Picture: Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash
When Kim Libertini unexpectedly lost her long time partner while they were holidaying together in Vietnam, she found herself overcome by loss and struggled to cope with her daily life.
Meanwhile, over 900 miles away in Decatur, Georgia, Robynne Boyd, an environmental journalist was reeling from a broken marriage and the death of her mother to breast cancer.
The pair were introduced to each other via text by a mutual friend, and not long after, they forged an special friendship bonded by their respective journeys through grief.
“Thankfully, a friend recognized that we were both immersed in the flood of emotions that accompany personal loss” says Kim who lives in New York and is a science teacher by day. Kim Libertini
“We were both flailing at the time. We found each other and through our mutual support, we gained a friendship like no other.”
Over the next two years, they regularly texted about their lives, family, love and grief, and their friendship helped them move from a place of despair to mutual understanding and support.
“If you’ve ever experienced loss of any kind, getting to the other side can be the hardest thing you’ve ever done,” says Kim.
“There is this thing that happens in grief: it’s desperate. Your entire life has been shattered, and you’re grasping for anything that will ease the pain and simultaneously seek for signs that you’re normal, not alone, and will be okay.
“Having someone always there to reach out to can mean the difference between desperation and hope.”
Inspired to extend the same experience of comfort and support to others, Kim and Robynne created an instant messaging app for loss - The Goodgrief App.
Connecting strangers who are struggling with loss or bereavement, it provides a way for them to find peer-to-peer support outside of their social circles, with someone who may live hundreds of miles away.
Incredibly, Kim and Robynne have achieved all this, without having ever spent time face to face.
“Part of our story is that we have not met,” says Kim. Robynne Boyd
“It is proof that we can make new friendships with grief as the common thread, by reaching out to each other via simple message sharing.”
When you download the grief app, you’re asked a few questions about your bereavement – who, how and when you lost a loved one – and it displays a list of people whose stories most closely match yours.
“There are additional filters that can help you narrow your connections by age, gender, religion, time frame, and type and cause of loss, so you can find others like you” says Kim, who adds that all chats are private and secure.
“We do not offer counselling nor do we prescribe ways to help. Goodgrief is about the comfort, support and understanding that comes with connecting with others who get the rollercoaster of emotions that come with grief” she says.
With a focus on loss, the grief app also provides support for people coming to terms with the end of a friendship, marriage or other distressing life loss, and not necessarily grieving someone’s death.
Being heard and acknowledged really helps people to validate their emotions says Kim.
“Having someone to talk to, who understands, who doesn’t feel the need to have a ready solution, means the world.
“We’re thrilled to be part of the wider conversation which says that grief is a normal and natural part of human experience – so let’s share it and lighten each other’s load”.