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Ex-Plainview Man Fighting for Bereavement Leave

Barry Kluger lost his only daughter; his efforts for federal protections for grieving parents is gaining momentum.

It's a fate so terrible there is no name for it in English: A woman who loses a husband is a "widow;" a child without parents is an "orphan."

But there is no word to describe a parent who loses a child, perhaps because the anguish is so unspeakable.

And, there are few legal remedies for protecting these parents in the workplace. Some lose pay for being unable to return to work quickly. Others lose their jobs.

Former Plainview resident Barry Kluger is determined to change that.

Kluger lost his only daughter, Erica, in a 2001 car accident in Arizona. She was 18.

Kluger has co-authored a measure to amend the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to add bereavement as a covered condition. In the wake of December's Newtown tragedy, Kluger said the time to act is now.

After the shock wears off, grief "came hard and fast — I was swallowed up in it," wrote Kluger who grew up in Plainview. "At the time I was running my own company, a public relations firm, and I would drift in and out of the office on random days, almost as if I was in a trance.

"...I would sink into the blackest of depressions in a matter of seconds, without warning," he said.

Over time, he met others who had lost their children and began hearing horror stories. Some had to take personal time off from work. Others returned too soon and found themselves listless and unable to concentrate. Some parents even reported losing their jobs in the months following their loss.

With his friend, Kelly Farley, another grieving dad, Kluger has been promoting a petition to Congress for two years now to introduce a "Parental Bereavement Act." The petition, which has the support of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who also lost a child, has garnered more than 40,000 signatures of support. Kluger said those numbers are increasing since the Newtown horror.

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The effort also has the support of Long Island Congressman Steve Israel, D-Huntington, who plans to re-introduce a related bill in 2013 in the House of Representatives to complement a related bill in the Senate.

“It is unacceptable that parents coping with the loss of a child cannot use FMLA leave to grieve for their loss," Israel said adding grieving parents must be allowed "to take the time they need, knowing that their job will be protected. Parents should not have to decide between their job and taking the proper time needed for both themselves and the rest of their family.”

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a researcher at Arizona State University and the founder of the MISS Foundation, which provides support to grieving families. Cacciatore has been studying the emotional, social, cognitive, and economic impact of child death on individuals, families and society for almost 20 years.

"The death of a child is one of the most traumatic experiences a human being can endure," said Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a researcher at Arizona State University and the founder of the MISS Foundation, which provides support to grieving families. "I cannot express to you how incredibly devastating this is to people."

Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, proposed the Parental Bereavement Act, which would amend the FMA to incorporate extended, job-protected leave for the loss of a child. Tester had been moved by the letters of constituents who had signed on to to the Farley Kluger initiative.

Kluger's allies are setting up meetings on Capitol Hill next month, timed to the 20th anniversary of the FMA. Major political figures say they are willing to listen.

The idea is to amend the existing FMA legislation, which allows a parent to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a sick family member or their own illness, or for the care of an injured service member.

"But if you lose a child, you're pretty much on your own," Kluger said.

You can support the Farley-Kluger Initiative to amend the Family Medical Leave Act to Include Loss of a Child at Www.farleykluger.com.

Read Kluger's opinion piece in USA Today here.

See information on Kluger's book: "A Life Undone: A Father's Journey Through Loss, here.

Follow Plainview Patch on Facebook here

Barry Kluger January 18, 2013 at 04:09 PM
I certainly agree.Joe is my new best friend from HS I never met.lol.
Joe Dowd January 18, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Jeff, Marilyn and Barry: Patch will be running an op-ed piece from Barry on this subject over the weekend and I'll be keeping readers apprised of developments with this legislation. Thanks for all your kind words.
John T. McCaffrey January 20, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Barry, I have been commuicating with Kelly Farley for awhile. I contacted Steve Israel's office to let them know as a bereaved dad I appreciate his efforts. My son Kieran was killed walking home from his friends house. On February 3, it will be 5 years and we still don't have any answers. When I saw you are from Plainview I couldn't believe it. I am from Massapequa. I contibute a monthly blog to the Grieving Dad's website started by Kelly. Your work and Kelly's work help me to make through another day. I work at Winthrop Hospital and always have been concerned about taking leave for the issues that bereaved parents live with everyday. When I saw the post about about the nurse from Winthrop it confirmed my fears. Thanks for your efforts. John McCaffrey
Jeff Reis January 21, 2013 at 03:11 AM
Joe, maybe your influence will help get Anita reinstated.
bjmook July 20, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Barry, thank you, this needs to be done. I, too, was a Plainview resident for 32 years, the baby I brought to Plainview as a 6 month old was buried from there twenty one years later. It is almost 22 years later and the pain is still with all of his family! I was fortunate that my bosses were wonderful. They allowed me to set my hours, leave whenever I felt I had to, until I could face an almost complete day. It was work that ultimately saved my sanity. There is so much unknown and not understood by the general population about this depth of grief. To address this eight other mothers and I wrote "Beyond Tears" Living after the loss of a Child.

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