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Impact of Death on Parents

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Guilt and Grief

One of the most common parent and caregiver reactions to a SIDS death is guilt and selfblame. Guilt for a SIDS parent is enormous, regardless of what that parent did or did not do. Types of guilt include:8

  • Death causation guilt: resulting from parent’s perceived contribution to or failure to protect the child from death.
  • Illness-related guilt: resulting from perceived deficiencies in the parental role during the child’s illness or at the time of death.
  • Parental role guilt: the belief that the parent failed to live up to self- or societal expectations in the overall parental role.
  • Moral guilt: resulting from the belief that the child’s death was punishment or retribution for something the parent did or failed to do.
  • Survival guilt: the belief that children should outlive their parents.
  • Grief guilt: resulting from the parent’s behavioral or emotional reactions of grief at the time of or following the child’s death.

Anger and Grief

After the death of a child, parents may blame each other for the death leading to anger or conflict. Parents may also blame other family members, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), child care workers or physicians causing friction in relationships and unresolved anger.

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