Most parents who experience the
death of a child describe the pain that follows as the most intense
they have ever experienced. Many parents wonder if they will be able
to tolerate the pain, to survive it, and to be able to feel that
life has meaning again. The intense pain that SIDS parents
experience may be eased somewhat if they know what has helped other
families overcome a similar grief.
Emotions that may be experienced
include sadness, guilt, anger, and fear. Sadness is a normal emotion
felt as a result of your loss. Parents may blame themselves for
something they did or neglected to do. "If only" becomes a familiar
phrase. Parents may feel angry at themselves, their spouse, the
childcare provider, the physician, or their baby for having died.
Parents might find themselves angry at God, and religious beliefs
may be questioned. Many parents experience an overall sense of fear
that something else horrible is going to happen. Grieving parents
often fear that they are "going crazy." These are all normal
After the initial shock and
numbness of the first few days begin to wear off, parents find that
they are left with prolonged depression. There are "ups-and-downs"
that can be brought on by unsolicited mail giveaways of baby
products; thoughtless or innocent remarks from persons who do not
understand SIDS; or by the parents, remembering that it is the same
day of the week or date that the baby died. At these low points it
is often very helpful for them to talk to another SIDS parent. For
some families, support may be obtained from friends and relatives,
the clergy, physicians, counselors or other health professionals who
have helped others in similar situations.
SIDS parents find it difficult to
concentrate for any length of time, making it hard to read, write or
make decisions. Some people experience sensations of dizziness or
pressure in the head. These feelings are common in grief and do not
indicate that the person is losing mental balance.
Sleep is difficult, leaving parents
fatigued. If they have a family to care for or a job to get back to,
they may need temporary assistance from their doctor in the form of
mild medication to help them rest. Even with sleep, the feeling of
exhaustion may persist.
Those in grief often experience
muscular problems or other physical symptoms centering around the
heart or stomach. Often they have no appetite, and they eat only
because they know they must. They feel "tied in knots" inside.
Mothers nearly always say that their arms "ache" to hold the baby.
Some suggestions to help breast feeding mothers are available from
SIDS parents may have an
irresistible urge to get away, a fear or dread of being alone, or
unreasonable fears of danger. If they have other children, parents
fear for their safety, yet at the same time they may be afraid of or
shun the responsibility of caring for them. Even with this extreme
concern about their children, parents may be irritated or impatient
with the children's behavior.
SIDS parents rely heavily on family
and friends, but at the same time they may resent that help and even
feel guilty about their feelings. The situation is made even more
difficult when the community around them does not understand SIDS.
Friends and relatives trying to help seem to say the wrong things or
appear not to understand.
reactions of parents may be different
Mothers and fathers express their
grief in different ways. This fact is not always understood. For
instance, mothers generally need to "talk out" their grief, while
fathers tend to suffer in silence. Parents working outside the home
are diverted by their work, while parents working as homemakers are
surrounded by constant reminders. Fathers may find it more difficult
to ask for help and support from others and may seek diversions
through their work; they may even take on extra work to escape
"thinking about it all the time."
Often the loss of the baby is the
first grief situation either parent has experienced. Grief is so
intense that they find themselves struggling for ways to relate to
each other as well as to their friends and relatives. In order to
prevent misunderstanding, most families find it helpful to maintain
an atmosphere in which their feelings can be discussed openly, even
though that is difficult.
The Iowa SIDS Foundation serves the
entire state of Iowa. Grief packets and peer contact support
is available to Iowa parents experiencing a SIDS or SUID death.
Contact our office at 866-480-4741 or
firstname.lastname@example.org for more