Supporting bereaved families
A Professional Response
Involvement in a sudden and unexpected infant death can be stressful for professionals. Whether you’re a paramedic, police officer, GP, Health Visitor or Midwife, involvement with a sudden infant death can be difficult, and can cause you to question your professional capacity and extent to which you should get involved with the bereaved family. Many professionals experience the same anxieties. As SIDS figures have declined professional involvement in these cases is infrequent. Common concerns include “I’m not a counsellor”; “there’s a supportive family”; “I don’t know anything about SIDS”; “I’m not trained to deal with bereavement.”
There are no set guidelines as to how much you should be involved or what you should say, but there are a few things that you can do that will make a world of difference to a parent coping with the loss of a child. Most importantly, make contact, don’t avoid it. When hearing of a bereavement many people including friends and relatives stay away, so even a two minute call will be appreciated. You don’t need a counselling qualification or special training, just a good ear. Here are a few tips.
- Keep it brief.
- Say how sorry you are.
- Use the baby’s name.
- Ask if there is anything you can help with immediately according to your professional capacity.
- Offer future availability.
- Check they have information about The Lullaby Trust, especially the bereavement support number.
- Leave your own contact number
- Use any clichéd expressions of condolences such as ‘time’s a great healer’ etc.
- Ask them to repeat the story unless they are eager to do so.
- Become defensive of your own or any colleague’s practice.
- Speculate about anything you’re not completely sure about.
- Compare it to another case.
If you would like further help and advice, call the Lullaby Trust bereavement support line on 0808 802 6868 or our information line on 0808 802 6869. Both are open to professionals as well as parents.
If you would be interested in organising a training session in your local area on Sudden Infant Death: Caring for bereaved families, contact your local regional development officer.