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On the last track we discussed three phases of adolescence. The three phases of adolescence we have discussed are early adolescence, middle adolescence, and late adolescence.
On this track we will discuss the responsibilities of therapists regarding clients grieving the death of children from SIDS. We will also discuss the 6 common features of filicide (fil’-a-side) or death of an infant. The 6 common features of filicide are first children, aged less than 7 months, suffering from seizures or apnea, recent hospital discharge, time of death, and mothers who smoke.
As you know, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is an otherwise unexplainable, yet natural death of an infant. Only after ruling out all other possible causes of death can SIDS be diagnosed. However, you may also be aware that Emery, Taylor, & Emery conducted a study which suggested that as much as 10 percent of deaths classified as SIDS may not be due to natural causes. This study also suggests a reluctance among healthcare professionals to suspect parents of harming children, sometimes even in the face of strong evidence.
The case study on this track represents a mother who grieved the loss her two children. Until a pattern had developed, the deaths of her children had been misdiagnosed as SIDS. Only after healthcare workers became suspicious, did the truth come out that the mother of two was responsible for her children’s deaths. The value of this case study is in alerting healthcare professionals as to how easy it can be to empathize with a client.
Would you agree that such an empathetic response could contribute to resistance to serious consideration of evidence? However, such an empathetic response of course is the initial response of any healthcare professional. Only occasionally is it necessary to be more suspicious of the presentation of clinical problems.
#2 Case Study
As you can see, though Missy acknowledged her guilt internally for killing her daughter, externally she showed only signs of grief. Through her displays of grief, her friends and family only saw a sad mother. Do you agree that empathy was established through Missy’s grief?
Missy had described her first child as badly wanted and wonderful. Missy described her second baby as a burden. Missy stated, "I really resented this child, really resented her, because all I ever wanted was my first daughter." Missy described feeling anger rather than concern for her second child.
Missy described killing her second daughter when she stated, "I knew exactly what I was doing, oh yes, I just, oh you know, I hated having to get up to feed her. I hated doing this and hated doing that. Well, I thought, OK. I never got caught for my first child’s death, I don’t want this child, how am I gonna get rid of it, you know, so I smothered her the same as the first one."
Both deaths of Missy’s children were initially diagnosed as SIDS. After suspicions arose following Missy’s apparent lack of attachment for her second child, investigators found her guilty of killing both children.
Do you agree that Missy’s strong emotional bond with her first child created painful grief even though she was responsible for the child’s death? This grief led to others empathizing with her and therefore not suspecting Missy had anything to do with her first daughter. The subsequent lack of emotion following the death of Missy’s second child created no empathy, leading to suspicion.
#3 Common Features
Of course, the presence or lack of these factors by no means defines a case of filicide, but, as you are aware, these are simply warning signs. In the same way warning signs for child abuse are used, these common features simply act as a reminder. Could utilizing warning signs regarding filicide help you maintain an objective approach in your practice?
Do you agree that it is possible that it allayed suspicion in professionals?
On this track we discussed the responsibilities of therapists regarding clients grieving the death of children from SIDS. We also discussed the 6 common features of filicide. The 6 common features of filicide are first children, aged less than 7 months, suffering from seizures or apnea, recent hospital discharge, time of death, and mothers who smoke.
On the next track we will discuss the first of the five challenges of a grieving child. The first of the five challenges of a grieving child that we will discuss is security. We will also explore the four methods for reestablishing security. The four methods are actively manage the level of change in the child’s life, actively increase the level of predictability in the child’s life, deal with any of the child’s health concerns, and increase the child’s feelings of control.
The Death of a Child
- Anastasi, JM, Ed. 2011. The Death of a Child, The Grief of the Parents: A Lifetime Journey (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death and Pregnancy Loss Resource Center at Georgetown University.
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