Book Drive in Memory of Toby

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, Toby

-Benefiting the Monroeville Public Library Children’s Section-

We are working with the Monroeville Library to donate a set of books to their Children’s Section in memory of our son, Toby. This is another way for Toby’s joy and happiness to be spread to families and children within our community. 

The library has been generous in working with us on this project and provided titles from their “wish list” for the Children’s Section. 

We have created a list via Amazon with these books on it. If anyone is interested in purchasing one of the books on this list you may purchase and/or view from the link below. 

Toby Stern’s Memorial Book List

There are 20 titles on the list. We are requesting that you purchase directly from this list so that only 1 copy is purchased of each book and we can keep track of which ones are still available. Once it is purchased, it will no longer be on the list. 

The list is set up so that the books will be sent to our home. Once we receive all the purchased books, we will coordinate drop-off and the plaque that will go inside the cover of each book, in our little boys memory. 

If you wish to have your name or your family’s name on the donation plaque, please put a note in the purchase from Amazon or send us an email directly (ourhappyplaceandco@gmail.com) with the name of the book you purchased, what you would like the message to say and we will make sure it gets done.

Thank you to Monroeville Library for allowing us the opportunity to make such a generous donation in Toby’s memory. 

memorial book list_toby

Any questions, please contact us via the website, social media or email (listed above). 

Please do not contact the library directly. We have arranged to coordinate this drive on our own and can answer any questions you may have.

Thank you in advance for your interest in this project and for participating in this book donation in memory of Toby Stern.

–The Sterns

Month 11: Grief has a mind of its own

2017, Family, grief, loss, Lucas, Toby

Grief has a mind of its own. It has a way of rearing its head at a time that catches you with your guard down. It leaves you alone with your thoughts and deeply sad. Grief over these last four weeks has been quite harsh. Moments which have remained frozen or numb in my mind are starting to resurface and rather than the very familiar sting that comes daily with memories, they hit hard, take away my breath, and bring flashbacks of that nightmare of a day that robbed Toby of his future, robbed us of raising our second little boy and forever changed our lives.

I am a planner. I like to be prepared. I don’t like to be surprised. Caught off guard. Taken out of my comfort zone. The reality of the last 11 months have proven – none of that matters. Life doesn’t care what I have planned.

With my mind continuing to try and plan, prepare, guard the remaining part of my heart that is somehow still beating, I’d convinced myself that I would know the hardest days coming – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, our first trip away without Toby, Easter, Mother’s Day, May 27 – Toby’s First Birthday, Father’s Day. Each month has not only brought a heart breaking milestone of counting the months that Toby has been gone from our arms, but it has brought a holiday or special day for our family where our beautiful baby boy is missing. Each month I’d make it to the 28th and think “Ok, I don’t know how we did it, but we made it through that heartache. Now what’s next?”

All of that planning, guarding, circumventing, retreating, do you know what it was doing? It was taking all of the heartache, anger, pain, and loneliness and pushing it down. Like a heavy weight pulsing while the giant below grows stronger.

I made it till July 17. My 34th birthday. Then the tiny line that was holding that weight – it snapped.

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July 24, 2016

I woke up last Monday when my alarm went off for work. When I opened my eyes, Toby’s face stared back at me from the frame on my nightstand. My eyes got warm and tears ran down my face. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wanted to close my eyes and go back to last July 17. I got up and went to pick up Toby from his bed. His big blue eyes wide and his beautiful smile let you know he loved seeing you. God, I want that feeling back. That feeling when you pick up your children and hug them so tight and say “I love you so much.” Hoping they can feel through your bones just how much love is in your heart for them.

We have a hand full of videos of Toby. I can’t watch them too often because they send me into the darkest pit of grief that I struggle to get out of. The one video is from my birthday last year. It’s me, holding Toby, and Luke sitting beside us. They’re singing me Happy Birthday. I’m smiling. Both my boys with me. They are so beautiful. I couldn’t stop watching it on Monday. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t even have to close my eyes and I could vividly see moments from one year ago. I knew that I had dressed Toby in a blue collared onsie and Luke had his island shirt on. We went to lunch together and later after dinner had ice cream cake.

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July 17, 2016

By the end of the day Monday the only thing I wanted to do was go to the cemetery. My routine way to and from work passes by cemetery each day, allowing me the opportunity to stop. Monday I needed to be there. I can normally make it to his grave before I start crying, that day, I only made it through the cemetery gates. I could hardly lift my body out of the car. My feet felt cemented to the ground when I tried to walk. I felt like it would be easier to just stumble down the hill.

I sat at the foot of Toby’s grave, my hand running over his name on the stone, and I cried. There was so much sadness exuding my body. My fingers tried to pull his name from the stone. It was in that very moment that the real, raw emotion of being a grieving mother appeared. It caught me completely off guard but I didn’t care. I had been carrying so much of this inside of me, even through my writing, discussions with others, and changes in our daily routines, it didn’t matter what I had done or had been trying to plan for.

The overlap in time since Toby’s birthday has been harder than we expected, if that’s even possible to say. We are continually tripping over landmines – memories that you wish didn’t have to hurt so badly.

It hasn’t just been the nights that are the worse. There have been days where 11 months of searching for Toby have hurt so badly over the past six weeks. There are days when I feel like I’m watching myself. There are times when I look in the mirror and I don’t know the women staring back at me. A local news station ran a story on our family last week – talking about our family’s grief and how we’re trying to use our pain to educate others. I was watching the segment and listening to the words and there was a part of my mind that was thinking “how heartbreaking.” – How does my mind continue to register moments that are so unreal? I still get sick to my stomach when I say “Our son Toby died.” Those words rock me to my core when they are coming out of my mouth.

There was a picture in the segment that was on the screen for a few seconds. I was holding Toby. Sitting in the recliner in our den. I remember taking that picture. I remember that I was going to delete it. We hadn’t slept that night. Toby was wide awake in the chair watching me talk to him. I took our picture and he looked right in the camera. I sat on the floor watching the segment play on the news and all I could do was stare at him. Dan, sitting beside me said, “He’s so beautiful.

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July 2016 – Toby and Mommy

I don’t know where 11 months have gone. I’m afraid I’ve missed so much. I hope Luke knows how much we love him and I hope he knows what an amazing big brother he is to Toby. I worry that we haven’t done enough for him.

I spent some time with him this weekend, just Luke and me. We were taking a walk around our neighborhood Saturday evening, he was chatting about everything. I love to listen to him talk. The things he says amaze me and make me so proud. I was watching him walk and he was stopping at every rain puddle, taking the biggest leap and jumping to make a splash. He would smile and walk to the next one. Out of the blue he said, “Mommy, Toby loves Heaven.” We weren’t even talking about Toby, or Heaven, or the sky, or being sad. He didn’t pause or even look up at me when he said it.

It’s those moments. Those reminders from Luke. Those are the reasons that I got up from Toby’s grave on Monday and went home to my family. To my husband and son and our two boxers who know, feel, see, and hear the pain that we have experience over the past 11 months. To the only house that Toby knew. To the four walls that hold every single second of our beautiful son’s life.

I left the cemetery on Monday and went home. Dan and Luke had cooked dinner for me. We sat down at the dining room table, all the blinds were closed both in that room and the adjoining living room. We said prayers and started to eat. I was looking at my plate and out of the corner of my eye, I caught something on the ceiling in the living room. Dan saw it too. We looked at each other in amazement. I looked at all the windows, trying to find a reason for what was happening. I couldn’t.

I was able to get a few moments on video before it stopped and vanished.

 

To me they look like flapping wings. Do you see it?

We sang ‘happy birthday’ and ate ice cream cake. Just like we did last year.

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July 17, 2017

To my beautiful boy. I find myself searching for you every single day. I think about what it would be like to have both you and Luke in tow with me. I cry every day. Some days from moments that I’m ready for. Others, because I catch your smile or see a mom trying to juggle two boys and it crushes me. I want to feel you in everything I do, Toby. I want to be able to feel the warm sun and hear your soft coos. I am so desperately trying not to lose any part of you in our life. I need you to be here. You are our son. You are Luke’s brother. I don’t want anyone to forget that. I need people to understand that.

I believe that Toby is with us. Every. Single. Day. I believe that he is watching us. Keeping us safe. Sending things to make us smile, or laugh. He laughed a lot with us, even for how small he was. I’d do anything to hear you laugh. I believe you visit Luke and that he can see you and hear you, in ways we can’t even imagine. These thoughts, they help me. But they also frustrate me.

I am scared to death of August. I am scared to death of what the grief and anxiety will do to my mind, to my heart. I am scared of the resurgence of flashbacks and triggers and raw fear that will overtake my conscience. I have found a way to deal with those moments, when I’m standing on the edge and that enormous wave of grief is gaining height and speed, barreling towards me. I have to do something that connects me to Toby. I have to immerse myself in a project. Work on his foundation – The Little Fox. I have to do something with Luke that we would have done together.

This mother of two journey, that is now my life, is difficult. Talking about it helps me. Doing something in your memory helps me more.

I hope you can see that, Toby. I hope you can feel all the love that Mommy and Daddy have for you. We cry because we can’t have you here in our arms. Because you’re not physically here with us. Because this day each month is not getting any easier. Because we’re scared and heartbroken without you.

The Opportunity to Speak

2017, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Lucas, Parenting, Toby

We are overwhelmed with emotion from the last 24 hrs. When we started rallying the troops, nearly seven weeks ago, we had no idea the imprint we could make.

This petition is out there and making strides because of the initial efforts of Barry Kluger and Kelly Farley, and their children who died. We are standing behind this petition and making an effort to try and push for local, state, and national representatives to listen to WHY this is important.

Seven weeks ago I saw an opportunity to use the platform we have been building in Toby’s memory as a way to educate other’s about the lives of grieving parents, by supporting the Farley-Kluger Initiative to amend FMLA.

Two weeks ago, Jennifer Tomazik from WPXI-Channel 11 called. She told me that she had been reading my blog and had been referred to us from a friend who told her about what we were trying to do. She asked if we’d be willing to talk to her – about our family, Toby, and the bill to amend FMLA – because she saw a story that the community and families in our region could relate to, and hopefully help.

This was a big decision for us. Don’t get me wrong, we have been talking and sharing and advocating in support of others, but this opens our lives and our son’s lives to the world. We all know how social media is – it can be a powerful tool. It’s frightening to be so open and so vulnerable.

Over the past 24 hours our phones, email, the blog and social media have been flooded by amazing people who have shared our story, advocated for others to read and sign the petition, and offered their support. It has been remarkable and overwhelming.

Farley Kluger Initiative_24hrs

Yesterday when we sat down to talk with Jennifer, that discussion opened wounds wide-open and the emotions for Toby have come flooding back. Dan and I sat together and watched the segment last night, with Luke yelling at the TV “that’s me and Toby!” We’ve read a lot (not all) of the notes and comments that have been sent to us. We’ve cried as we watched Toby’s beautiful face on TV and online and we’ve shaken our heads in amazement as to the amount of people that have taken time out of their day to listen to our story, offer their support for Toby’s death and our family’s grief, and also sign and share the petition.

Again, THANK YOU – to every one of you that have done something. Those words, thank you, will never be enough, but it is your words, support and actions that help us know that what we are doing is making a difference and that Toby’s life, although too short, will make a difference in the lives of others.

Toby Stern

I wanted to give a little update on the Foundation, because there have been some questions and inquiries over the past day. We have spent the last three months talking with other non-profits, professionals that assist in creating non-profits, board members of non-profits and continually soaking up all this information. This is a big decision for us and an educational one, at that. We want to make sure that however we decide to proceed, that we are comfortable with it and that it is reflecting what Dan and I, as Toby’s parents, want the foundation to be and grow into. There are a lot of moving parts at this point and once we are ready, we will gladly share all of that with you. There will be opportunities to help, volunteer, donate, fund-raise, and most importantly share with your networks. The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is taking shape and we look forward to its launch in the near future.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank WPXI-Channel 11 and Jennifer Tomazik. Thank you for taking the time to learn about our family, about our circumstance and most importantly about Toby. Your efforts to talk with us and share our message turned into a beautiful tribute to our son and an amazing platform for the Farley-Kluger Initiative. Also, you’ve extended your resources for help on future endeavors and interest in supporting The Little Fox, and for that Dan, Lucas and I are so grateful.

WPXI Visit_July 20 2017

We hope by way of WPXI’s story, more doors will open to connect with the media and interest is peaked to support the efforts of the Farly-Kluger Initiative. We welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone about this grassroots effort and our family’s story.

Before I go, I’d like to ask for three things from our readers:

  1. If you have not signed the petition to amend FMLA, please visit: www.farleykluger.com and do so today.
  2. If you have already signed the petition and would be willing to take 10 minutes to write a letter to your local representative, please visit my blog post from last week here: https://ourhappyplaceandco.com/2017/07/13/next-steps-farley-kluger-initiative/
  3. If you are not doing so already, take a moment and “follow” our website/blog. At the bottom of the website there is a little [+] button; click that and then click the blue “Follow Our Happy Place & Co.”

 

Here is the link to the segment that aired yesterday, July 20, on WPXI-Pittsburgh’s Channel 11.

http://www.wpxi.com/news/top-stories/local-family-petitioning-law-to-include-parents-grieving-loss-of-child/566361587

 

Next Steps: Farley-Kluger Initiative

2017, Creating Change, Family, grief, loss, Toby

A few weeks ago I posted about the Farley-Kluger Initiative and we were asking others to read about and sign this petition. As I continued to research this initiative and further educate myself on the support and timeline, I decided to go straight to the sources – Barry Kluger and Kelly Farley – to try and speak with them. I reached out to both and was able to speak with Barry over the phone. He filled me in on the path that he and Kelly had taken to bring the Farley-Kluger Initiative this far.

Through their efforts and discussions, this has become a bi-partisan bill, supported by three Republicans and three Democrats, led by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).

The next steps, to keep spreading information and making progress with this bill, entail writing individual letters to your Congressman. I can’t stress the importance of taking a moment to personalize this letter. That can be as simple as adding a line or two to the bottom of the letter that talks about WHY this is important to you, or WHO you may know that has lost a child or children, or WHAT the passing of this bill could mean for the future members of the bereavement community.

Kelly sent me two documents that do a great job of highlighting a briefing of the process as well as a copy of the House Bill. These are both accessible below.

creating change

Thank you to those who took a moment to sign the online petition. I have been back to the site a few times a week and have been watching the number grow to over 100,000, in just the past few weeks.

If you would be willing to take 10 minutes of your time and do this next step with us, it would make an impact on the push to get this bill passed.

Barry sent me a draft letter to customize for our District Director and Congressman Doyle.

Please feel free to use this letter, replacing your specific Representatives name and District, based on where you live.

Here is a good reference for Pennsylvania: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/PA#representatives

 

My name is ___________ and I am a constituent of Rep. Doyle.

I spoke recently with Barry Kluger, who lost his only child, Erica, in a car accident in Arizona in 2001. Since 2011, he and Kelly Farley of IL (who lost two children) began a national Initiative called the Farley-Kluger Initiative to add loss of a child to the FMLA.

In the most recent session of Congress, a bi-partisan bill, led by Rep. Paul Gosar(R-AZ) The Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act (HR1560) was introduced.

https://gosar.house.gov/press-release/reps-gosar-beyer-mcsally-schneider-suozzi-comstock-introduce-bipartisan-bill-give

Since its introduction on 3/6/17, an equal number of R’s and D’s have been added to make it truly bi-partisan.

As a mother who lost a child ___________________, I cannot fathom having to return to work after only 3-5 days, as opposed to the FMLA which offers UP to 12 weeks unpaid for adoption, birth or family illness or veteran caregiving duties. The best assets of a company get on the elevator every day at 5PM and loyal employees are not being given time to grieve.It affects morale and loyalty and frankly, it’s just bad business.

With so much pain and loss in our lives, this effort is one that recognizes all Americans and their contributions to the economy and the workplace. I am hopeful that you will look into this and perhaps make contact with Rep.Gosar’s staffer, Joshua Ronk and support this bill as it is introduced.

I thank you for taking the time to read this and please thank Congressman Doyle for representing the people of the 14th District.

 

When speaking with Barry he said the Representatives have 18 months left in this session to get a vote.

Please help give a voice to grieving parents who are trying to pave the way for those in the future who may have to face the loss of a child or children. Please help us as we push to educate the public about the life of grieving parents and also help educate the corporations and employers that employ these parents.

This is not JUST about grieving parents. It’s about creating change and educating other on how to HELP and SUPPORT grieving families.

If you have questions regarding the letter or who you should send this to, please don’t hesitate to contact me (ourhappyplaceandco@gmail.com) or Barry Kluger (barry@barrykluger.com).

 

Briefing – Parental Bereavement Act of 2017 (Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger-Act) (1)

HR 1560 BILLS-2017 (3)

Month Ten – A Mother of Two 

2017, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

I can feel the memories coming before they are even in my mind. My heart hurts. My throat gets tight. My eyes begin to well. I know it’s going to hurt like hell, but I embrace it, because it’s embracing you. It’s an embrace that I don’t want to let go of. With each month that passes, there is new pain, different pain. Things that were not triggers before, they rip the wound wide open now.

Luke talks about you more and more. About how things are “mine and Toby’s.” We love that he talks about you, but it is a continual dagger to the heart that you are not here.

“This table is perfect for me and Toby,” said Luke when we brought this home the other day.


We miss you, Toby. We say it everyday, but I don’t think we can say it enough. There are pictures of you everywhere in the house. Some of the ends have started to curl and it makes me so angry. It’s the reality of how long you have been gone. I stood at your crib the other day and when I picked my hand up I saw part of my handprint. I didn’t have even a second to let the pain come, but tears flowed. It is so painful to watch the world continue to move with you not in it. I hate how the numbers continue to increase – days, weeks, months, seasons, holidays. They push us back, but some days, I can feel us pushing harder. Challenging the pain. Trying to push the door open to let the memories back in, bringing only joy with them. We hope.

One year ago, Toby at one month old.


I went to a new gym the other evening. Walking in I was nervous. It’s new introductions, new people. New me. At the end of the class the instructor was acknowledging everyone’s great job and she said, “Give a hand to Katie! It’s her first class with us. She chases two babies around all day and she did awesome!” 

Wow, talk about reality. I was standing facing the mirror when she said that and I just watched my face. I didn’t even feel like I was making an expression, but my eyes shocked me. Looking at my reflection made me want to cry. My first thought was, “Yes, I chase my two boys. One around the house and one in my mind. Every day.”

I’ve lost my identity over the past 10 months. Really, I lost myself August 24 when you were taken from our arms. But it’s only recently that it is visible to me. I don’t like the new me but I am very aware of the reality that I will never be the person I was before August 24. When you were in our arms. When I sang you to sleep and you woke up in the wee hours with the biggest smile on your face just to see me or dad. God, I want those moments back, Toby. I want you back. I can see your face at 2am and I hope that’s what it looks like when we see you again in Heaven. Excited, loving, happy. 

You continue to be in every moment of our days. The song on the radio. The way the sun shines through the clouds in the evening. The verse in my evening prayers. The numbers on the clock. The voice in my heart. 

People may think I sound crazy when I say this. And maybe I want to subconsciously hear these things, but there are moments during the day, when my mind is just blank and I’m staring at something or thinking about a decision we have to make and that’s when I feel it. Deep inside, there’s a subtle thought that enters my mind “I’m right here, mommy.” I swear it’s you, Toby. Guiding me. Assuring me. Holding me. Letting me know you are close.

I have seen many things the past week that refer to angels among us. Pray to them. Listen to them. They are closer than you think. They are talking about your path while you are resting

I can only imagine the beauty of your face, now that you are in Gods presence. You were such a beautiful baby and always calm and happy. The people who are fortunate enough to have you as their angel, Toby, have been granted more love and joy than they will ever know. Daddy, Luke and I, we know that love, we know that joy. We cling to it every single day when we talk to you and pray for your presence. 

Toby’s baptism day – August 14, 2016


Thank you for working with God to clear the path for mom and dad. We know you have a hand in what is given to us and what is diverted, each hour, each minute. We hope that you are proud of what we are doing in your memory. We continue to talk with people, discuss our hopes, tell your story and above all, say your name, Toby. We continue to make sure you are somehow a part of everything that we do and we hope that when you see us, you can feel the love for you, my sweet boy.

We love you, Toby. ❤️

This butterfly was on my windshield when I got in the car at the gym the other evening. A message from my Toby 🦋

2017 Innovative Educator Award

2017, Dan, Family, Joy, Marriage, Parenting

With Father’s Day this past weekend I was thinking about what I wanted to write about my amazing husband and even more amazing father to our boys.

Last Tuesday, Dan received the Michel J. Farrell Chair in Honor of Thomas N. Southard’s Innovative Educator Award by Shady Side Academy and my excitement and pride for him were the exact words I was looking for to describe the incredible man he is.

For those that have the privilege of knowing Dan, or Mr. Stern, you know how infectious his personality is. He exudes what it means to be a positive role model. The children that he has taught, since beginning his teaching career eleven years ago at Shady Side Academy, have embraced our family because of the support, encouragement, and positivity that Dan has given each school year, each summer at camp, each year that he’s moved dormers back into the dorms, each day he’s stepped foot into school, or out the door onto campus.

This year has been especially hard, having to return to the classroom after our son Toby died, but he did it. Each day and week was not as easy or tolerable as other years, but he persisted, with grace and professionalism because of the gift he has, because of his dedication to his students. He has more patience than many and his ability to turn a situation at a breaking point into the most amazing learning experience is something that I admire most about this man.

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I have had the pleasure of spending moments in his classroom each year and the energy and joyful passion that each third grade class has held, continues to grow, year by year.

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Moving Up Day is always a special one in our house because after the day is done I get to hear about who he saw – what parents stopped in, what students came to say “goodbye” and what lifers came back and spent time laughing and reminiscing in his classroom. Whether we are attending an SSA function on one of the campuses or enjoying the city of Pittsburgh, we are continually stopped by parents, grandparents, boarders, faculty, camp counselors and students who always greet Dan with a hug, and handshake and a smile. “Hi, Mr. Stern!” I can see it in their faces, they are truly grateful for the positive impact my husband has had on their lives. He smiles, laughs, and can remember every single one of their names. Every single one. That is a gift.

moving up day 2017 1

He is a modest man, he will not make a big fuss about this award. So I will. He deserves the fuss. He deserves the acknowledgement. He deserves the “Congratulations.”

Shady Side Academy – to the administration, faculty, staff, dorm community – our friends who have become family – to the families that have supported Dan, the legacy families of SSA whose children have all gone through Mr. Stern’s Third Grade Classroom – Thank You! Thank You for acknowledging this amazing teacher’s talents and for encouraging him to continue with his passion and cheering him on along the way.

Dan, the roles and projects that you have taken on, even started at the Academy, since you began teaching in 2007 are woven into every chapter of our life. I have watched you, year by year, continue to succeed, learn, grow and open the door for others – students and faculty – that you have been a role model for.

graduation 2008

You are the best example of a husband and father and Lucas and Toby are so very lucky to have you as their dad. I am blessed to stand by your side as you continue to “knock it out of the park” and show me how to take chances, go for it, and even if it’s not the right fit – have fun while you’re doing it! Luke will have a million high-fives for you and our precious Toby is looking down from Heaven, smiling, saying “Hey, that’s my Dad! He’s the best!”

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When receiving the award, these words were used to describe Dan, “to be an innovative teacher means to be a motivating teacher.” That could not be more spot on.

Congratulations on the recognition of your excellence, dedication and service to the students of Shady Side Academy and other Pittsburgh families with whom you have crossed paths over the last eleven years!

Cheers to the next decade of teaching!

 

 

http://www.shadysideacademy.org/page.cfm?p=17035

The Farley-Kluger Initiative – Parental Bereavement Leave

2017, Creating Change, Family, grief, loss, Parenting

www.farleykluger.com

Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back

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.

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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 ITSHARE 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.

www.farleykluger.com

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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.

Happy FIRST Birthday, Toby! 

2017, Family, Joy, Toby

Dear Toby, 
Happy First Birthday, sweetheart!! I woke up today wanting to run to your room to sing you happy birthday and kiss your chubby cheeks. I’m sure Luke would be right at our feet jumping to grab you and singing with us. 

We have spent nine months talking about you in between the sorrow, but in between the tears we’ve been imagining the milestones, too. Your first time rolling over. Clapping. Pulling yourself up. Holding your favorite toy for the first time. Sitting up. Eating fruit – would you like bananas? We know from experience that Luke was not a big fan at first! Reaching for your toes and sucking on your fingers. We know that you are doing all these things in Heaven and we’re cheering you on here, on Earth. Even the ones that will be coming soon – your first steps! Your first words, probably dada, but I’m hoping for mama at a close second. Your favorite books or songs – give us signs to what those are and we’ll read them and sing them for you. 

Your brother adores the ground that daddy walks on. I have a feeling, from the bond that we shared, you may have been the one to be my shadow, my sidekick. But there would be no denying you were your fathers son. Identical twin, down to the natural hawk your hair had, from the moment it was brushed after a bath. You are so beautiful. 

You were the one that made us a family of four. You came into our family with such ease and – JOY! There’s no other word to describe it. You fit right into the mix from the day you were born and we continue to have moments, with each passing week, where that joy and synergy of our family of four is present in our home. 


We are so proud of you, Toby, for everything you did for our family and everything you continue to do as a messenger of Heaven for people here on Earth. 

Today, on your birthday, we will sing, have cake, light candles, have mass said in your name, cry, hug, celebrate and remember that perfect little boy that made us parents again. Made Lucas a brother. Made our family whole. 


We love you, Toby! Happy Birthday, my sweet boy! Today is your day – do something amazing. Enjoy your cake! Smile for mommy, daddy, Luke and the rest of your family and friends who celebrate your life and thank God for the 12 weeks you were here on Earth. 

More hugs and kisses than 12 months could hold – 

love, Mommy 

Nine Months

2017, Family, grief, loss, Toby

My Sweet Toby,

We miss you so very much. I have spent this past week fighting the flashes of time. Fighting the pain that each memory brings. I have tried to prepare myself for this very week. But, as with the last nine months, there is no way to shield my heart from the pain that comes with the love we have for you, our son.

We continue to have people tell us that you are in the best place. You are taken care of. A place more beautiful than we can imagine. You are smiling. I believe you are, but that does not make me want you here any less. It does not make me smile without crying. My heart still breaks because I cannot hold you.

I cannot believe it has been nine months since I held you. It makes me angry that it has been that long. I miss you. I want to know if you miss us, but I don’t want you to be sad. I don’t want you to wonder why we can’t see you or why we don’t talk to you if you’re right beside us in spirit.

It makes my heart ache to think that you are here, but I can’t see you or hold you. I’d give anything to give you a hug and a kiss. To sing you to sleep or turn on your music box on the crib and watch you watching the fish swim. We haven’t been able to turn that on since you died. I stood by the crib just the other day with my hand on the button, but I couldn’t do it. I was afraid of what would happen if I turned it on.

I’m sorry that Dad and I have not been as strong this month. We are having a really hard time accepting the reality of you not being here, especially with your first birthday being three days from now. We love you, Toby. We try so hard each day to be strong for you and for Luke. You boys are our reason for taking another step. We try to do hard things every day, not because we want to, but because we know you would want us to.

We feel you with us. We know from what Luke says that you are with him often. We ask the angels to take our love to you. To tuck you in each night with hymns, kisses and sweet dreams. We pray that the last nine months have been filled with beauty, grace, love, and happiness for you. That you have been able to provide joy and smiles to many, as you travel the path that God has paved for you. One that we don’t understand, but one that we are trying to trust, through the unimaginable pain.

We hope you hear our prayers, Toby. We hope you feel us missing you and know that while we count the months that you have been gone from our arms, we see them as days closer to the time that we are reunited with you in Heaven. We love you more than you could ever imagine, Toby. No amount of time will ever change that. We miss you more than you will ever know.

love, Mommy

Was always so curious, even at a few weeks old.

❤️

I’ve Been Preparing for This Week

2017, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

….or so I thought.

This time last year I was counting the last 7 days of being pregnant with our second baby boy. Thanking God for a healthy pregnancy, for a healthy baby, and praying for a healthy delivery.

I have been preparing myself for this week for awhile. Praying. Writing. Meditating. Distancing. But I’m not ready. I haven’t been able to walk into any room in our house this evening without crying.

The memories. His beautiful smile. He was always so happy. I want to hear him laugh.

Just like for Christmas, we should be picking out a toy he would like for his first birthday. Not standing at the bakery counter trying to explain to the ladies that we want a memorial cake made for our son, who would be a year old. Them looking at us with pity in their eyes as Luke tells them “We need a cake for my brother, Toby” without hesitation. And then they say, “Maybe you could draw something out and bring it back to us, because we’ve never done something like this before.” I just smile and walk away, as Luke says “Where’s Toby’s cake?”

I can feel my heart breaking again. I sat at mass this morning with Luke in my lap, staring at the altar. Wondering again, what Toby was doing in Heaven? What would he be doing if he were here with Luke and I right now? Sitting in my lap? Playing trucks with Luke on the pew? There is just always something missing from our life. Every single minute of the day.

I found this image today and it has tugged at my heart. 


I’m going to use this as hope this week. We need lots of hope. And prayers. Our hearts are so deeply missing our sweet Toby. Our handsome, soon-to-be, one-year old.