My Battle With The Beast

2018, faith, grief, loss, Toby

August holds my fear. It holds my happiness and feeling of wholeness. August is where ‘who I was’ lives and ‘who I became’ appeared. August holds my sons last breath. It holds my whole heart. August holds captive my sons future and every motherly wish I could ever have for him.

As I stand on the doorstep of another anniversary, I have started to wander into the past, hoping to pull with me each and every moment, no matter how significantly small, from our final weeks with Toby. But, as it does in a grievers soul, the terrifying fear and stillness, that lives inside the 24th of this month; the demons that guard the door back into my life two years ago growl and snarl looking directly into my face, almost taunting me. “Come in. Step through that door again. You think you have more armor, better armor, this year? Give it a try.” Taunting me.

There have been moments over the past few weeks when I can feel the anxiety of battle manifesting in my bones. Like my body knows what’s coming, but my mind, it is trying to focus. Realign. The ache inside my bones. The heaviness inside my arms – 9lbs of happiness, to be exact, it’s there. I feel it. My heart beating so fast in my chest, I am afraid that because it is shattered it’s going to break lose inside me and I am going to lose the little pockets of hope that I have been digging for, forever.

Have you ever thought about your heart? I don’t mean what the science tells us. I mean really thought about how big our hearts get when they are filled with love – real love?

How do our hearts get that big?

It’s almost as if the happiness, joy, thankfulness, wonder, awe, pride, excitement – it all seeps out into our pours and tells us “This is happiness. This is what you were made for.” Have you felt that?

I have. I did. Two years ago. Toby was 12 weeks old. I was in the car. Sitting at a stoplight, talking and singing with Luke. I sat and watched both of my boys in the rear view mirror – Luke laughing and Toby looking across the back seat at his brother with curious eyes. My heart swelled. I looked at them and thought “My God. They’re so beautiful. I am so lucky to be their Mom. I couldn’t love them more.”

I am caught in that moment. That was the morning of August 24. Those were the final moments I had with Toby before I dropped him off for work.

How in Gods name could I have left him that day and not known how our lives would change?

I can still feel that feeling, except now when it comes over me, tears flow from my eyes so heavily and they don’t stop for a very long time. My breath is sucked out from within and I can feel all the brokenness inside me.

That’s where my happiness lives – inside the early hours of August 24. When I thought I was living my dream. What I had prayed for, longed for, worked for, wished for – my whole, beautiful family. Literally my pride and joy. Were right beside me and in an instant, gone.

That is also where the deepest pain and sorrow, pain I didn’t even know existed, came alive. It was awakened. Its rumbling that day, its pressure to get out of those places it was locked in, and melt my soul, it succeeded.

That pain is like lava, it is so fiercely hot, paralyzing, it melts every other feeling away. It turns every feeling to stone. It molds your heart into a shape that is unrecognizable and also leaves you feeling just the same – “Who is this? Who am I looking at? What did we do to deserve this? Where is my life?”

Where is my son?”

August is my month where all these demons come alive. It is the worst month of the year for me – where I have been climbing to get to for 24 months has to wrestle with the Devil and where he wants to drag me back down to. Where my faith is tested every second of the day and where the pain of becoming a grieving mother never dulls.

Pray for me, as I go to battle with this beast. Remind me, in any way possible, that our beautiful Toby is still alive inside all those million pieces that my heart has been broken into. Show my family his love and joy can make a difference in someone’s day. Those are what I arm myself with as the knob turns to open the door on this horrific month.

August holds my son & my heart.

God help this broken mother make it through.

20 Months of Emotion

2018, Family, grief, loss, Toby

When I first started my professional career I told my mom, “I’m going to have my own company in my 30’s.” I wanted it to be a combination of marketing and community involvement. I never could have predicted that my company would be founded in memory of our son. We never could have predicted how August 24, 2016 would alter our lives. We could have never imagined the impact that Toby’s life would have on so many people and families.

We spent most of today going through legal steps for The Little Fox. We made phone calls, wrote emails, looked at other fundraisers, researched contacts to connect with to help with the mission of Toby’s Foundation. There is joy in seeing milestones completed and seeing an official starting line for this project that we’ve been working on a mere weeks after Toby’s death. There is also an overwhelming sadness that can creep in. We wonder “why us?” “Why Toby?” “Why can’t we trade it all to have him back?” There are no answers, but that is grief. Especially over the loss of a baby.

We went to visit Toby today. We stood at the foot of his grave. It was windy, raining, and so gray. I stood there staring at his stone, but I couldn’t feel anything else. I felt like I was watching us from afar. There was no sound. Over and over in my mind…20 months. 20 months since this cemetery became part of our weekly routine. “I really cannot believe this is our life,” I said out loud. Dan just looked at me and squeezed my hand.

Instead of taking a day off work to take our two boys to the Zoo, the Science Center, the park, our time now is spent visiting our youngest son, at the cemetery. Bringing flowers or crosses, cleaning his headstone, talking to him while we cry.

It is unbelievable. The way our lives and our family has changed since August 24, 2016. 20 months of heartache. 20 months of wondering what Toby would look like now, what words he would know, what his favorite book would be. 20 months spent trying to live each day to the fullest, because we have experienced exactly what it means to not know “when your time on earth is done.” 20 months of trying to make a difference through Toby’s memory in the lives of others. 20 months of missing my son more than any number of words could ever express.

Third Star To The Right

2018, Family, grief, loss, Toby

Today marks another month without our son. It marks more milestones and brings with it more triggers – second spring break trip; first trip with the kids to DC; laughing with cousins and pictures where Toby’s always missing.

Luke reminded us multiple times today that you are here with us and there have been little signs while we’ve been away that tell us you’re never far away.

I sat on the train on our ride back today, listening to Luke tell us his favorite parts of the day and I just kept thinking “Would you have liked that? Would Toby be sitting on my lap looking out the window? Or sitting next to Luke watching him battle super hero’s on his table?”

I don’t have many words today. Other than, the pain is horrible and I’m convinced the constant loneliness I feel cannot be filled or replaced. No matter how much time has passed or how many stars we wish upon.

We were at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space museum today and in the planet exhibit a photo of the solar system caught my eye, but it wasn’t the planets, it was the stars and how vivid they were on the wall that made me stop and look at it closer for a moment.

It made me think of Peter Pan and I walked away thinking “I wonder what star you are?”💫

God’s Timing

2018, faith, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

I lay in bed last night listening to the rain on the windows of the house. The wind blew so fiercely it felt as though it was something swiping through the air, grabbing, lifting whatever it could – then it was gone. I listened to it for a few moments. It happened two, three, times. It felt like I was having a déjà vu moment. I closed my eyes tightly trying to recenter my thoughts, away from the weather outside, then the rain hit again. When I opened my eyes, it hit me. I hit the home button on my phone and Toby’s smiling face appeared; I scanned to the date – the 23rd.

17 months ago Toby was asleep in his crib. 17 months ago this morning I could have looked at him on the monitor and he would have been right there. 17 months ago I could have walked down the hall ten steps and been standing over him. Today, if I walk 10 steps, everything’s still there – except Toby.

For the past 17 months I have honed my “selective hearing” powers. Although well intended, more often than not, a cliche phrase hurts me, more than someone saying nothing at all.

He’s in a better place.

God needed another angel.

Everything happens for a reason.

God never gives you more than you can handle.

…Yes. Yes, actually he can. He did. I was given more than I could ever possibly handle. Our son was given to us – healthy, beautiful, thriving, sweet, handsome, funny, loving – absolutely perfect. Exactly what we prayed for. Then, after 12 weeks and 5 days on this Earth, in one strong swoop, like the rain/wind last night, he was taken from our arms and given his wings.

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It rained the night of August 24. I remember sitting on our living room couch, staring at the wall, listing to the rain. It was pouring. I literally could not wrap my head around what was even happening. I thought “Why would Heaven be crying? They gained the most beautiful angel this evening. They have Toby – why would they cry?”

I’ve had many different discussions with people over the last 17 months having to do with our control in life. My realization thought 17 months of grieving the death of my son – we have no control.

We can do everything possible. Reroute our days; change our schedules; plan for everything; stress over the ‘What if’s?’ It is not in our control.

Matthew 24:36 says:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

We think that we have time. Time to get healthy. Time to take a trip. Time to move across country. Time to take a job you’d never considered.

We think that we have more time. I’ll call my parents tomorrow. I’ll apologize in a few days. I won’t say something like that next time. I will stick up for them (or myself) next time.

What if there isn’t a next time?

We are on God’s watch. Here on Earth.

During the first few weeks after Toby died I walked around in a fog. I’d replay moments in my mind and guilt would set in – What if I didn’t do enough for him? I’d literally drive myself into a paranoia. Until one day, I was so deep in grief and angry with everything and everyone. I stood in our empty house, at Toby’s crib, with my hands gripped on his bed rail – yelling anything and everything to the Heavens.  “Are you listening? We are good parents and we love our boys with every breath we have.

I sank to the floor, crying, repeating “Why did you take him! I don’t know how to do this without him! I can’t do this without my son!

This dark day forever changed my relationship with God. No, I did not receive an answer from Him. I will not have an answer until the day I stand before his thrown, Toby in my arms. I have accepted that. I have not yet accepted His timing. I have not fully placed my trust in His Plan.

This is what I am working on.

There have been numerous times over the past few months where I’ve veered off course. My light has gone out and I’ve had to stop and re-center my thoughts. Sometimes this takes days. I deal with anger, despair, loneliness, emptiness. It is very heavy and dark. But I fight for the light.

We were having a really hard time a few weeks ago. I cried every day. I withdrew from anything that wasn’t necessary. I felt like I was sucker punched with another round of grief. I was fighting for light. I stood at our kitchen sink looking out the window. The ground was blanketed with snow. The sky was grey and I thought “This looks like my life. I never thought this would be my life – no color.” I blinked and to my amazement, right down on our fence post sat a cardinal. There it was – my light. I’ve held onto that moment for the past few weeks – it’s been my center. I am waiting patiently for the Lord. I am working to be brave and courageous.

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To our sweet Toby – I hope your days in Heaven have been beautiful. For every day that passes, I am one day closer to seeing you again. You are our light and Luke is our rock. I will never have a prouder moment than being your and Luke’s mom. I love you to the moon and back, baby boy.

Xoxo,

Mommy

 

Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.

—Ruth 3:18

Month 14

2017, Family, grief, Toby

Toby in his favorite chair - Copy

I love this picture. It is one of the last pictures we have of Toby. I remember this moment so vividly. This was the first time we put him in this chair – and he loved it! He sat up so well and he giggled looking at the little toys attached to the top. Luke and I laughed with excitement, watching his eyes open really wide and looking at us, being so proud of what he was doing.

I look at this picture now and it makes me cry. I can’t look at it without thinking “What would you look like today?” I get angry that I didn’t take a video of him laughing. I’d give anything to hear him giggle. My heart breaks knowing that these pictures won’t be replaced with new ones, older ones, recent ones.

We’ve reached another 24th day of the month. 14 months since Toby left our family and went to Heaven. I continue to struggle with sadness, guilt, anger, jealously, an emptiness in my heart that I know will never be filled.

I love you my sweet Toby. I miss you beyond belief. ❤️

#ourangeltoby #14months #october24 #wemissyou

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 🦋