New support for parents who have lost a child

A new service is offered to help those who have lost a child during pregnancy through to the first year of life

Julie Royston brings a selection of comfort items to parents who are grieving

A West Island doula is pioneering a new way to support parents in Montreal suffering the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, adoption or abortion.

Julie Royston is the only certified infant and pregnancy loss doula in Quebec. She obtained her certification from the Ontario-based Home Hospice Association, which provides the only such program in Canada.

Royston’s doula services are funded by the Home Hospice Association and are free for birth parents coping with the loss of a child under a year old. She offers emotional and logistical support through the loss and up to six weeks afterwards, and will also act as an advocate and liaison for the family with hospital officials, funeral directors and even friends and family, if necessary.

Her services include arranging for photography or plaster foot casts to memorialize a stillborn baby, helping coordinate funeral arrangements, notifying employers or family members of the loss, requesting a private room out of earshot of the crying babies in the delivery wards at the hospital, or just being there when a grieving parent needs someone to talk to.

“It’s really important to know there’s someone the grieving parents can talk to if they’re struggling afterwards,” Royston said. “A lot of people don’t know what to say to someone who has experienced this loss.”

As a mother who has lost a child herself, Royston said she understands the intense and often unpredictable feelings that can leave parents reeling. Ten years ago, when she was six months pregnant, the heart of one of the twins she was carrying stopped beating.

“I didn’t grieve right away, because I was still carrying another child. In my head I wasn’t able to dissociate, but my husband grieved the whole time,” Royston said. “It was difficult because I was joyful and he was grieving. But after my son was born, I grieved, because I had one empty arm, and my husband was happy because the child was born.”

Royston said she is doing this work so she can offer the kind of support she wishes had been available during her difficult time.

Along with stillbirths, miscarriages and neonatal deaths, Royston also offers support to parents who choose to abort a baby or give a child up for adoption. Parents who make these difficult decisions also experience a loss, she said. While these parents also need and deserve support, Royston said many fear to confide in friends and family for fear of being stigmatized.

“I’m not there to judge why they lost a child or how they lost a child,” she said. “I treat it the same way as any other loss.” 

For those who are still looking for support beyond six weeks, Royston recommends transitioning to a grief counsellor or turning to peer support in forums such as the Facebook group she founded for parents who have lost a child.

For more information, visit

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