“Dead Where It Stands” by Kelly Farley

“Dead Where It Stands”

As many of you know, we (me, Barry Kluger and Jim Boyle) have been working for 3.5 years on Federal legislation to change the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to add bereaved parents to the list of recipients that could qualify for the benefits set forth in this legislation. What that means is a bereaved parent would be allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid time (in a 12 month period) without the fear of their employer firing them.

We have had a lot of support from large National Organizations and the many people that have signed our petition (83,000 letters sent to Washington) at www.FarleyKluger.com. We have been to Washington DC on three different occasions to meet with legislators. As a result of our efforts, Senator Jon Tester (MT) had introduced S. 226 – The Parental Bereavement Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate and Congressman Steve Israel (NY) had introduced H.R. 515 – The Parental Bereavement Act of 2013 (aka Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 515 has had 43 cosponsors (Congressman) and S.226 has had 13 cosponsors (Senators). Both Bills have been sent to the appropriate committee to be considered for a hearing. At first glance, you would say we have been successful at getting this initiative pushed along and we would agree, to a point.

The reason I am writing this posting is twofold, one is to let you know that we were informed this past summer that these Bills would not be considered for a hearing, basically, they die where they stand. It is unclear at this time if we will pursue this legislation in the next congress. We didn’t exactly have bi-partisan support for this Bill. Almost everyone agreed (when we spoke) that these changes to the original FMLA make a lot of sense. After all, I don’t know too many people that can bury their child on day 3 and then expect to get back to work on day 4 because the company’s 3 day bereavement leave policy has been exhausted. Some of the reasons it didn’t get support are “causing undue stress on American businesses” and “concerns for abuse of existing FMLA”. As far as the abuse goes, you need to produce a death certificate in order to qualify, hard to fake that one.

The second reason I am writing this post is to inform past and future grieving parents how to still receive the benefits allotted by the original FMLA without the fear of losing their job. It’s not an easy process but certainly one that most bereaved parents should have knowledge of in case they need additional time. First and foremost, you have to comply with the FMLA requirements. That means you must work for a company with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. If you meet these requirements, then you have to meet at least one of the following:

  • for the birth and care of a newborn child
  • for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care
  • to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
  • to take medical leave because of a serious health condition
  • to care for an injured service member in the family

If you lose a child, you could use either “to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition” (ie: distressed spouse) or “to take medical leave because of a serious health condition”. The key to this is to have your doctor diagnosis you with PTSD, depression and/or anxiety condition. These are all issues that bereaved parents experience and they are a serious health condition. Just because you don’t see the “injury” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Once the doctor has diagnosed you, they then must be willing to sign the paper work that allows for you to utilize FMLA benefits. Like I tell all of the people that show up to my workshops, if your doctor will not sign off on it, then fire them and find a doctor that will.

I was recently speaking on this topic at a workshop I presented at for The Compassionate Friends National Meeting in Chicago and a grieving dad raised his hand and informed the room that his doctor writes him a letter at the beginning of every year so he can use his 12 weeks sporadically throughout the year as needed without fear of being fired for taking too much time off. I was lucky, my employer allowed me to go part time for almost 3 years in order to deal with the “health conditions” I was dealing with.

There is one thing that you should be aware of, is that when you are diagnosed and treated for one of these conditions, you now have to disclose it on your application for health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance. Many will not cover you and it they do, it will cost you. This is why we were pushing to have the “death of a child” included into the existing FMLA. We should not be penalized for trying to survive the death of child. We just need time to catch our breath and to figure out what has happened to our world.

I should say “I am not an attorney” or “expert” on this subject. I am just sharing with you what I have learned. Please consult an attorney or your HR manager (careful with this one, they still work for the company).

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Posted in anxiety, Bereaved Parents, Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Debilitating, Depression, Despair, Family Medical Leave Act, Farley-Kluger, FMLA, HR.515, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son, Parental Bereavement Act of 2013, PTSD, s.226, Senator Tester | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Where’d That Come From?”

The following was sent to me over the weekend from a fellow grieving dad.  I think the topic is very appropriate and one I think we can all relate to in some way.  I know I have had many of these surprises.  What have been some of your surprises?

Where’d That Come From? 

Tonight I was on a short flight from DC to Atlanta.  As the title suggests, I had one of those “Where’d That Come From” experiences we all are familiar with.

I was writing an email to our nanny, who cares for our nearly two-year old son, Bradley, who will start Montessori school on Monday.  Simple enough – it’s a transition for him and our family.

Before Bradley, we had adopted another son, Grant, who unexpectedly died at six weeks.  And prior to that, we had given birth to a daughter, Catherine, who at 21 weeks who could not survive.  There were miscarriages even earlier.

So, tonight, as I wrote my gratitude to our nanny, I was overcome with grief.  In truth, I was a sobbing, snotty mess on a plane after they had already retrieved the napkins.  Thankfully, it was dark, but that didn’t matter much.

I feel blessed – truly – for this milestone (albeit trite) for our son.  It’s just pre-school or day care.  But what struck me (hard) were the milestones we will never celebrate with our earlier sons and daughters.

I’m struck that grief is always close to the surface, if not directly in our face.  It doesn’t take much to trigger it. While I don’t “welcome” the tears, I honor what they represent and accept the grief and loss for what it is.  Really. Fucking. Hard. (And real.)

I am grateful for having a community of men who may be nodding as they read this. And I offer to those too raw, too angry, too ashamed to be that snotty mess on a plane, to know that there are so many of us who will hold your grief as/with our own.

Thank you for your virtual support.

- Thom

Posted in Blindsided, Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Emotions, Flashbacks, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son, Tears, Tough | 12 Comments

“Pissed off at God” by Kelly Farley

 “Pissed off at God” by Kelly Farley

This post is for the faith based grieving dads with faith based beliefs. I have for the most part over the last 4 years stayed clear of postings that revolve around faith. I allow the grieving dads that respond to my post to include faith in their comments, but rarely have included them in my post. I have done that and will continue to do that so non-faith based individuals are no offended and still have a place to come and share their pain/thoughts. If you are offended by faith based material, now is when you should stop reading.

My intent is not to alienate anyone on this blog, it is for everyone regardless of your belief systems because we are all in this together to help, learn and share our experiences/thoughts. However, one of the themes I hear a lot for grieving dads (and moms) is that they feel uncomfortable being pissed off at God for allowing the death of their child to happen. I was one of those people until one of the guys that helped me through the darkness said to me, “its ok to pissed off at God, he has big shoulders and can handle it.” Him saying that took away the guilt I had about being pissed off and allowed some of my anger to start to flow out of me in constructive (and sometimes destructive ways).

The following was sent to me today by a fellow grieving dad and I thought I would share it with those hear today that have decided to read on and have made it to this point.

 BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY WILL   BE COMFORTED. ( MATTHEW 5:4 *NIV )  When you lose someone that you love, take comfort in   knowing that they are now with God. For it is written that   when we die; THE DUST RETURNS TO THE GROUND IT   CAME FROM, AND THE SPIRIT RETURNS TO GOD   WHO GAVE IT.   ( ECCLESIASTES 12:7 )       Therefore; BROTHERS, WE DO NOT WANT YOU   TO BE IGNORANT ABOUT THOSE WHO FALL ASLEEP,   OR TO GRIEVE LIKE THE REST OF MEN, WHO HAVE   NO HOPE.  WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED AND   ROSE AGAIN AND SO WE BELIEVE THAT GOD   WILL BRING WITH JESUS THOSE WHO HAVE   FALLEN ASLEEP IN HIM.  (1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-14)    So take comfort in knowing you will see them   again, for it isn’t the end of them but only the beginning! The   beginning of a much better life where; HE WILL WIPE AWAY   EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES.  THERE WILL BE NO   MORE DEATH OR MOURNING OR CRYING OR PAIN, FOR   THE OLD ORDER OF THINGS HAS PASSED AWAY.  ( REVELATION 21:4 )       Now I would like to share something with you that has   helped many who have lost someone.  It is called “Safely Home.”  I pray that it will minister to those of you who have lost a loved one, remembering that they are now…..

SAFELY HOME

I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.
 
All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.
 
Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! But Jesus’ love illumined
Every dark and fearful glade.
 
And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard to tread;
And with Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?
 
Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still:
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.
 
There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth–
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.
 
When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the pleasure of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!

Posted in Anger, Bereaved Parents, Death of a Child, Despair, Faith, Hope, Inspiration, Peace, Survival, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 13 Comments

“Messed Up Inside” by Kelly Farley

Messed Up Inside

I was recently having a conversation with a guy that was buying an old ’66 Chevy truck from me and he had asked me if I had any children. There was a time I hated when people asked me that question because I wasn’t sure how to answer it. However, now I just answer it head on, “I have two children and both have passed away.” Some people quickly respond with “I’m sorry” and move on uncomfortably in the conversation. I am never sure what they mean by “I’m sorry.” Are they really sorry about my loss or are they sorry they asked the question and now have to deal with awkwardness of the conversation. Maybe they mean both. However, there are those who will actually stop and acknowledge what was said and sincerely say “I’m sorry” and not allow you to change the discussion until you understand that they really are sorry.

Well, the guy who was buying my truck fell into the later crowd. I could tell he was sincere and he wasn’t afraid of discussing it. After a few minutes of telling my story and about how the book came to be, he blurts out “that would mess me up inside.” Without pause I turned to him and said “it messes everyone up inside, it’s just part of the deal.” I then said “don’t let the smile and my ability to stand here and bullshit about the truck fool you, I am messed up inside, in fact it really fucked me up for a long time.” His response, “I can’t even imagine.”

I have learned, like many bereaved parents, to continue living and enjoying life the best I can, but that doesn’t mean something hasn’t changed inside. Not all of its bad and not all of its good, just messed up. I’ve become more compassionate towards others but also less tolerant of others. I don’t take people’s bullshit anymore (never really did, but it’s gotten worse) and I have become more direct with my comments. I generally get to the point and not dance around stuff like I once did.

I have also changed my approach of living, mainly out of necessity. A fellow co-worker mentioned to me that he and his new girlfriend have a saying “we need to start living the KFL.” He then told me that it stood for “Kelly Farley Lifestyle.” I had to remind him that that lifestyle is a result of burying two children and the realization that life is too short. Both have corporate jobs and allow the companies to work them 60-70 hours per week. They are also convinced that the company will fail if they don’t work those hours. I on the other hand work my 40 hours a week and go home. My wife is a teacher and was off all summer so I decided to take every Friday off with her and enjoy our time together to enjoy the summer.

I use to work non-stop, concerned I was letting the company down but I learned after the loss of my children that I had been letting myself down. Life is not meant to spend at the office working long hours and weekends. I have found a balance and when things are off balance it’s generally in my favor, not the other way around. I’ve learned it’s about spending time with yourself and family doing what you love to do. I also learned quickly that the more you give, the more they will take. If you give less, they will find someone else who will do more.

So to get back to the point of this posting; yes, I am messed up inside and see things from a different perspective than I use too, but that’s just the way this thing goes. I could write another book just on this topic and all of the other things messed up inside of me, but I would rather open it up to all of you.

What is messed up inside of you (good or bad)?

Posted in Brokenness, Healing, Smile, Survival, Words of Encouragement | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

New Black Wristbands – Love is Forever

imagesLT9SRGS5BLACK SILICONE WRISTBAND – Text Reads “Grieving Dad – Love is Forever

Many people ask me (including men) what to put in a care package for a dad that has lost a child.  There are many ideas for moms, but not so much for dads.  Because I never really knew how to answer that question, I asked the grieving dads that follow me on Facebook what they would like to see in a care package and many of them responded with “wristband”.  As a result of that response, I created the wristband with the words “Grieving Dads – Love is Forever”.  Below is a sample photo of what the band looks like.  If you are interested in purchasing this wristband, please click here to be directed to Amazon.com to place an order.  You can also order a copy of my book and the wristband will be included (at no additional cost) in the order.

If you are a registered not for profit organization (503c) that offers care packages to bereaved parents, I would be more than happy to team with your organization to donate these wristbands in order to provide something for the dads.  Please email me if you are interested in teaming.

Let me know what you think of them.  I’ve been wearing mine since they came in last week and it helps me remember to be kind to myself in times where a beat myself up for not being the guy I was before losing my children.  It also lets others know of the pain I carry even during the times where I am smiling on the outside.

Peace.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Father’s Day – Wishing You a Peaceful Day

Well, here we are, another Fathers’s Day. A day that grieving dads dread. A day that makes us think about being a dad to a child (in my case two children) that has died. Everyday is a day that makes us think about the “what could/should have been’s”, but Father’s Day is one of those hand full of days that makes us reflect a little longer and a little deeper.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling the pressure to write something profound for Father’s Day. Something that will help grieving dads get through this day, but nothing came to me. I was drawing a complete blank. The more I thought about it the more I became frustrated with myself for not being able to write something meaningful.

It finally dawned on me this morning when I sat down to write this post. There isn’t anything I can do or say that will remove the darkness of this day. As proud as I am to be the father of my children, its still a tough day. Thinking of my children makes me smile and sad at the same time which is kind of a weird place to find yourself. Let me reword that, thinking of my children makes me smile, realizing they are not here with me, makes me sad. They don’t make me sad, their lack of presence makes me sad.

I plan on spending today working out in my yard and going for a run. Finding something that allows me to think about them but not sit around dwelling on the sadness of the day, but to connect with them just a little. I will be doing things that bring me an element of peace.

How are you going to spend the day with your children?

Wishing all of you a peaceful Father’s Day.

Posted in Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Death of parent, Fathers Day, Grieving Dads | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Happy Father’s Day? My child Has Died

This is an old posting but one that I think applies. I am working on another Fathers Day piece for later this week called “Dark Side of Father’s Day”. Peace. Kelly

Happy Father's Day? My child Has Died.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Wanna see a picture of my baby that died?” she said.

The following is a link to a blog that started following my blog today.  I couldn’t help but connect with this article.  I too felt the need to tell strangers about the death of my children.  Not so much show them a picture, but to let them know how much pain I have endured and I am still standing, functioning.  I still feel the need to tell people/stranger that I have lost a child and always find a way to work it into the conversation.  Is it fair to put this on strangers?  I don’t know, is it fair that I have to walk around with this in my head on the time?  I am going to go with a “no” for both of those questions.  But its part of my therapy to tell my story.  Enjoy the article.  Its an interesting topic.  Peace.  Kelly

“Wanna see a picture of my baby that died?” she said..

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

“Brokenness” by Kelly Farley

“Brokenness”

After a long winter here in Chicago I found myself trying to get motivated to “do something” but couldn’t seem to find the energy or desire. The bitter cold and constant gray put me on an emotional roller coaster that sucked away a lot of my energy. As part of that, I decided to get out of the house and join a men’s group. It was only scheduled for a few weeks which gave me time to see if I enjoyed the group or not.

The first meeting was discussion of a book that the group had been reading and the topic was life’s hurts. Of course I shared my story and received the usual “holy shit that’s bad” look from the group, many of which have healthy living children. At the end of the meeting one of the guys who seemed to be really struggling with some life issues looked at me and said “I am not sure how you ended up here this evening, but I think you were meant to be here to help me.” I do believe my new ability to be open and transparent with my story helps others realize you can survive some of life’s difficult times, but survival doesn’t mean you will go back to the person you were before.

The next meeting I decided to bring copies of my book to hand out to the group since the theme of the group was about restoring your life after going through a difficult time. This morning I received an email from the same guy I mentioned above. His short response said, “Thank you for the book. Very provocative. Real life for understanding brokenness at its worst place.” His words although short, really hit me. I always struggle to find words (because there are none) to explain to non-bereaved parents what it’s like to lose a child. However, the word brokenness really stood out to me. I decided to look the word up because I wasn’t sure if it was even a word. Here is the meaning I found:

“Violently separated into parts or pieces. Not working properly; damaged.”

As soon as I read this definition, it reminded me of what I have been through and the fact I am still standing, laughing, smiling, etc. But there is still parts of me that don’t work properly and are damaged. The last six months have been difficult for me because I had lost my “new way” of taking life in, not stressing about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter, etc. Looking back to when these feeling started I realized I was trying to get back to the person I was “before” the losses. The person caught up in the bullshit of making more money, demanding respect/appreciation and wanting more in my career as an engineer. Although successful at pleading my case and getting what I wanted, I still feel empty. Now I feel like I need to “perform” in order to prove that they didn’t make a mistake. Although they have never told me I need to prove myself, I feel the internal feeling of not letting them down, which has caused me to put greater pressure on myself.

Reading the definition of “brokenness” was a reality check for me. I have been violently separated into parts and pieces, millions of them. I need to realize I don’t work properly because as hard as I try to take those millions of pieces and put them back together again, I can’t get them to go together like they were prior to my children’s deaths. I have in fact been damaged and need to remind myself of that from time to time. Not as an excuse to give up, quite the opposite, I have found ways since their deaths to live a “rich” life, but need subtle reminders to realize that although damaged, I am not fully broken. Taking a step back and readjusting the direction you are going is just part of this journey.

Posted in Brokenness, Death of a Child, Inspiration, Living Simple, Loss of a Child, Perspective, Profound Life Experience, Survival | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day to Grieving Moms

Happy Mother’s Day to Grieving Moms

Mother’s Day is another one of those Hallmark Holidays that generate excessive amounts of cute commercials of moms kissing their newborn babies toes or moms spending quality time with their family. It’s also another one of those days where I cringe every time one of those commercials come on while my wife and I are sitting there trying to enjoy some down time together. I cringe because I know these commercials/images of moms spending time with their children inflicts pain on my wife.

These perfect moments of moms with their children are things that my wife will never get to experience and they are a constant reminder that we do not have living children. A reminder that our children are dead and that as a family, we do not fit into the advertisers demographics. Most people couldn’t bear to watch a commercial that included unthinkable pain reminding people to reach out to the grieving moms during this difficult time.

I remember going into a Hallmark store a few years back to purchase a Mother’s Day card for my wife and asking the lady at the store if they had cards for moms that have lost a child. The look in her eyes was of shock and sadness and or course the answer was “I don’t think we do”. She continued to help me find something that was a little more neutral in tone.

If you know a grieving mom, reach out to her on Mother’s Day and give her a hug and let her know that the pain of this day does not go unrecognized.

Wishing all of the grieving moms a peaceful Mother’s Day!

Posted in Mother's Day | Tagged | 4 Comments