This week, MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church participated in a webinar with three other expert panelists for the Office for Victims of Crime. The subject of this seminar was “Serving Victims of Impaired Driving Crashes.” Colleen was able to offer the audience as well as the panelists practical insight into the victim's side of the story. She also took the opportunity to show the invaluable aid that MADD’s victim services truly are to first responders, the community in general and especially individuals who are affected by the actions of an impaired driver and in the terrible situation of being a victim of drunk or drugged driving. Above all, it was effectively emphasized throughout this webinar that crashes should never be called accidents and that these crashes affect far more people than just the person involved in the crash.
You can listen to the panel and watch the powerful video here.
“I’m not a victim,” I told myself the first time an email regarding a job working as a victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving showed up in my inbox.
“I’m not a mother,” I told myself the second time.
The third time? I became the person who walks into a person’s life when everyone else walks out.
Nine months later, I became a drunk driving victim, and I knew I had to fight harder.
A year later, I became a mother, and I felt called to make the world a better place, a safer place for my child.
Today, nine years later as a victim advocate who covers nearly 80 counties in Illinois, my job can mean explaining the lengthy court process, working with a food pantry to deliver a meal or simply holding a hand to bring comfort.
Often, I struggle to secure travel funds to attend court hearing. It always breaks my heart to turn down a request.
That’s why we are asking you today to proudly declare yourself a MADD member. MADD aims to have 51,000 members this year to symbolically represent the fact that someone dies from drunk driving every 51 minutes.
Your gift will allow me to better serve victims and reduce drunk and drugged driving in Illinois and across the country.
Throughout the year, I’ll send you updates to let you know how your gift is being used, how it has touched lives and how it is making the world a better place.
I believe in what I am doing. I hope you do too.
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.
Many bereaved and injured people face this season with apprehension, often in fear of their emotional reactions to what are supposed to be happy, memorable moments. A common question asked by those mourning a loved one or struggling to make sense of other losses is, “How can I get through the holidays?”
There is no single answer of what we should or should not do, but it is important that we consider what activities are comfortable for you to participate in during the holidays. When everyone else appears so happy and cheerful, it is easy to feel alone after a loss. Please know that you aren’t the only one who feels this way.
Please consider some of the suggestions below that may help you cope with the holiday season:
• Plan ahead for the approaching holidays. Accept that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress this season brings may impact you emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually. These are normal reactions. Be prepared for rushes of emotions that may occur and the possibility that sights and sounds could trigger memories and flashbacks.
• Recognize that the holidays might not be the same as they were in the past. Expecting everything to seem the same might lead to disappointment. Modify or make new traditions as it feels right. But also remember the holidays may affect other family members. Talk to others as you make plans and share your feelings. Respect other’s choices and needs, including children’s, and compromise if necessary.
• Go on a trip if you feel you will be devastated by staying home. But remember that November and December holidays are celebrated all over the world and you may be faced with the same types of images no matter where you go.
• Relive the happy memories. Pick three special memories of holidays past with your loved one. Think of them often - and celebrate them. If you have lost someone find a way to honor them through new holiday traditions.
• Direct moments of uncomfortable silence. Because family and friends love you, they will think they are doing you a favor by not mentioning your loved one or the crash. Have a conversation with your loved ones and let them know if you do or don’t want to talk about the crash or a loved one who was killed.
• Don’t overwhelm or over commit yourself. Give yourself a reprieve. Accept a few invitations to be with close family or friends. Choose the ones that sound most appealing at the time and decline the ones that feel more like an obligation. Take time for yourself and take care of yourself. Take it slow and easy, one step at a time.
• Be careful not to isolate yourself. It is all right to take time for yourself, but try not to cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.
• Talk about your feelings. Let people know if you are having a tough day.
• Consider holding or attending a memorial service or candlelight vigil. You can make it as small or large as you want. For a large gathering you might host people at a special location, have food prepared, have favorite music playing, poems read and even have someone speak. At a friends and family gathering you could take a few minutes of time to share your favorite stories with others and make a toast or light a candle in honor and remembrance.
If you want 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 madd.org to chat online.
Even though sometimes you can’t see them, crashes can leave marks on someone’s life that will stay with them.
Cherry knows what that’s like because her neck was broken in two places after a drunk driver hit her after running a stop sign.
Things have changed for her since the crash. She’s afraid of things she would have taken for granted before. She was always a roller-coaster junky before it happened; she loved to ride them and went whenever she could. Since the crash, she is afraid of what they may do to her neck if she decided to try to ride them now. She’s afraid to drive her husband’s car, because it’s smaller and she’s worried that she won’t be able to get out of it if she gets hit. Even normal driving can cause some anxiety.
She came to MADD after her crash in 2011 and attends her local MADD support group and walks in her local Walk Like MADD event.
At the last walk, they handed out plates to decorate and share what they have been through. Cherry spent a lot of time thinking about what she was going to do. Since she spent Valentine’s Day in the ICU, her first thoughts were of broken hearts, but it just didn’t come out like she wanted it to. So she tried again.
She wanted to show what it was like to be broken and try to put your life back together and to show that no matter how hard you try, it’s never going to be quite the same. She took a hammer to a plate and with one swing shattered it into pieces. She then glued the pieces back together. But the plate couldn’t be put back to how it was before it was broken…it’s a different plate now.
Cherry said that no matter how much therapy or rehabilitation or counseling you get, there is a part of you that always lives in that little moment. Everything stops in that moment, and you have to figure out a way to start moving forward again.
Cherry said that each person has their own process. She would never presume to tell someone how they should grieve or heal. For her, she chooses to forgive the person who did this. She has come to understand that the forgiveness wasn’t for him. It was for her, that she needs it so that she can move forward and that it’s something she had to decide to do and it continues to be an act of will.
Cherry appreciates the support she gets from the group she attends and says one of the encouraging parts is that everyone accepts everyone else and where they are, and there is no comparing of losses. She encourages people who are grieving from an injury or death to work through their process – take as much time as they need to do whatever it is that they need to grieve and heal. There’s no procedure, check list or timetable for this.
Cherry walks with MADD because she can, and says that it’s a celebration that she still can do this, that’s she is still here to do this.
When you support MADD, you support victims like Cherry. Thank you for your generosity. Please consider donating today.