American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance: Supporting a Family After the Death of a Child
Whether death occurs in the context of a chronic illness or as the sudden loss of a previously healthy infant, child, or adolescent, the death of a child is a highly stressful and traumatic event. Psychosocial support for families after the death of a child embodies core medical values of professional fidelity, compassion, respect for human dignity, and promotion of the best interests of a grieving family. The pediatrician has an important role in supporting the family unit after the death of a child through a family-centered, culturally humble, trauma-informed approach.
Pediatricians may be in a unique position to offer grief resources to the child’s school through child life services or social work or other interdisciplinary expertise. Pediatricians may consider extending support to other families or children at the pediatric practice who may know the child or family as well as office staff. Pediatricians benefit from acknowledging the impact of a child’s death on their own well-being with attentiveness to caring for oneself and one another as a professional community.
This clinical report aims to provide the pediatrician with a review of the current evidence on grief, bereavement, and mourning after the loss of a child and with practical guidance to support family caregivers, siblings, and the child’s community. Pediatricians have an important role in helping siblings and helping families understand sibling needs during grief. Ways for pediatricians to support family members with cultural sensitivity are suggested and other helpful resources in the community are described.