The Impact of a Sudden and Unexpected Death of a Child


The impact of a sudden and unexpected death of a child presents unique grieving factors and raises painful psychological issues for the parents and family, as well as those who support them. Parents must deal with a child’s death that is sudden and unexpected; a death so sudden that it leaves no time for preparation or goodbyes.

“If I had known she was so sick, I would have insisted she stay in hospital. But I did not know.”

Any infant or early childhood death forces us to think about our own vulnerability, but a sudden and unexpected death can also bring with it an absence of answers and a frightening loss of control. Most parents feel that nothing in life is predictable, that everything has been turned upside down. Obtaining reliable information and having access to professional support can be significant at this time.

“It was so hard to trust that life would ever be OK again.”

“We both felt so much pain I thought it would kill us. When I realised that it wasn’t going to, I prayed that it would.”

“We were together and shared the grief, but I saw stuff in myself and in Paul that I didn’t recognise. We couldn’t recognise each other, let alone ourselves. Our reactions were so confronting. We wanted to be there for each other but couldn’t even be there for ourselves.”

This article was prepared using extracts from Your Child has Died: Some Answers To Your Questions.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 16/4/24