Pediatrics – MA Center for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Patient Information – Learning About SIDS: FAQs
The Effect of an Infant or Child Death on Other Children
If there are other children in the family, parents may find themselves fearing for their safety, so much so that they have a hard time letting them out of their sight. At other times, parents may become suddenly impatient with the child for no real reason or find it almost impossible to carry on the daily responsibilities of family life. It is important to understand that surviving children are also trying to deal with the death of their brother or sister. They are frightened and confused, and they unconsciously sense that their lives will be changed forever by the baby's death.
Children construct a protective wall of silence around themselves. They may be confused about whether or not it is all right to talk about their dead baby brother or sister – or even acknowledge that the baby ever existed. Surviving children may feel especially guilty for resenting all the attention lavished on the new baby. Did they somehow wish the baby's death? They may be particularly troubled in the case of a SIDS death because the baby seemed healthy and normal, just like themselves. They may be fearful because the baby died while asleep or at rest. Could it happen to them?
Surviving children need to feel that they can talk about these thoughts or ask questions. Young children may have some very frightening thoughts that they cannot express. They may need special attention from parents and other family members or from the family doctor, nurse or other professional. Older children should be told as much as they are able to understand. It is extremely important that a parent acknowledge the disruption to the family unit caused by a SIDS death. Parents need to convey to the surviving children that what they are all feeling is natural and part of the grieving process.