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
- 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
- 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
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.