DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom told me that my 10-year-old cousin passed away. My family went to the funeral, but I could not go because I was working a summer job and was not allowed to leave. Everyone else visited with my uncle either before or after the funeral except for me. I usually call and check in, but I hadn't talked to him since she passed. I felt uncomfortable addressing her death because I didn't know how he was doing. I wanted to be able to talk to him and be supportive of him without stepping over personal boundaries regarding where he was in his personal journey, so when I called I didn't mention my cousin's death and neither did he.
Now, six months later, we still haven't talked about it. How do you talk to a family member about the death of his child in a way that is respectful of his space, but also thoughtful? Should I leave it alone since he hasn't mentioned it? Or is it okay to talk about it? -- Sad and Unsure, Rochester, N.Y.
DEAR SAD AND UNSURE: Losing a child is one of the most difficult losses a parent or family can experience. That you were unable to be there for the funeral and to participate in that rite of closure is making it challenging for you to handle personally, in addition to your concern about your uncle.
For your own good, talk to your mother about your thoughts and feelings, and talk to a school counselor if you need more support. In addition, continue to contact your uncle to check in on him. When you feel comfortable, you can ask him how he is managing. But there's no need to pry. You may want to wait until you next see him to talk about your shared loss. If you haven't connected before her birthday, be sure to contact him then to tell him that you miss her on her special day and that you love him.