MADDvocate - Winter 2009 - (Page 10)

stuck ingrief What to do when the death of a loved one seems to paralyze you. by Debbie Weir, MADD National Chief Operating Officer, Vice President Victim Services N o warning. No time to prepare. Violent. One hundred percent preventable. These are the terms used to describe a drunk driving crash. When your loved one is killed suddenly, the death doesn’t make sense. The trauma makes it almost impossible to grasp the reality of the circumstances. The Latin origin of the word trauma means “wound.” Traumatic experiences wound the body, mind, spirit and emotions. A senseless drunk driving crash weakens the capacity to cope. A sudden death shocks and stuns, causing overwhelming feelings and dif culty with everyday activities. Without any gradual transition, there’s a huge gap between the way life was and the way life is. Ultimately, this means building a new life without your loved one—a daunting task to say the least. The traumatic nature of a drunk driving crash inevitably causes prolonged grieving and maybe even the feeling of being “stuck,” which can cripple and dominate life for unusually long periods of time. Grief is painful, agonizing and complicated. But traumatic, complicated grief is also survivable. Intense Longing and Yearning George Fraser says he has felt stuck in grief at times over the past nine years. His only son, Geoff, was killed in a drunk driving crash on August 2, 2000. Only 19 years old, Geoff, who was sober, got in a vehicle with friends, unaware that the driver was drunk. Geoff and the driver were killed. “The crash impact was so violent that I was never able to see Geoff again,” George says. “He was crushed to death. The re department spent two hours and 17 minutes removing him from the wreckage. “There is no pain as intense or as permanent as losing a child. Geoff was the best—a big part of me. A big part of me died then, too,” George says. Even under the best of circumstances, grieving the death of a loved one is horribly dif cult. But when the death is violent and sudden, grieving becomes complicated. “You can’t put a timeline on grief,” says licensed professional counselor Margaret Simmons. “Grief doesn’t occur in orderly stages. It is a disorganized process. When your loved one is suddenly killed, the grief becomes more chaotic and complicated. Intense emotions evoke prolonged yearning and searching for the loved one who is no longer part of everyday life.” Like George, Tara Pennington understands complicated grief. What was to be a fun Friday evening quickly became a nightmare. After work a group of friends went out dancing. They did the right thing and planned ahead, designating a sober driver—Tara. “We were ve minutes from home when I saw a set of headlights curving around the road,” Tara says. “The car came into my lane, and I swerved two or three times to avoid it. Every time I swerved, he swerved toward us. It was like he was playing chicken with us, but he hit us head-on.” Tara says that she later learned that it’s not uncommon for drunk drivers to steer toward oncoming headlights instead of avoiding them. “Understanding that, I [now] realize that no matter what, my friends and I were doomed.” Tara suffered 14 broken bones from her sternum to her ankle. Nine surgeries later, she nally was MADDvocate | Winter 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of MADDvocate - Winter 2009

MADDvocate - Winter 2009
Across the Nation
Court Reporting
Advocacy in Action
Insurance Crash Course
Stuck in Grief
Prepping for Surgeries
It’s Contagious
Legally Speaking
Healing Journey

MADDvocate - Winter 2009