HUDSONVILLE, Mich — Nearly 10 years later, holding a certain teddy bear still brings Jessica Miller a great deal of comfort.
The bear, gifted to Miller by her husband, was something to hold when leaving the hospital after losing her daughter Brianna.
"I was almost 37 weeks long. I went in for a normal OB checkup and they couldn't find her heartbeat," Jessica recalled. "I held that bear just, and cried for weeks. There's really no words to be able to describe what it actually means."
The Brianna Lee Foundation was born out of the tragedy.
"Seeing how much that bear helped her heal, I decided we needed to help other moms that go through the same thing," said Linda Miller, Jessica's mother-in-law. "Stillbirths are something that people typically don't talk about. So, I just felt that we needed to do something to help these moms."
The foundation started by giving away 100 teddy bears to Zeeland Hospital, where Brianna was born.
It has now grown to help families in 11 states and 150 hospitals.
Linda said, on average, around 1,000 bears are given out each year.
"It's amazing to see the growth. To get the letters from the moms and from the hospitals, to hear how much that little bear is helping them," Linda said. "We cry for Brianna, but we cry for all the other families that have to go through the same tragedy, just knowing their pain."
More families are experiencing similar losses.
According to a large analysis from Lancet Global Health, more pregnant women died, experienced complications, or stillbirths during the COVID-19 pandemic than in years before.
Linda hopes to help families in need in all 50 states one day.
"I want to get one into every mom's hands that needs it, just letting her know that she's not alone, that there are others that have gone through the same pain and that they're in our thoughts and our prayers."
To learn more about the Brianna Lee Foundation, click here.
This story was originally published by Janice Allen at WXMI.