It is a terrible shock if someone else’s child dies in your care, whether in your nursery, in foster care or while you were caring for the child in the parents’ home.
You will have been the person who had to handle the crisis, perhaps attempting resuscitation and contacting the emergency services. If you work in a nursery, you will have simultaneously had to calm the other staff and children.
The police will have interviewed you, and you may feel as if your professionalism has been called into question. The situation may have been made more difficult when the child’s parents arrived, and you were not able to talk to them properly while the police still had questions for you.
The exact causes of SIDS and sudden unexplained death in childhood are not known, but you may worry that the death could have been prevented. Even when you are sure you have done nothing wrong, and could not have acted differently, feelings of guilt can be strong.
While the death may have occurred in your care, and you may have been very fond of the child, carers are rarely involved in the events that take place afterwards, which can help people come to terms with a death. You may not get the chance to say good bye to the child, grieve with the family or go to the funeral.
Even though the child who died wasn’t your own, you are likely to be experiencing shock and grief. One nursery owner told The Lullaby Trust:
“Many people asked why I was grieving as the child wasn’t mine. Those comments really hurt and still do. I feel very isolated as there was no one that I could talk to who had been through a similar experience. I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel the pain and isolation I felt nearly ten years ago. There is a need to talk to someone who understands.”
The death of a child may change the relationship between parent and carer and, while some friendships can be strengthened, some parents may not want to see the carer again.
How we can support you
While experiencing your own grief and trying to accept the bereaved parents’ actions, you may find it helpful to talk to an understanding person.
If you would like to talk, you can call our Bereavement Support Helpline on 0808 802 6868 or email email@example.com. Our helpline is open 10am-5pm Mondays to Fridays and 6pm-10pm on weekends and public holidays.