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)

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.