Grief Topic

Grief Reactions Associated with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

The death of a baby through Sudden Infant Death Syndrome happens out of the blue. The shock and grief can be intense for parents, remaining children, grandparents and other members of the family.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is diagnosed when other causes are not found. Not knowing the cause of death may leave the parents wondering and searching for an answer for the rest of their lives. Media reports about the cause of SIDS can cause ongoing distress for parents and other family members. Police involvement, questioning of the parents or carer and the handing over of the baby to the Coroner for autopsy may add considerably to the trauma of the event and the subsequent grief process.

Factors affecting how people grieve

Guilt associated with this type of death may affect the grief process. Parents and other children often blame themselves and may believe they contributed to the death in some way. Mothers often believe they may have failed to nurture their baby and fathers may feel they have not protected the family. Siblings who loved their brother or sister but may have been jealous or irritated by the baby sometimes take on a burden of guilt by inventing ways of how they caused the death. Grandparents may feel the pain of the death of their grandchild as well as the distress of their own child and relatives.

  • Extended family and friends may help adjustment.
  • The belief system of the family may assist.
  • Unrealistic expectations placed on the child may affect how people grieve.
  • The couple’s relationship may come under stress after the death of a child. Men and women often express their grief in different ways and this may give rise to misunderstandings.
  • Resources, communication and the support by other family and friends may affect the grieving process.
  • The person who found the deceased child and may have been involved in emergency procedures could be left with vivid images and doubts about their responses, which may hinder their adjustment. Talking with a doctor about what happened may help.
  • Parents may experience difficulty in resuming a normal sexual relationship after the death of a child.

Ways of remembering:

  • Keep photos of your child.
  • Write down all the memories of your child as a permanent record.
  • Make something in remembrance of your child.
  • Keep a special box of mementos.
  • Create a ritual for special occasions ie lighting a candle on birthdays and anniversaries.

Subsequent children

After the death of a child often parents choose to have another baby as soon as possible to fill the emptiness and consolidate the family unit.

Counsellor’s recommend time for grieving before a subsequent pregnancy so families may adjust to their loss and avoid giving birth close to the anniversary of their child’s death.

Most families who have had a subsequent child express feelings of healing and relief after the event.

Throughout the pregnancy and first few months after the birth parents may be anxious and require family or professional support.