Over the last 10 months I have come across other grieving parent’s stories, whether at in-person meetings, from acquaintances that know someone who has lost a child, and through online forums and blogs supporting the bereaved community.
There have been parents who’ve had to return to work three days after their child has died – THREE. Three. Some were given 7 days and for the employer, that seemed gracious. Other parents who weren’t mentally ready have been given an ultimatum – with the end result being the loss of their job. Some have chosen to quit their job because the pressure of being back into a position and being at the top of their game was what was expected, but not anything close to what they could handle.
I cannot even fathom these situations. I hardly remember the weeks following Toby’s death. I didn’t drive for almost a month. I avoided the grocery store like the plague. Even just stepping out into our yard what a feat because I was petrified someone on our street would stop to talk to us, not knowing that Toby was no longer there.
We, Dan and I, have been blessed that the concept of returning to work was not on a 7 day time clock. That was one prayer we didn’t even know to pray, but an answered one that we now thank God for continually.
Today’s FMLA allows (up to) 12 weeks off unpaid for the birth of a child, adoption of a child, care for a sick family member or an injured service member. There is nothing for parents whose child or children have died.
In 2011, grieving dads Barry Kluger and Kelly Farley started the Farley-Kluger Initiative to Add Loss of a Child to the 1993 FMLA, in honor of their children, Katie and Noah Farley and Erica Kluger.
Any parent or guardian who is employed needs time to grieve and return to work to organizations they are loyal to, in the best condition possible.
In honor of those who have lost children or know someone that did, please take a look at this petition – SIGN IT – SHARE IT – and ask our leaders in Congress to put aside differences and show compassion for those that grieve now and those that will in the future.
Here is an excerpt for the letter that I wrote to accompany my signature on the Farley-Kluger Initiative petition:
“As a bereaved parent who lost our infant son, Toby, nearly 10 months ago, I support the The Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act/ The Parental Bereavement Act of 2017 and the efforts to modify FMLA to include any bereaved parent who is in need of the support and benefits that are outlined in the Family Medical Leave Act. Bereaved parents should be allowed the time to resurface from this life-altering event, or at least get to a place where going to work helps bring some sense of normalcy back into their lives, and not have to rush back into it before they are ready. There is no healing from the loss of a child, but requiring parents to return to work because they need their salary and benefits to continue to support the everyday needs of a family is just wrong. I encourage you to give this issue serious consideration for those of us who now, and in the future, will be living with children in Heaven.”
As we continue our initiative of incorporating The Little Fox, a primary focus of our work is to build support and education around the lives of bereaved parents. The Farley-Kluger initiative hits right on the head of these issues that are a passion of ours and something we want to be able to support and CHANGE. Just like I said a few weeks ago “uncomfortable conversations create change.”
This is just one step to creating that societal change. And, it’s a big one. Please be a part of making this happen!
Disclosure: While we are very much in support of this amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, we want to make it clear that following Toby’s death we were blessed to have employers that allowed us the time that we needed and supported our family.