“Death is very difficult to talk about. I recognized that very early in my grief,” said Bri Edwards, a Physician Assistant in General Surgery at Monument Health. “People don’t know what to do or to say.”
Her son, Lachlan, was born in 2007. “His smile would light up a room,” she said. In 2008, at 10 and a half months, Lachlan didn’t wake up from his nap. He had died from SIDS. Bri was a mom who wanted answers. What she found was a sacred duty to tell her story and to walk alongside other moms and dads who are experiencing the darkest nights of parenthood.
‘Like a Thousand Pounds on Your Chest’
“SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion,” Bri explained. That means when all other causes of death are ruled out, examiners label the baby’s death certificate with sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. This label leaves around 3,500 families in the U.S. each year with few answers following an unimaginable tragedy.
The grieving process surrounding the unexpected loss of a baby is unique to each parent, but there are elements to that season of loss that are consistent. “The illustration that I use a lot when I’m walking grieving parents through this is that it feels like a thousand pounds being dropped on your chest,” Bri said. “You can’t breathe, you can’t think. It seems like you’ll never be able to experience joy ever again.”
The numbness, the rage and the despair that families experience in the wake of SIDS can seem endless. “But being able to see another family experience joy after a loss can be the start of rebuilding hope,” she said.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
The exact cause of SIDS remains unknown to researchers, but effective ways to reduce the risk of unexpected infant death are clear. One of the most important practices parents/caregivers can observe is safe sleep. Safe sleep practices were established and promoted starting in the 1990s. Research shows this push for safe sleep has led to a decline of SIDS deaths from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 38.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
A Legacy of Hope
At the time of Lachlan’s death, Bri and her husband were reeling and found themselves in a desperate search for help and resources. “We couldn’t find anything in South Dakota,” she said. So, Bri decided to start her own way to support parents experiencing grief from the unexpected loss of a child.
Lach’s Legacy was born. Bri’s organization offers connection, comfort and hope to families in South Dakota experiencing the loss of a child. “We’ve been able to send over 100 care packages to families in their early days of grief,” Bri said
Lach’s Legacy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths in South Dakota. The organization offers connections, comfort and hope for those grieving the loss of an infant.
Brianne Edwards started Lach’s Legacy to help families who are experiencing the unexpected loss of a baby. The newest facet of Lach’s Legacy is available now in the form of a book on coping with grief, A Thousand Pounds: Finding the Strength to Live and Love under the Weight of Unbearable Loss. Bri wrote this book to help grieving parents discover their own journey by guiding them through hers.
In addition to helping families navigate the death of a daughter or son, Lach’s Legacy has been able to contribute to the fight against SIDS by raising over $40,000 for research. Bri and her team are also helping to spread the word on best practices for parents to reduce the risk of SIDS. “We, first, work to prevent families from ever having to experience this tragedy. Second, to provide a warm embrace of comfort in the wake of the unimaginable.”
Lachlan was only in his parents’ arms for 10-and-a-half-months, but he’ll always be with his mom and dad. Every time Lach’s family comforts another family following the unexpected loss of a baby, Lach — in a way — is offering that hug or that listening ear, too.
Here are five things parents need to know about safe sleep:
- Place babies on their backs for naps and bedtime.
- Use a firm mattress with tight fitting sheets in a safety-approved crib or bassinet for baby’s sleep.
- Keep loose items out of the baby’s crib — no crib bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets or other loose items.
- New babies should share a bedroom with their parents, but not the bed itself.
- Look for signs of the baby overheating like sweating or being hot to the touch.