An Interview with Joëlle Croteau-Willard, Baby Loss and Grief Coach

Introduce yourself! Share a little bit of what you do and who you help.  

My name is Joëlle Croteau-Willard, and I’m a French-Canadian business owner. I’ve been 10 years working in personal development, specializing in emotional intelligence training, supporting people, and making very big life transitions and transformations. Focusing on finding their purpose, and then living it. Getting supporting people into shifts in alignment, where your feelings and thoughts are expressed in their action. That’s my background, that’s my expertise.  

How did it all begin? 

Everything basically crumbled when my second son died late term in pregnancy when I was six months. Grief has taken me in a completely different direction. Then I found Dauntless PR by following Iman Gatti and her work as a grief coach. Falling into this, being thrust into life as a bereaved mother. I basically fell off a cliff and decided to stay.  

I decided to switch my focus and channel my tools and my gifts into this arena, because it’s a barren land, there’s next to nothing. Now, my agenda has become to push the need to normalize grief and to support and be a bridge between grievers and non-grievers. There’s no language, there’s no training, there’s no understanding. We live in this bubble of, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ So, we don’t prepare for anything and when things do happen in life, we have no skills. 


What support did you get at the time when it happened? 

I found a pregnancy and infant loss coach that really supported me and put the dots together. My coach said, ‘Oh, my goodness, you have all these skills. Here’s a training.’  So, I did a grief and loss coaching certification. I’ve just been hyper-focused on grief education. It’s just shocking, that in 2023, how taboo pregnancy and infant loss are, how taboo grief is, and how much there’s this global Western agenda of pushing people out of it. I think it’s the effects of having people not wanting to feel and people being uncomfortable with hard things and hard conversations. 

I believe were put here on this planet to work on our souls, it is our spiritual work. It’s the deepest part of us that when we stay plugged into the rat race, we don’t have to feel, but that can only last for so long. The irony of it is, the one guarantee we all have is death. Taxes are technically guaranteed, but you can evade those – you might go to jail for it but it’s possible. Death is literally the one guarantee in life, the one guarantee you will either lose someone that you love, or you will have people around you losing people. It depends how and when you might be touched by a life-shaking loss. Yet, people don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to talk about it, and they don’t have the language. Most of what we’re taught about how to interact with people in grief is toxic. 


As a mother, what you’ve gone through is every mother’s worst nightmare. How have you got through it, to get to where you are today? 

I got through it by completely surrendering to it and by allowing myself to be completely engulfed – swallowed up by my grief. By reaching out and getting support, finding community and there’s a massive community out there.  

There’s a lot of pressure on especially bereaved mothers, and parents whose children have died, to be quiet about it. Because it is the worst nightmare. For me to be able to become a holder of grief or someone who leans in and wants to be there emotionally, for a bereaved parent, you have to be able to imagine and empathize. 

The most common thing that people say about any situation is, ‘I can’t imagine.’ But you can imagine and it is as bad as you imagine. Another one of my goals is to create grief-informed spaces. So much of the workplace, we’re living in a post-COVID-19 world now. If you look at the actual deaths, we are mourning a lot of trauma and deaths from COVID-19. And yet, there’s this idea of pretending like all is back to normal. It’s bypassing the grief. 


Since you experienced your loss, how have you found people’s reactions towards you and your grief?  

What I’ve had the most of is people letting me speak and share. However, it does not go any further than that. It doesn’t become a discussion, people don’t engage.

I’ve also had some comments that I’d consider to be toxic positivity, like ‘Life is when life happens.’ I was in personal development for 10 years and it’s so misunderstood. People think that it’s hyper-positivity, which it’s absolutely not.

In 2019, my father died very suddenly. When he died, I felt completely welcome to post at length about my experience with his death. And yet, when it comes to babies, there’s an unwillingness to hear about it, there’s a complete and utter distaste for it. 

If you think of the perspective of myself and other community loss parents, it’s a feeling as if you’ve gone through the worst ever nightmare and nobody wants to even hear about your baby, they just rather your baby be erased from memory. It’s so complex. For someone who hasn’t lived it, they feel it’s asking a lot. There’s such a disparity between the experiences.  

Luana Ribeira

Luana Ribeira is a best selling author, international speaker and host of business Innovators Radio.