Grieving the Loss of a Baby

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but when that loved one is a baby, the range of emotions—grief, blame, confusion, and sometimes anger—may seem intensified. This is especially true with parents experiencing Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Each year, nearly 4,000 infants in the U.S. die suddenly of no immediate or obvious cause, report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of these SUID are due to SIDS, the leading cause of all deaths among infants, ages 1-12 months. Because there is no explained reason or cause for death, SIDS is often difficult for parents to accept.

According to Kim Folk-Axe, a social worker at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, parents often ask, Why did this happen?

“There is a sense that if they just knew, they could control it so it would never happen again. Few parents get that kind of closure,” Folk-Axe explains. “Often we find parents secretly blaming themselves in some way, ‘I should have called the doctor early.’ ‘I should have not taken that cold medicine. ‘Early in the pregnancy, I was not sure I wanted another baby.’ These reactions are normal, and it’s important to know you are not alone.”

It can’t be repeated enough, “You are not alone.” This is why ProMedica Toledo Hospital hosts a parent-lead support group called CARE (Caring and Restoring Each Other). The CARE group meets monthly, and includes a hospital facilitator. According to Folk-Axe, the group includes newly bereaved parents, as well as parents whose loss occurred several years ago.

“The CARE group helps with the terrible isolation parents feel after the loss of a baby,” Folk-Axe says. “It helps them realize they will survive, even though they cannot imagine it at the moment. “

Folk-Axe says the group provides a sense of hope, especially when now grieving parents get to meet and discuss their feelings with families who went through similar experiences years prior. Parents also discuss coping mechanisms and what worked best for them. And for a short while, newly bereaved moms and dads may be able to step away from their personal grief and help others during the meeting.

To help alleviate the feelings of grief and solitude outside of meetings, parents in the group often share emails with one another, or seek out online support groups. It’s also a relief to know that help is just a phone call away.

“As facilitators, we encourage parents to talk and tell the story of their baby to the important people in their lives. We tell them to say their baby’s name aloud, and to write about their feelings. We are always available for support.”

The CARE (Caring And Restoring Each Other) support group meets the third Tuesday of each month from 7:30-9 p.m. in the meeting rooms of the Harris McIntosh Tower at the ProMedica Toledo Hospital (2142 North Cove Boulevard). Dates for the 2014-2015 year include: October 21, 2014, November 18, 2014, December 16, 2014, January 20, 2015, February 17, 2015, March 17, 2015, April 24, 2015, May 19, 2015, June 16, 2015, July 21, 2015, August 18, 2015, September 15, 2015, October 20, 2015, November 17, 2015, December 15, 2015. For more information, call Patient and Family Services at 419-471-4007.