Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a challenge both for the healthcare system and for professionals who have to deliver sad news to the parents. SIDS is a situation when a child under 12 months dies due to unclear reasons. Kail and Cavanaugh (2015) reveal that the US has a higher infant mortality rate than European countries. Parental care, nutrition for infants, and healthcare should be improved to decrease infant mortality. However, in cases when infants died from SIDS, it is essential to support their parents. Despite the issue’s sensitivity, healthcare professionals should be open to listening and comforting bereaved parents.
If I had to inform parents of their child’s death from SIDS, I would have a private meeting with them. According to Garstang et al. (2014), bereaved parents expect emotional support from professionals, follow-up appointments to receive further support, and an explanation of why their child died. Hence, during the initial meeting, I would honestly confirm their child’s death and would provide a clear statement of its causes if they would be already known. It would be accompanied by sincere condolence, such as “I am so sorry for your loss.” Next, open-ended support should be offered by saying, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know.”
However, it is better to offer something more specific such as a follow-up appointment to discuss child death review (CDR) results or help from a special support group. For instance, the Alcove center offers individual therapy for grief, loss, and trauma for adults who lost their children. Common Ground Grief Center is another example of an organization that provides free support in a safe place for those who are grieving a death. Such support helps to endure and recover from the painful grief process. I would advise parents to visit one of these local support groups and insist on its importance in addressing the problem.
I would avoid saying such things as “I know how you feel” when consoling parents. People very often try to sympathize by recalling their periods of grief. However, those losses usually are not equivalent and only hurt another person (Garstang et al., 2014). The name of the child who has passed away also should not be avoided during the conversation because silence, in that case, can be “deafening.”
Garstang, J., Griffiths, F., & Sidebotham, P. (2014). What do bereaved parents want from professionals after the sudden death of their child: a systematic review of the literature. BMC Pediatrics, 14(1), 269.
Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2015). Human development: A life-span view (7th ed.). Cengage Learning.