Father’s Day can be the most painful day of the year for dads who’ve lost their children. Society still expects men to be the “rock” of the family, the strong ones who keep everything together and never show emotions. Men do grieve, of course, and they grieve very deeply. They just may not do it in a way that women understand or expect. Experts even have a name for this, saying men and women have "incongruent grieving patterns."
Barry Kluger is trying to increase the understanding of men’s grief by sharing his own personal story of the loss of his daughter, and frankly discussing the emotional journey and growth he went through as a result. He said, “Men typically feel they cannot grieve as in most cases, they feel responsible to keep the family together. The pain gets buried and either surfaces in a most unhealthy way or stays buried forever.” Kluger, who lives in Arizona, lost his 18-year-old daughter Erica in a car accident in 2001.
When asked what others can do to help this type of dad, especially around Father’s Day, Kluger said, “Wives, parents, children and friends can assist the grieving process by just showing up. Sometimes, a dad will talk, will walk away or sometimes just shut the door. It is vital for those around dads to know it is NOT about them; it’s about the dad’s own discomfort about what to say or do. You can't withhold love or support because it might make you feel uncomfortable.”
Kluger said the most important thing he’d like others to understand about the loss of a child is that there is life for the parents after death, and often it’s a rather rich life. To help others going through this he made his book a no-holds-barred retelling of the highs and lows around his daughter’s death. He offers his perspective of their unique relationship, including the varying emotions he went though as he grieved: pain, despair, anger, shock, humor and a sense of lost love.
Some people wonder whether fathers who no longer have living children should be included in Father’s Day greetings and events. Says Kluger, “Dads will always be fathers to those they lost. The parenting chores may stop but the love never stops.