A Moncton, N.B., mother who is still coping with the loss of her infant son is trying to channel her own grief into something positive by helping other parents manage similar losses.
After suffering the loss of her infant son, Ryker, in January 2020, Layla Michaels started a foundation called Big Hearts Little Stars to honour her son.
“I miss my son every day and I wish he was here but this makes me feel close to him,” said Michaels.
In partnership with the Friends of the Moncton Hospital Foundation, Michaels is now raising funds to create comfort boxes to be handed out at the Moncton Hospital to families who have lost a child. The boxes contain resource materials such as pamphlets and books as well as comfort items for parents and siblings.
“It is items that can help them understand their grief and make them feel not so alone, and to know that there are resources out there to help them when they are ready,” she said.
The Moncton Hospital’s director of women and children’s health, Christa Wheeler-Thorne, said the hospital already provides parents who have lost a child with memory boxes that contain reminders of their child. She said the comfort boxes will add to those supports by providing a resource for parents and siblings who are trying to manage their grief.
“They will be able to look at those boxes and say, ‘OK, there is material in here to help me grieve when I am ready and at my speed,'” said Wheeler-Thorne.
Since everyone grieves in a different way and at a different rate, Michaels says she has also started a private online support group for families dealing with the loss of a child who can reach out online when they’re ready.
“It is just somewhere safe and comforting where you know that everyone in there has walked down that path with you before,” she said.
Her goal is to raise enough funds to create about 100 comfort boxes for families in Moncton. But Michaels said she hopes to expand Big Hearts Little Stars right across the country.
“I would love to be able to provide these boxes to any hospital that needs them,” she said.
While nothing will erase the grief she’s suffered after the loss of her own son, Michaels said helping other parents cope with a similar loss “helps me bring his memory forward in the work that I do.”