Cot death, also known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), occurs when an apparently healthy child passes away without warning. The majority of these deaths occur as the child is sleeping at night. However, they may also occur while the baby is asleep during the day and very rarely whilst they may still be awake. Although studies have found a number of risk factors which may lead to cot death, a lot is still unknown about this syndrome and the potential causes that lead to it.
Even though the exact causes of cot death are unknown,it is thought to be the result of a combination of factors:
Experts believe that SIDS affects babies who are vulnerable to certain environmental stresses during a particular stage in their development. This sudden death may be the result of a premature birth, a very low birth weight or due to some unknown, and as yet, undiscovered factors.
Environmental stresses could include being around smoke; minor coughs, colds and other illnesses; becoming entangled in their bedding or experiencing difficulty in breathing due to some external factor.
Some babies have trouble dealing with these environmental stresses and their bodily functions experience difficulty in regulating their heartbeat, breathing and body temperature.
Some cot deaths have been linked to accidental suffocation, hypothermia and, in some cases, parental neglect.
What caused my child to die of cot death?
Although studies list a number of reasons linked to cot deaths, there still exists a number of unknown causes. For parents that have suddenly lost a child, the burden of not knowing why their child inexplicably passed away can create feelings of guilt and blame. Many question whether or not their actions played a role in their child’s death: should I have used different bedding? What should I have done? I should have known that something was wrong.
Whilst this is normal, questioning the death of your child only makes the grieving process more painful. As Muslim parents, know that nothing you did – or did not do – could have prevented what Allah (glorified and exalted be He) had decreed.
The sudden death of a beloved child is a test sent by Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to bring you closer to Him, to trust in Him and to have that unwavering faith that, as difficult as it is for you to acknowledge, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) knows better and destined your child for Jannah. Focus on the story of Zaynub (RA) who watched her child dying. Her father, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), gave her this advice:
“Surely, Allah takes what is His, and what He gives is His, and to all things He has appointed a time … so have patience and be rewarded.” [AlBukhari]
Have patience; allow yourself time to grieve but always remain steadfast in your belief and trust of Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Take solace in the fact that you did everything possible in your capacity as loving parents to protect your child.
Grieving needs time and it may be difficult to let go of the guilt you experience but know that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) is Most Merciful and Most Loving and in turning to Him, you will, insha Allah, find peace.
There is going to be a post mortem. How do I deal with this?
The inexplicable and sudden death of any child is a cause for concern and the likelihood of a post mortem being carried out is very high. The post mortem takes place to identify a cause of death as no pre existing condition was known.
If a post mortem has to be carried out, know that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) is all Merciful and that the laws of the land have to be followed. Your child will not feel the pain of the post mortem as they have already entered Jannah. Their body is just the physical shell they inhabited in this world. As mentioned by Al Bukhari, your child is now in the beautiful care of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him):
“We set off, and we came to a verdant garden, in which were all the colours of spring, where there was a man who was so tall that I could hardly see his head in the sky. Around the man was the largest number of children I had ever seen…” Then among things that the two angels explained to him was: “As for the tall man who was in the garden, that was Ibraaheem. As for the children who were around him, these are all the children who died in a state of fitrah.” One of the Muslims said: “O Messenger of Allaah, what about the children of the mushrikeen?” He said: “And the children of the mushrikeen.”
As a couple, grieve together and remember that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) hears all that you say aloud or that your heart aches for. Take solace from dua and dhikr; ask Allah (glorified and exalted be He) to grant you ease and to alleviate your pain. Take comfort in the promise of Allah (glorified and exalted be He) that your child has been guaranteed Jannah and that you have been promised his/her intercession on the Final Day:
It was narrated that Abu Hassaan said: I said to Abu Hurayrah: Two of my sons have died. Can you narrate to me any hadeeth from the Messenger of Allaah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) which will console us for our loss? He said: Yes: “Their little ones are the little ones (da’aamees) of Paradise. When one of them meets his father – or his parents – he takes hold of his garment – or his hand – as I am taking told of the hem of your garment, and he does not let go until Allaah admits him and his father to Paradise.” [Muslim]