Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour.
Today we welcome Kelly Farley, author of Grieving Dads: To The Brink and Back. Kelly’s interview is inspiring and offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to positively support a grieving dad. We thank him for sharing his very personal story and we are grateful for all the work he has done over the past several years to bring support and resources to grieving dads all over the world.
Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences on how your friends and family have assisted you in restoring balance in your life after the loss of a loved one in the comment section below.
And now on to our interview with Kelly Farley…
1. What inspired you to write the book Grieving Dads: To The Brink and Back?
Like most of the men who will read this book, I too am a grieving dad. I lost two beautiful babies over an eighteen-month period, and those losses have had major and irreversible impacts on my life. To be quite honest, my psychological response to these losses scared me. I felt out of control — because I was out of control. I couldn’t change the fact that my children died. I couldn’t stop hurting. I didn’t just cry — I physically wept inside. There were times when there were no tears, and it felt like I was convulsing internally.
All of this scary stuff started to pile up on me, and when I finally decided to check my “manly” inclinations at the door and seek a bit of help, I discovered that I was in for a surprise. Almost all of the resources I could find on the subject of grieving for a child was directed either toward women or “parents.” I put “parents” in quotation marks, because in my experience, most of what I read for grieving parents was written for mothers or by mothers. If I did come across something aimed at grieving dads, it was usually advice about how to comfort their wives.
I’m sure there’s something worthwhile out there. But in the absence of anything that jumped out at me, I decided to pursue the issue myself
2. How did losing your children change your life?
The easier question would be “How it has not changed your life?” Everything in my life has changed, the way I live if, the way I see life and how I now take time to experience it. I use to rush through life thinking that I was this important person and that if I stopped for a moment the world would fall down around me because it needed me that much. I now live my life to help others where I can and try to be a resource to other men that are dealing with difficult things in their life. I try to remember that Katie and Noah are watching and that they want me to live a hopeful and happy life.
3. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did that assisted you through the grieving process?
Some called, most did not. I have found ways to remove some people from my life. I learned to sort out who the real friends are and who were the “good time friends.” I hold no grudge or anger for the people that couldn’t be there for me because I am not sure if I would have been able to be there for others before I lost my children. Most people really do not know what to say or do so they say or do nothing, hoping that their friend or family member will “get through” the rough patch and get back to the way they were before. The problem is until you yourself have experienced the death of a child, you really cannot comprehend that there is no going back to the person you were before. It’s not possible and the sooner you realize that the sooner you can remove all of the personal expectations you place on yourself.
4. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process. What suggestions do you have for our readers on how they can support the men in their lives that are grieving the loss of a child?
As a result of the Grieving Dads Project, I have spoken to hundreds of grieving dads and the one thing I have learned is people need to tell their story. Not only do they need to tell their story, they need to be allowed to share their emotions while telling their story. The following are a few ways to provide support to the Grieving Dads you may know:
- Encourage them to talk about what they are feeling and thinking (even the really dark stuff).
- Remind them that they are not alone.
- Let them speak openly about their pain.
- Do not try to solve their problems and be a good listener.
- Encourage them to find support groups for men. These groups could be grief related or a group of men that are all dealing with various life struggles.
- Do not push them through their grief and allow them to tell their stories.
- Allow them the time to process what has happen to them.
- Allow them to turn to or away from their faith as needed.
- If they start to cry, let them, it helps cleanse the soul.
- Let them know you are there for them at anytime of the day, and mean it.
Keep in mind that people that are grieving are ultra sensitive so it is important to think before you speak. Understand how your words may be interrupted by the receiver. If you really don’t know what to say, say nothing. There is healing in silence so it is better to sit quietly and listen than to fill the air with words that are not helpful.
5. What do you wish your family or friends had done differently after you lost your children?
Acknowledge my children’s death. Acknowledge the impacts that child loss has on a person. I know it’s hard to understand if you have not been there yourself, but try. Remember anniversaries and birthdays just like other people in the family. I could go on and on. This is a subject I touch on in my book.
6. What suggestions do you have for men that are told to “toughen up” and not show their grief?
During my deep struggles with grief and what I had been taught about it, I learned something. Something really, really important. I learned that grief is really not my enemy at all. Instead, grief and any way it might be expressed — whether through tears, anger, fear, physical exhaustion, illness, or a lack of confidence — is a natural reaction to catastrophic loss. If there’s any “right” way to grieve, if there’s any “should” at all, it’s that we should feel extreme sadness, frustration, and anger.
And believe it or not, we should feel pain. This may be obvious to some, but for me it was a necessary lesson. I’m reasonably sure there are many other guys out there who are as confounded by their reaction to loss as I was, and thus had plenty of lessons to learn as well. Hard lessons, for sure. But very necessary ones.
Perhaps the most profound lesson is that it takes far more courage to live through the pain of grief than it does to deny your natural reactions and emotions. And it takes far more courage to challenge the conventional wisdom of “toughen up.”
7. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?
Grieving Dads is not a “soft” how-to grief book or a pain-drenched memoir written by a brokenhearted father as a form of personal therapy. Rather, it’s a gripping collection of survival stories by men who have faced the aftermath of losing a child. They are real stories that pull no punches and are told with raw and brutal honesty. Even in the midst of devastating tragedy, we all know that men are typically expected to be strong, silent types who tough it out and don’t talk about their emotions, especially not grief. But this so-called conventional “wisdom” is a lie. Not only do men need to talk about their grief, they are desperate to do so. The core message of Grieving Dads is “you’re not alone”. It is a message that desperately needs to be delivered to grieving dads who often grieve in silence due to society’s expectations.
8. What would you like our readers to know about you, your book and your website?
Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back is available on my website at www.GrievingDads.com and is also available after June 11, 2012 on Amazon.com.
About Book and Grieving Dads Website
I developed the idea for Grieving Dads in October of 2009, and by January of 2010 I had launched the www.GrievingDads.com blog. Literally within a few days, I started to receive emails from grieving dads from all over the world. I started to collect detailed online surveys in the spring of 2010, and by summer of 2010, I started traveling to conduct interviews for this book. The face-to-face interviews continued until the fall of 2011, and I spent the last eight months formulating the lessons I learned from these men into this book.
During this time, I discovered that these “silent grievers” actually hungered to share their stories, to speak their children’s names aloud and describe what had happened. Now, having completed my interviews with men from “this terrible, terrible club,” I have collected the most vivid and illuminating stories for Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back. Stories appearing in the book have been carefully selected to represent a cross-section of fathers, as well as a diverse portrayal of loss. This approach helps reflect the full spectrum of grief, from the early days of shock and trauma to the long view after living with loss for many years. In short, any father who has lost a child was welcome to participate in the project and encouraged to do so, and thus any bereaved father will find brotherhood in these pages, and will feel that someone understands them.
About Kelly Farley
Like many men, I was caught up in the rat race of life before I experienced the loss of two babies over an 18-month period. I lost my daughter, Katie, in 2004, followed by my son, Noah, in 2006. During the losses and the years that followed, I felt like I was the only dad who had ever experienced such a loss. I realized that society, for the most part, doesn’t feel comfortable with an openly grieving male. This realization inspired me to write this book.
In addition to being an author, I also speak on the subject and work as a Recovery Coach for people who want to put their lives back together after surviving such a profoundly life-changing event.
I maintain a support blog at www.GrievingDads.com and I am currently pursuing a M.S. Ed. degree in counseling to continue my mission of helping others.
I also try to be an advocate for bereaved parents whenever I get the opportunity. I am currently working on the Farley-Kluger Initiative, which will help bereaved parents qualify for an optional 12-week unpaid leave of absence from work in order start the healing process.
Grieving Dads Fundraiser Campaign
On May 17, Kelly launched a 30-day Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help raise the funds to make this much needed book more available to people around the world. His goal is to raise $20k before Fathers Day. Click here to find out more on how you can support this important project.
Be sure to also read Positive Ways to Support a Grieving Dad by Kelly Farley, our featured newsletter article from June 2011.