Most parents who experience the death of a child describe the pain that follows as the most intense they have ever felt. 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.
Emotions that may be experienced include sadness, guilt, anger, and fear. Parents may blame themselves for something they did or neglected to do. "If only" or "what if" become familiar phrases. 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 reactions.
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 grieve in silence. Parents working outside the home are diverted by their work, while stay at home parents 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."
After the initial shock and numbness of the first few days begin to wear off, there are "ups-and-downs" that can be brought on by unsolicited mail giveaways of baby products; thoughtless or innocent remarks from people who do not understand SIDS/SUID; 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/SUID parent. The intense pain that SIDS/SUID parents experience may be eased somewhat if they know what has helped other families cope with a similar grief.
Bereaved 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/SUID or friends and relatives trying to help seem to say the wrong things or appear not to understand. Whatever you may be feeling, or however that grief is expressed, please know you are not alone.
If you would like to request a grief packet that contains helpful resources, or if you would like to be connected to our Peer Contact Program and talk with a parent who has also experienced a loss fill out the form below.