SIDS Program Manual SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide Trainer's Guide

Bereavement Support Services

Culturally-Competent Support Services

Religious, Faith and Spiritual Support

Religious, Faith and Spiritual Support

Spiritual and religious beliefs can also play an important role in the grief process. Parents' beliefs can provide comfort and hope during such a difficult experience for parents. Families may also question their religious beliefs at this critical time in their lives and blame God for the loss of their infant. Members of the clergy and faith-based organizations can play an important role in helping families maintain their faith and accept the death.

Many parents, grandparents and caregivers will seek leadership and guidance as preparations are made for the funeral of their infant, after-care for the family and other ministerial support. Families may look to their faith leader to serve as a consoling counselor, biblical reference and anger manager. Because family members may question their religious and spiritual beliefs, the clergy play an important role in helping families maintain their faith.

Hospitals often have chaplains who provide spiritual comfort to families after the death of a child. Because many SIDS deaths are pronounced at the hospital, a chaplain may be available to the family. The role of spiritual care in patient care is recognized in hospital accreditation standards.

Ongoing support is often provided to families through bereavement support groups sponsored by faith-based organizations. The groups usually meet at the organization’s facilities and vary in format. These may be facilitated by trained volunteers. They aim to provide a safe haven where the bereaved can share their feelings.

Clergy and volunteers report that training on support after an infant death is rare. Clergy and volunteers may also lack training in identifying complicated grief or major depression. To improve services to families or to expand bereavement support within the community, program staff can conduct education and training to members of faith-based organizations about infant death, signs and symptoms of major depression or complicated grief and providing mental health referrals. There are many national faith organizations and resources available to assist professional, clergy and laity and bereaved families.