The following is an article about a friend of mine (and fellow grieving dad) that wrote a book about his expereinces after the loss of his daughter. This article was written by Jessica Leving and published in “The Arizonia Republic” on June 19, 2010.
There is life after death, according to Barry Kluger.
No, he is not a psychic. Nor is he a highly religious man. The Scottsdale resident is not referring to an afterlife for the deceased.
When Kluger, 56, talks about life after death, he refers to those still living after the death of a loved one.
“You can be immobilized by grief, or you can move forward,” he said. “It’s not about being a cock-eyed optimist. But it’s what you do with loss that determines whether or not you get your life back together.”
He should know. On a sunny April morning in 2001, Kluger called home from the golf course to check his messages. In that moment, every parent’s worst nightmare came true for him. He learned that his 18-year-old daughter, Erica, had been in a serious car accident near Pima and Jomax roads in northern Scottsdale.
When he frantically arrived at the hospital, he was met by a doctor and a priest bearing awful news: His only child was dead.
Nine years later, Kluger has self-published a book about his experience. “A Life Undone: A Father’s Journey through Loss,” is at once a heartfelt account of a father’s pain, an honest look at the way men grieve, and a celebration of a life lived to its fullest – both Erica’s, and Kluger’s own life without her. The book, now available online at www.alifeundone.com is to hit bookstores Aug. 1.
Kluger hopes his book will help other parents who have experienced the death of a child, as well as grief counselors, clergy and anyone interested in how men grieve differently from women.
“Men’s emotions are different,” he said. “Men either hold it in, or say ‘I have to keep my family together. I don’t have the time to mourn, or break down; I’ve got other people to take care of.’ Maybe this book will help guys to feel comfortable with grieving.”
Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and co-author of The New York Times’ best-seller “The Last Lecture,” wrote the comments on the inside flap of “A Life Undone.”
Zaslow, who quoted Kluger in a 2002 column about parents who have lost children, called the book a “compelling story” that “will help others understand how a journey through grief can help us to see what we were, what we are, and what we can become.”
As a media and public relations veteran who has written columns for The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal, Arizona Woman, and the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, Kluger said writing a book about his loss was a natural step – though he admits he needed a push to get the project finished.
“I was sitting one day with my editor at the Jewish News, and she said, ‘You’re telling me you’re writing a book. Why are you not finishing the book?’ I had 3,800 words at that point, and within six weeks I had 52,000,” he said.
Many people ask Kluger if writing his book was cathartic.
“I’m not sure what ‘cathartic’ really means,” he said. “It wasn’t a big, sudden release. I’d been writing about Erica for years in my journal and in my columns. It was always out there.”
In a mixture of original chapters, reprinted columns, and old e-mails, “A Life Undone” takes a no-holds-barred approach to Kluger’s personal journey through the grieving process.
“Some of it isn’t pretty,” he said.
For example, Kluger shares angry e-mails he sent to friends who he deemed not supportive enough, where he wrote sentiments such as, “I got your call. Erica died more than three months ago. . . . To say that you got caught up with things is an insult to me and to her memory,” and “We are taking you out of our address book and out of our lives.”
In these chapters, Kluger said he hopes he can help not only parents dealing with loss directly, but also anyone who is unsure what to say to a grieving friend.
“Don’t make the decision that (grieving parents) want to be left alone,” he said. “That’s their decision to make. And don’t run away from it – however uncomfortable you feel talking to them about the fact that they lost a child, imagine how uncomfortable they feel having lost a child.”
Though he has had almost a decade to deal with his loss, Kluger said the hurt never truly disappears.
“It’s like a scab that I pick at,” he said. “When I see someone who is 28 years old, I think, ‘Erica would have been 28.’ I feel robbed of graduation, marriage, grandchildren. Someday I will miss having Erica visit me when I’m old.”
Sunday is Father’s Day. It is a particularly difficult day, Kluger said.
“For guys like me, we will always be fathers. That never goes away.”
Proceeds from online book orders will go to the Erica A. Kluger Dance Scholarship at the Spotlight Dance Academy in New York, where Erica used to dance, and Autism Speaks, in honor of Kluger’s nephew who has Asperger syndrome.