SUDBURY -- A Sudbury woman is using her miscarriage as motivation to help other mothers going through the very same struggle.

Lil’ Angel Tribe was started by Annie Pelletier in December. The goal of the endeavour is to create weighted, therapeutic teddy bears to help mothers with the grief after a perinatal loss.

“They are bears where they are weighted the same as the baby they’ve lost,” says Pelletier. “So, if the baby was five pounds, then the bear would weigh five pounds also, and what we find that the way this helps is the parents are able to still keep a connection to the baby they’ve lost. Going through infant loss is very tragic, very difficult and you ache to hold your baby and do something about this loss.”

The motivation comes from Pelletier’s own loss. After giving birth to daughter Maya Emond, Pelletier and her husband, Michael, were expecting another child. Unfortunately there was a miscarriage 13 weeks into the pregnancy. While more than ten years have gone by, she says the pain is still there.

“I have to say, coming home, I hugged my little Maya as hard as I could and it was a sense of ‘I’m going to lose her too,’” Pelletier recalls. “We as a family also hurt, but we also talk about the loss. So, we’ve tried to just make this part of our life and open up about it. Where I’m at now, where I feel strong enough to say ‘you know what? I can share my story and try to give back and reach out to others,’ because it is a very difficult part of life to go through.”

A long-time volunteer with Butterfly Wings Perinatal Bereavement Services, Pelletier says a part of every bear sale will go right back to the charity, which helps mothers during a challenging time.

One of the unique parts of the project is the fact that it is a true family affair. All of the bears are made in house, with Pelletier being joined by her two daughters, Maya and Micha. Maya says she loves doing this with her family.

“My favourite part about this is that we’re helping everybody and it’s a good way to help our community because I love volunteering and helping people who need it," said Maya.

While the cuteness factor of the bears may be enough to sell some customers, Pelletier, who is a registered psychotherapist, says the science is there to support the benefits they can bring. She says while grieving mothers are the primary market, people battling a variety of challenges can see benefits.

“We also have the comfort bear where you don’t have to have experienced infant loss to benefit from this,” Pelletier says. “We know that the de-pressure that we get from holding a weighted object helps regulate our emotions. So, this is something that can help children, elderly that live alone, people with anxiety; we see a lot of that in my line of work anyways and also children with ADHD, autism, all of those things. So, anyone can benefit from this, it’s just a really nice touch to add to your life if you need company.”

Daughter Maya, the youngest of the family, adds a special touch to the project. A budding artist, she offers artistic bookmarks to the packages.

“My favourite part is that we can incorporate art into this,” Maya says. “So we can give art to just make people happier.”

Pelletier says she’s hopeful that through the endeavour, she will help break down negative stigmas on talking about grief.