By Amanda Perelli
When Huntington resident Kim Libertini isn’t teaching, she’s working on building a digital social network for others, like herself, who are coping with personal loss and grief.
Libertini found help dealing with her personal loss through private messaging with Robynne Boyd, of Atlanta, and now the two have created a tool they hope will help others do the same. The plan for Goodgrief, a mobile app that allows grieving individuals to anonymous connect and chat one-on-one with each other, started in late 2016.
“I had lost my partner,” Libertini said. “It was the summer of 2015. I was in the process of navigating the grief path. A friend that knew my partner that passed also knew Robynne, who at the time was going through a different form of grief.”
Boyd’s marriage had ended before she learned that her mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. A mutual friend felt Libertini could understand Boyd’s situation, as the Huntington resident had been previously divorced and her mother had died of illness. So he introduced them in a group text message.
“Eventually we just privately started chatting,” Libertini said. “We kind of navigated our different grief paths for the course of a year, just through texting, and in a year we built a friendship backward.”
The two women started talking about their grief and losses first, according to Libertini, but as their relationship grew, they started sharing surface-level details with each other about their families and day-to-day lives.
“As we were developing this friendship through texting and this support system for each other, we realized we were onto something and that we should offer this to other people,” Libertini said.
After researching the concept online, Boyd and Libertini failed to find a private one-on-one service — not a Facebook support group or blog. Together, they moved to fund a new app through a partnership with Winnona Partners, an Atlanta-based mobile developer.
Users of the Goodgrief app create a profile including details such as their age, type of loss, who they lost, how long ago the event occurred and can note extra features such as his or her religious affiliation if it is important. Each individual can then choose if he or she wishes to make a connection based on factors such as someone of the same gender or grieving from the same type of loss. Personal contact information, such as phone number or email, is not revealed by the app unless users choose to exchange it after connecting.
The app has had more than 700 downloads and 500 active users since its soft launch in January. Boyd and Libertini have utilized users’ feedback to improve the experience, revising and adding more features to the app. Boyd, a writer, came up with the name Goodgrief.
“Goodgrief is clearly a term we use when we feel overwhelmed and as if there is too much to cope with,” Libertini said. “Simultaneously Goodgrief can mean that there is good to be found.”
The Huntington resident said she is grateful for the deep friendship she’d built with Boyd in sharing their pain and helping one another cope.
Using social media, Libertini said the women have been trying to spread the word of Goodgrief, and hope the app’s community will continue to grow. She wanted to see the app help others, like it’s helped her.
“It’s been a silver lining,” Libertini said. “When you experience a tragic loss it’s often very difficult to accept what’s happening. I think it’s given me some type of purpose. It’s given me focus, and it’s given me the ability to see something that’s very terrible that’s happened to me as something good for someone else.”
When asked if the two co-founders have plans to meet face-to-face in future, Libertini said, “We’ll probably save that for Oprah.”