When a Baby or Young Child Dies Suddenly and Unexpectedly

When a baby or young child dies from SIDS, accident or sudden onset illness, the following guidelines may help you in supporting your other children:

  • Tell your children the truth as simply as possible. If it is too hard for you to talk about what happened, a family member or close friend may be able to help you with this.

“Jackson was 15 months old when he died from SIDS. It is very hard trying to explain to a 4 and half year old and 7 year old why this happens.” (Toni and Richard)

“We told our boys that our baby died from something called SIDS. We do not know what causes it, but it will not happen to you or to Mummy or Daddy.” (Jill)

  • Children need constant reassurance of their parents’ love and affection. This, however, may be very difficult for you, especially in the early days when your own grief is so acute.

“We were as honest and truthful with Dylan and Mitchell that we could be. We involved them in everything. It was important to us that we didn’t neglect them because they were hurting in their own way just as much as we were.” (Toni and Richard)

  • Try and include your children in the events surrounding their brother’s or sister’s death; for example, they can be asked if they would like to see the baby, go to the funeral, do a drawing or write a story.

“They drew pictures and picked out special things for Jackson which we all put in his coffin with him.” (Toni and Richard)

  • Children need reassurance that they were not responsible for the death.

This article was prepared using extracts from What about the Other Kids?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: 3/6/20