J oy Sterrett is the gentle soul who stands at the side of grief-stricken parents in their darkest hour. As the bereavement coordinator at Henry Ford Allegiance Health, she’s on call 24/7 to give compassion and empathy to parents who lost a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. “It’s heart-wrenching for the families,” said Sterrett, whose eyes welled up with tears. “They go from celebrating the life of their baby, planning a baby shower and happily looking forward to the future to finding out the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat and having their dreams shattered.” When Sterrett knows there’s a family who has had a loss, she’s the voice of an angel who walks with them through their journey, answers their questions, takes care of their baby, treats them with dignity and respect and provides reminders of their baby’s short life that they’ll treasure forever. “I have seen her come in from home to help patients that are dealing with a loss; she has even cut her family vacation short to help others,” said Sandra Kern, clinical unit leader in Women & Children Services. “Joy has a way of touching people’s lives and giving them comfort.” Embracing life’s calling Sterrett and her older brother were raised in a Christian home by their father, who has been a pastor for almost 50 years, and their mother, a retired dental hygienist and missionary. It was Sterrett’s spiritual values and the deaths of her twin brothers that helped shape her vision and desire to understand grieving parents, including her own. Her twin brothers, Philip and Paul, were born prematurely. Philip lived only a day and a half. Sterrett’s mother made his burial outfit. Paul struggled with health problems since birth and passed away before his second birthday when Sterrett was an infant. She knows that she has three brothers; two have passed away. Her two pregnancies were anxious-filled months with worry for her, her husband, Doug, and stepdaughter, Rylee. Their first child, Chloe, was born nine weeks prematurely. With their second child, Christian, she went into labor at 26 weeks (full term is 40 weeks). “I had a lot of grief feelings that I couldn’t carry him to an age when he could survive,” she said. After 11 weeks of bedrest, their son was born at 37 weeks. He’s now 8 years old, Chloe is 10, and Rylee is 21.