Honoring a Child After a Loss

By Catherine Pearlman

August 8, 2015 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My neighbor lost her son suddenly to an unexpected illness. It was terribly sad, and the entire community rallied at the time to support the family. More than a year has passed and life has moved on. I sometimes think of her son and want to mention him. But I don't want to upset anyone. What is the best way to honor this child to the family? — Walking on Eggshells

Dear Walking: After a child dies a part of those parents die, too. This may well sound cliche — but it's not. The pain never goes away, and a parent never moves on. Even when it looks like life has returned to normal and may even be wonderful in many ways, the parents never forget the lost child. Or recover from the heartbreak.

There are reminders of their son everywhere. While school shopping Dad sees a lunchbox his little guy would have loved and pauses for a moment. When the family goes to a prom party, Mom thinks, "I wonder who my son would be escorting?" They pass his favorite restaurant. They see his friends in the playground. They sleep with his teddy bear for comfort.

After the ordeal of the funeral, most friends and family return to their lives. Often the family is struggling with how to honor the memory of their lost loved one, too, in a world that seems to have moved on. The family is probably looking for someone to mention their son's name. By all means, say the name. Tell the family when you are reminded of their son. They may break down into tears but that isn't a sign not to mention the child. It just means they are hurting. Be that person who helps them remember all that made their son special. They may not be able to thank you, but they will be thankful.

Dear Family Coach: My 6-year-old has many potty accidents. She was slow to potty train and continues to have evidence in her undies that she isn't listening to her body. I have tried everything from rewards to punishment but nothing seems to work. How can I get her to do all of her business in the toilet? — Endless Laundry

Dear Endless: Oh, yes, it certainly is frustrating to continue to clean up potty accidents heading into the elementary years. But your child is struggling and at this point it is probably a symptom. Before doing anything else, I would take her for a check-up at a good pediatric urologist and a gastroenterologist. Very often, lingering training issues have a medical component that needs to be addressed.

Your daughter might be chronically constipated (even if it looks like the opposite) or she could have a lack of feeling in the places where she receives a signal it is time to head to the bathroom. Several other medical conditions could be contributing to her difficulties. Chances are she is just as dumbfounded as you are about why the accidents are happening.

If everything checks out, take a step back. Help your daughter become in charge of managing her accidents. In every bathroom make sure to have a change of clothes, wipes, plastic bags for the dirty clothes and anything else your daughter needs to clean up. Be prepared with supplies when you leave the house, too, in order to cut down on your stress when there is an accident. Also have your daughter sit on the toilet after breakfast and after dinner to help her use her body's natural rhythms to promote success. Remember, your daughter is not trying to get you. She is having an accident and might also be upset about it. Provide support and comfort when she needs it.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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