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2-year-old grieving military dad...

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My wife's brother-in-law was recently killed in action overseas, leaving behind his wife and two-year-old son. They have moved in with us, coming from a base in a different state. My wife's sister is having a terrible time coping with her husband's death (she is very young), and she is suffering from crippling depression for which she is seeing a psychiatrist and a grief counsellor. Unfortunately her illness is making it hard for her to give her little boy all the care and attention he needs at this traumatic time.

Because of the foreign deployment, my nephew didn't know his father well or spend much time with him: Dad was home around the birth, for about four months, and then back for a short leave that ended three months before his death. Still I know my nephew feels the void in his life, and he is also very aware of his mother's suffering. She is doing her very best to care for him, but she is very ill herself at the moment, and can only do so much. My wife is a huge support for her, but there's not much I can do except step up with the household stuff. However, I really want to do what I can to help my nephew, who's also grieving.

I've taken a leave of absence so there's always someone home to care for him when his mother can't cope (my wife was unable to take time herself). I've been focusing on playing with him, reading, crayons, trips to the park, lots of cuddles and singing, but I don't know what else to do.

I know it is best to keep from disrupting a toddler's routine at such a time, and we have been trying to keep it as consistent as we can. This isn't easy with the change of environment, as I'm sure you can imagine, but we're doing our best. I was wondering what else folks can suggest as far as ways to help him. My nephew is such a sweet little boy, and I want him to have a rich and supportive childhood. He's very physically affectionate, and we are trying to encourage that as much as we can. My children (first marriage) are away at college, and I'm honestly out of practice in toddler care. My wife can't have babies of her own, so her last real experience with little ones was when her sister was small.

Has anyone been through the same kind of loss with a two-year-old? I'd be grateful for any advice or stories to help. I don't want to take the place of his father, but I'd love to be a positive male presence in his life.

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Hi GrayUncle,

I am very sorry about your loss. I think it is just so honorable and awesome that you have stepped up to the plate and are helping in this terrible situation. One thing you may want to do is talk to your nephew's pediatrician and ask for advice and how to help. Also, perhaps talking to a family therapist may help you all.


I think you are doing what you can.


We will be here for you,



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