SIDS Deaths Require Special Understanding

Any sudden, unexpected death disturbs the sense of normalcy and security for the victim's family. These deaths force family members and those around them to confront their own mortality (Corr et al., 1991). This is particularly true in the case of a sudden infant death. Simply put, babies are not supposed to die. Because the death of an infant is a disruption of the natural order, it is especially traumatic for parents, other family members, and friends (Arnold et al., 1997).

Like any sudden death, a SIDS death leaves a family with a sense of shock and loss and an urgent need to understand what happened. Lack of a discernible cause, the suddenness of the death, and possible involvement of law enforcement authorities make a SIDS death even more difficult.

A SIDS death also leaves the family with a need for understanding from those close to the family—even the surrounding community. A SIDS death is as tragic as a death from any readily definable disease or cause. Thus, investigators compiling or reviewing the case histories should be especially sensitive and recognize that the family may view this process as an intrusion, even a violation, of their grief. The interviewer should also be sensitive to the family's cultural practices and traditions. The interviewer should point out to the family that although obtaining the case histories may be stressful, this information may reveal that the death could not have been prevented, which may provide some solace to a grieving family.

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