12 Days of Christmas for Bereaved Parents

I know I am a little late at starting these, but better late than not at all. This was sent to me by the Sacramento-South Placer County Chapter – Bereaved Parents of the USA.  This is all good advice in approaches I have used/use several times over the years.

12 Days of Christmas for Bereaved Parents

 Day 1 – December 14

Right from the get go, give yourself permission to do, or not do, what you feel/don’t feel comfortable with this Christmas season. If you feel up to decorating your house… pour yourself a glass of eggnog and do what you can. If you can only manage to hang a wreath on the door, then allow yourself the freedom of leaving the boxes of decorations in the attic. They’ll be there for you next year, or the year after, or whenever you feel more like enjoying the festivities of the season.

Take the pressure off of yourself by asking for help. If you have other children, and you just don’t think you can put up the outside lights on the house, bake cookies or spend time at the mall, ask a friend or relative to step in for you and do some holiday activities with the other kids that will allow them to enjoy the holidays through a child’s eyes. This is not the time to try to be “super mom or dad.”

Day 2 – December 15

Whether it’s your first Christmas season or your 20th, think of a way to brighten someone else’s holidays by doing for them what you cannot do for your own child. This could be anything from selecting a child from an underprivileged home, or an elderly person who needs a neighbor to stop by on Christmas Day with a hot meal. Lifting someone else’s spirits will definitely lift yours.

Day 3 – December 16

Enjoy the holidays by starting new traditions that incorporate memories of your child. You may want to make or purchase a new ornament for the Christmas tree that reminds you of their personality or something they enjoyed. You can create a scrapbook of past holidays you enjoyed with your child. How about framing one of your favorite photos of your child and displaying it in your home? Visit a place they enjoyed and have a toast in their honor. Bringing good memories to mind will eventually replace the sadness caused by not having your child with you physically. Eventually you’ll find yourself thinking about the good times you had with them more often that dwelling on the fact that they are no longer here.

Posted in Brokenness, Christmas, Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Holidays, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Lurking” by Kelly Farley

Lurking

I realize I have come a long way since the early days of grief when I would find myself on my hands and knees because the pain (emotional) was so intense I couldn’t function. When the anxiety got the best of me and I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown.

Trust me when I say this, if you have ever lived through one of those episodes, you don’t take a good day for granted. Early on, my episodes seemed to last for months and over time they gradually went from weeks, to days and eventually hours. The thought of going back to those dark days is something I don’t even like to think about. They were as dark as it gets.

I have a new appreciation for people that live with mental health issues their entire life. I know my depression and anxiety was brought on by a “profound situation”, the death of my two children. I can honestly say because I put in the hard work of grieving and allowing myself to process my pain that I am able to function in life again. In fact, I would classify 99% of my days as good. Not as good as I was before the losses, but considering where I’ve been after the losses, I’ll take it.

However, the 1% of bad days still suck. They are nowhere as deep as the early episodes, but they still weigh you down. I recently experienced a couple of those days after coming down with mild flu symptoms last week. Not the kind of day that paralyzes you with sadness/despair/anxiety, but the kind of day that just weighs on you. I think even non-bereaved parents have these kind of days from time to time because of life’s events. However, these 1% days are new to me. I never experienced bad days before the loss of my two children. I thought everyone walked around with a smile and the feeling of being able to conquer the world, apparently not.

I bring this topic up because there are certain things the trigger those 1% days or emotional heaviness for me. I feel them when I am at my weakest moments. I can all most always count on having them when I am sick. I think my strength to fend “it” off becomes jeopardized due to immune system. I also get these unexpected attacks when I have an extremely intense workout.

It just goes to show its always lurking below the surface, waiting for an opportunity to reveal itself. The good thing is, these episodes are nowhere near as intense or last as long as the crippling episodes I had for a couple of years after the loss of my children. I’m not talking about a sadness episode, but more of “I’m not sure what to do with myself kind of moment”. They are kind of overwhelming, heavy, introspective type of moments.

Anyone else experience this type of behavior?

Posted in anxiety, Bereaved, Bereaved Parents, Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Debilitating, Depression, Despair, Emotions, Exhausting, Grief, Grieving Dads, Having a Bad Day, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son, Men's Grief | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

“Ignorance is Bliss” by Kelly Farley

Ignorance is Bliss

When using the word “ignorant” to describe someone it is generally not meant to be a compliment. We all know that this word means that the person is “lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular”.

I work in an industry that requires me to oversee large public improvement projects. When I say large, they can range from a couple of million dollars in construction cost all the way up to 2-3 hundred million. A co-worker of mine is currently overseeing one of these 300 million dollar projects and he is feeling a lot of pressure to make sure his team delivers. It’s not uncommon for members of his team to work 60-80 hour weeks designing one of these projects. As you can imagine, the hours worked and stress of one of these projects weights heavy on most of the team members.

I stopped by this coworker’s office recently and could see the stress he was carrying. I sat down and let him vent about some of his team members and how they really don’t see the big picture of what we have to accomplish. They don’t understand that our business depends on delivering a quality project in order to get another project from our client. They don’t understand the business model and the fact that if we don’t get another project, they will not have a job/paycheck. They just show up to work, do what their told and go home. They don’t think for themselves and rely heavily on the project leader to tell them what to do. At the end of his venting, I said, “ignorance is bliss”. We both laughed and he said “that would be nice not to know, to live in your own little world”.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about that statement, “ignorance is bliss” and thought about what I have been through with the loss of my children. I wish I was ignorant to this nightmare. I wish I didn’t know the pain of burying a child. I wish I didn’t know the aftermath that people go through after burying a child. I wish I didn’t know about days you can’t get out of bed because the pain is so emotionally and physically destructive. I wish I didn’t know about the long term impacts of losing a child. I wish I didn’t have to hear from all of the other dads (and moms) that have also been on this path. The reality is I do know, I wish I didn’t, but I can’t change that fact.

I also thought about the people on my co-workers team. Maybe they aren’t ignorant after all. Maybe they understand that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and they are perfectly ok with that. There was a time after the loss of Katie and Noah that I took on the mindset of “I’m doing the best I can and if that isn’t good enough for you then to bad.” That was the only way I could have survived. I didn’t allow myself to take on more stuff.   I had reached my capacity and then some. However, over the last couple of years I have allowed myself to worry about stuff that really doesn’t matter. Getting out of bed every day with a smile and a sense of peace should be the only thing that matters.

Is ignorance bliss?

Posted in Death of a Child, Debilitating, Depression, Emotions, Exhausting, Men's Grief, Tough | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

“More on Men’s Grief”

I received a response from Author/Therapist Tom Golden last week after I posted on the subject of “Man Grief vs. Woman Grief”.  Tom was kind enough to share a link to an article he wrote on the subject of men’s grief.  Tom has written a couple of books and often speaks/trains others on the subject.  Some of you may have already seen the link he posted on my last blog entry.  For those who have not seen this article, it can be viewed here:

Why and How Do Men Keep Their Emotional Pain Invisible?

As always, please share your thoughts/comments.

Posted in Grief, Men's Grief, Men's Issues | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Man Grief vs. Woman Grief”

Man Grief vs. Woman Grief

I received an email yesterday from a fellow grieving dad who is doing research for a grant asking me if I had come across any articles on the subject of why/how men and women grieve differently.

Here is what he found in his research:

“Those inclined to the “male model” will keep grief to themselves, work hard to avoid losing control in front of others, and refrain from asking for help or assistance. In the “female model,” feeling related or connected is of paramount importance, while in the “male model” feeling independent and autonomous is critical.”

Here was my response:

Thank you for reaching out to me on this subject, it’s a good one. It’s a subject that I tend to question when the “experts” voice their opinion on it. I have seen all of the papers that say men and women grieve differently and I must say I am not sure I agree with them. If you take societies expectations away, do they really grieve differently or do we grieve differently because we have both been “given” roles and if we don’t play those roles, we are looked down upon. Not sure if you read my book, but I talk about this subject because after my first loss, I felt like I had to be the rock, to carry the load. I felt the pain as well, but I didn’t give myself permission to feel it because I was taught not to throughout my whole life. After my second loss, I fell apart and I gave in and became “weak”. I needed to be cared for, I needed to cry, and I needed to openly mourn the loss of my two beautiful children. If I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do that, I am not sure I would have survived. Now I would agree that people grieve differently, but I am not sure it’s because they are a man or a woman.

To answer your question, I have not come across any papers I consider valid. They were not written by anyone that have had to actually live this nightmare and until you have walked it, I don’t want to hear your “expert” opinion. However, I have interviewed/spoken too many grieving dads over the last several years and I can assure you, they feel the pain just as much, they just don’t know what to do with it because it goes against everything they’ve been taught.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Peace.

Kelly

What are your thoughts in this subject?

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

“Wanted”

I was contacted late last week by a research and casting company that were hired by a large national insurance company located here in the United States.  They contacted me as a result of finding my book and wanted to know if I knew of any bereaved dads that would be willing to participate in a Public Service Announcement (PSA).  The PSA is based on promoting household safety by showing others that “bad stuff” can happen.  First of all, I was honored they contacted me and secondly I was excited that they were looking for grieving dads to be apart of this campaign.

I informed them that I would post something on my blog and social media outlets to find out if there is anyone willing to be interviewed and be a part of this project.  I asked them to send me a list of household accidents that someone may have lost a child to and they provided me with the following:

  • Poisoning (drinking/eating toxic products, swallowing button batteries, carbon monoxide, medicine overdose)
  • Drowning (bathtub or pool)
  • TV or furniture tip-over
  • Driveway back-over
  • Falling (windows, stairs, etc)
  • Choking or Strangulation (window blind cords)
  • Fire and Burns (fires in homes, burns associated with grills, fire pits, etc)

All of these are horrific and if we can bring awareness to these areas of realities, we are doing a great service by helping other parents to avoid the loss of a child.

If you have had the unfortunate experience in one of these household accidents and willing to speak with this organization, please contact me by email or phone.

Peace.

Kelly

 

 

Posted in Household Accident | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Virtual Book Tour?

BookCoverImage

I have to be honest, I have not read my book Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back since it was published in June 2012.  I have read the book multiple times as a draft and through the editing process.  I have done a few book readings of the first chapter or two at support groups I was invited to, but I have not read it from cover to cover since it was published.  That being said, I do believe I am in need of a “tune-up” in my attitude and I believe rereading the book can dial me back in to what is really important in life.  A reminder of how far I am come since the very dark and desperate days of trying to survive the aftermath of losing two children.

I have become restless and frustrated with myself in recent months.  Restless because I want to accomplish and do so many things but there are times I just can’t focus long enough or have the energy to follow through.  I believe a lot of this is tied to the after effects of the impact my mental state took from the blow.  I need a reminder that getting out of bed with a smile and a spring in my step is a HUGE deal and I should not take it for granted, I should be proud of myself instead of beating myself up for not doing more.

I do plan on reading the book over a few month time frame, but this time I wanted to do a virtual book reading.  I would video tape me reading the book while stopping at critical points and discussing my thoughts on the subject.  However, before I spend the time and energy doing this, I wanted to find out if anyone would be interested in following along in the book and participating in the discussion.

Would you be interested I participating in a virtual book tour?

Posted in Grief, Grieving Dads, Grieving Dads Project, Grieving Dads Words, Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back, Men's Grief, Men's Issues, Words of Encouragement | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

“Never Show Weakness” by Kelly Farley

“Never Show Weakness”

Men are often times programmed from a young age to believe that “big boys don’t cry” and that they should never show weakness. Because of this, it is sometimes difficult for men to “release” the emotions that build up. I often hear from dads that tell me that they can’t seem to cry. They feel the emotions welling up inside, but the release just doesn’t happen very easily. I try to provide ideas/tools that I have learned from dealing with my own emotions during the aftermath of losing my two children.

I am a firm believer that one needs to learn to be transparent and allow themselves to become vulnerable. This isn’t easy for men, but allowing yourself to seek professional counseling and participating in support groups can help with this process.

Another important part to the healing process is staying active, especially for men. Not as a tool to avoid dealing with your emotions, but quite the opposite. Using activities such as exercise allows you to not only burn anxiety, it can allow you to be in your own thoughts; processing what has happened to you.

I spent a lot of time riding my bike, jogging and taking on none time critical home projects. Early on, I would find myself breaking down and crying during these activities. Even years after their death, I still use these tools and from time to time I will push myself enough physically that I will feel the emotions build up and ultimately trigger a release.

I wish I could give each grieving parent the secret to surviving the death of their child, but I can’t. What I can do is share the things that helped me make it through the dark days and ultimately back to the path of healing.

Kelly Farley
Author of Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back
www.GrievingDads.com

Posted in Death of a baby, Death of a Child, Death of a daughter, Death of a son, Grief, Grieving Dads, Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son, Men's Grief | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

“Reality Check” by Kelly Farley

Reality Check

It’s been over 10 years since I have been to a wedding. In fact, I have not been to a wedding since I lost my daughter Katie in 2004. However, for whatever reason, I have four of them that I will be attending over the next couple of months. A few weeks back I attended the first on the four that are on my schedule. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding and reception location. I actually enjoy going to weddings because I am an outgoing person and I like to meet new people any chance I get. I believe everyone has a story to tell and I am intrigued to hear their story.

The wedding was going pretty good and I was enjoying a couple of cocktails when they announced the bride and grooms first dance. I didn’t think much of it until after the dance when they announced the father and daughter dance. It was about 15 seconds into the dance when I noticed the pride and love that this father had for his daughter. And it was about 2 seconds after that where I looked at my wife and said, “I’ll be outside.” She asked me where I going. I replied “I have to go, I can’t watch this.”

It hit me in that moment that I will never be able to have a father and daughter dance with Katie. Never. I will never be able to watch my son Noah start a family of his own. Never. I will never have grandchildren. Never.

Another never moment happened over the weekend. My wife and I were out running errands this past Saturday when we drove past a restaurant in our area. I noticed that there were about 10 teenage kids all dressed up with their dates. It was Homecoming weekend and these kids were out having a great time. I am sure they just left each of their family’s homes after taking a lot of photos. All of the things I did when I was a kid. My wife said, “It sucks we’ll never get to experience that with our kids.” I responded with “yes it does.”

The reality of the situation is I will never be able to see them do any of the things other children their age group get to do. I don’t think about these types of things often, but the reality of the moment happens in a split second and emotions follow closely behind.

What reality checks have you experienced lately?

Posted in Broken Dreams, Dreams, Emotions, Homecoming, Loss of a Daughter, Loss of a Son, Reality, Tears, Tough, Weddings | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

“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