originally featured in the 2014 summer edition of MADDvocate®.
Alarmingly, MADD is receiving an increase in calls about children riding with substance-impaired drivers. When a minor is placed in jeopardy of physical, moral or mental well-being, that’s child endangerment, and it’s a very serious problem.
Many of the callers are grandparents who play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren. They want to do everything possible to protect them. But grandparents sometimes feel helpless when their grandchildren are in danger.
A Family in Crisis
Ellen Pitt from western North Carolina became an advocate for children in these situations while fighting to protect her own granddaughter.
At age 7, Ellen’s granddaughter began to tell her that she was afraid to ride with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend because he was usually drunk and sometimes, so was her mother. She would talk about being on the interstate late at night and seeing the “speed thing saying 90.”
Ellen’s son and daughter-in-law, both of whom were partygoers, had separated when the child was 3 years old. The daughter-in-law frequently had people in her home drinking and using drugs.
Ellen knew she had to do something to protect her granddaughter. So she called child protective services (CPS) but was passed from one person to another. She talked to the district attorney’s office and was referred back to CPS. The situation seemed hopeless.
“I was staying awake every night, even though I worked full time, driving through bar parking lots, calling everywhere, and crying myself to sleep,” Ellen says. “When [my granddaughter] wasn’t with me, I became more and more terrified. My son was drinking too, and I felt I had nowhere to turn.”
Read the rest of Ellen’s story and find out what she is doing now with MADD to protect all children from drunk driving in the MADDvocate.
A Rush of Emotions: The Anniversary
September 11, 2014
As with any tragedy, there comes a time to observe the traumatic event’s anniversary. Many people believe that grief will wane with time. However, feelings of anger, guilt, isolation, loneliness, sadness and despair often occur long after the disaster.
On the anniversary of the September 11th disaster, many people find themselves once again contemplating the event and its tragic consequences.
Life threatening trauma, including learning that a loved one has been seriously injured or killed, can provoke unsettling emotional or behavioral reactions over a long period of time.
We always say: First there’s the crash, then the lifelong impact.
For many victims the anniversary of a tragic event, no matter how many years have gone by, may make the loss more real and bring out a rush of emotions. Often the pain increases and becomes more intense following the first anniversary. This is a normal reaction. Grief is a journey and everyone grieves in their own way.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for an anniversary of a tragic event:
- Talk. Unspeakable trauma becomes more manageable when it’s verbalized. Individuals who were personally affected by a tragedy, but have not talked to anyone should seek support. Those who were not personally affected but are experiencing some hypersensitivity, should also talk to someone who understands trauma.
- Honor individual differences in trauma reaction. Your way is not the only way. Respect the different ways in which people continue to cope. People cope the best way they can.
- Reach out and remember those more directly affected. Many people who are grieving feel that friends, family, and their community have “forgotten” about them. This can lead to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reach out and listen to their stories. Although they may say the same things over and over, honor these experiences by listening rather than giving advice or telling them that “time heals all wounds.”
- Do something to help. Recognize the possible reactions to the anniversary. Remember that those directly affected may not be the only ones to experience anniversary reactions. Emphasize that people can be helped by small deeds. Plant a tree or perennial plant in memory of a loved one who died or in honor of someone who was injured.
- Seek professional support. Recognize that grieving is normal, but encourage people to seek professional support when they need it.
If you are struggling with grief, call 877.MADD.HELP to speak with a victim advocate, day or night.
Help at Your Fingertips
August 27, 2014
Originally featured in the 2014 summer edition of MADDvocate®.
Many survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes, as well as loved ones of those who’ve died, feel lost and helpless after the crash. While friends and family members are often available in the days immediately surrounding the tragedy, finding a support system that lasts a lifetime can be difficult. That is why MADD’s Victim Services are so vital.
Thanks to the explosion of the Internet and social media, getting these tools is easier than ever. Here are just a few of the avenues that victims can use to connect to other victims, honor loved ones and find much-needed resources:
On MADD’s tribute page, victims and survivors can post pictures and memories of their loved ones and read about others with similar stories. Participants can even raise money in the name of a loved one if they choose.
For years, victims and survivors relied on finding face-to-face support groups and other in-person meetings to connect with others experiencing similar emotions. However, due to location or the demands of busy schedules, these groups weren’t always accessible. The MADD Victim Services Facebook page gives victims and survivors the chance to engage with other victims, ask questions, provide comfort to others or read other victims’ stories.
Virtual Candlelight Vigil
Every holiday season, MADD hosts an online event where friends and relatives of victims and survivors have the opportunity to post something in memory or in honor of a loved one and light a virtual candle. This annual event provides an outlet for emotions during a tough time of year.
MADD offers a wide array of support materials on a number of different topics related to drunk and drugged driving victimization. Whether a victim/survivor needs help navigating the criminal justice system or just wants to know whether what they are feeling is normal, these brochures and workbooks can be downloaded at no charge from any computer.
If you still can’t find what you need online, call MADD ’s National Victim Services Help Line at 1-877-MADD -HELP (877-623-3435), toll free.