For families who have been affected by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it is essential that there is access to a strong support network to help them cope with the experience. Most parents have a period of grieving and may also experience feelings of guilt.
Additionally, the sudden and unexpected nature of the infant death warrants a mandatory police investigation into the cause of death, which can be very distressing for affected families.
Support within the family
Parents who have been affected by SIDS should be encouraged to be as open as possible with each other. A traumatic experience such as the loss of a child can increase stress levels and put a strain on a marriage, particularly if there are feelings of guilt or blame involved.
It is best to talk through these feelings and doubts. It can take a long time to come completely to terms with the incident and make peace with the situation. The parents and immediate family will feel the loss of the infant most acutely, so banding together to support each other is essential. Some couples may find that counseling helps to mediate the process and express feelings to each other.
Support from others
Many parents and families affected by SIDS find it comforting to talk about the experience with other individuals who have been through the same thing. It can be difficult for other people who have not been through SIDS to understand the gravity of the situation and discussing the challenges with someone who truly understands can be useful.
There are usually support groups organized in most large cities and people who live in remote locations may be able to find support in an online SIDS chat room. Additionally, some individuals may feel the need to talk through the issue with a counselor or clergy member, depending on the beliefs and needs of the individual.
In the United Kingdom, the Lullaby Trust is a service that provides advice and support for bereaved families who have been affected by SIDS, and there are similar services in other regions of the world. Additionally, the Babyloss and Sands websites have useful information available, which may help parent and families to cope with the situation.
Counseling and psychotherapy
Some individuals affected by SIDS may benefit from counseling or psychotherapy to cope with the loss of the infant. This may include support from a social worker, psychologist, nurse, psychiatrist or other health professional, either in a group or one-on-one setting.
Relaxation techniques to deal with feelings of anxiety can also be useful. Examples of these include yoga, meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation.
The healing process
It is important that parents give themselves time to grieve the loss of their child and to heal. It’s normal to feel more emotional than usual, particularly during holidays and celebratory events that are usually spent with family.
As such, the best thing for affected individuals to do is to accept their feelings and allow themselves to express their emotions, both positive and negative. Healing can be a long process, but it is important for affected individuals to have hope and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.