established in: 1997
facebook community: 322K
websites created: 675K
website vistors: 3.2 million monthly visitors
Fact: Every 6 minutes a new CaringBridge website is created.
Throughout her healthcare career, Sonia Brummer has always cared about creating positive impacts for people throughout their healing journeys. As the Customer Relations Manager of CaringBridge, she spends her days taking the lead in helping others create their personal websites, and listening to their health journey stories.
“We know that when you’re in the first stages of a health crisis, sometimes things are just not as crystal clear as what we want them to be,” she told NewLifeOutlook.
“We have a team of people who are dedicated to helping you with [your] questions, unlike other social media [websites], we’re dedicated to health journeys.
“You could even call us, we will pick up the phone, and help you through the site. That level of service makes me geek out – I just love helping people and listening to them,” Sonia says.
CaringBridge’s platform is open to all different health conditions and allows it’s members to create websites – similar to journals – where members can share their health journey, how they’re feeling, and quick updates to loved ones or the whole CaringBridge community.
“There’s a lot of people who care about each and every one of us. We’ve either had a health journey ourselves, or know those who have had a health journey at some point in their lives. It’s just part of the human experience,” she says.
CaringBridge is a trusted named in the chronic health community. Having been around since 1997, the non-profit recently had their 20th anniversary to celebrate two decades of healing and support.
“People trust us, and they’re willing to also share with people, outside of their families and myself and the CaringBridge team. They share with us their most vulnerable moments – what’s going on – and be open and be vulnerable with us.
“It’s such an honor to have people share some of the details of their health journey with us. Because they trust us. I feel very humble to help them and be a part of this team,” she says.
Nearly twenty years ago, Sona Mehring founded CaringBridge when her close friends, JoAnn and Darrin, had a premature baby named Brighid. As a computer programmer, Sona was inspired to create a solution using the Internet to quickly and easily communicate with family and friends during a critical time. The same night their baby Brighid was born, so was the idea that became CaringBridge and the name that came organically out of 'Caring for Brighid.'
“I think it’s a very special and sacred place, [where] they can share very intimate thoughts. Not just medical updates,” Sonia says.
“I recently just spoke to a mother, whose daughter just passed away due to cancer. The mother had told me, ‘You know, even though I was talking to my daughter every single day, over the phone or in person, I still learned new things about her journey based on what she was writing on the CaringBridge site.’”
CaringBridge gives people an opportunity to communicate through writing. Sometimes people can think through what they truly want to say and end up sharing a different perspective about what is happening in their health journey.
“And in that case, it meant a lot to her to have that and to allow that mother to be able to look back and have that journal to reflect on and remember her.
"We both cried on that phone call,” she says.
CaringBridge focuses on the journaling experience and provides the tools for the member and their community to comment on any of their journal posts.
“Journaling can be longer, thought-provoking, and introspective entries – like a diary. You can also do the quick and fast reaching out update like, ‘I am having a great day.’ These journal posts can sometimes be even [just] a sentence [long]. So really, making the journal yours and what you need it for.
“We have to keep things simple. Especially for those health journeys that feel a little bit chaotic at times.”
“If you maybe had a flare-up of some kind, and you’re on the way to the hospital – you might put that in a post as a quick one-liner. When you check your post again later you’ll see loved ones’ comments of support and love,” Sonia says.
The mission behind CaringBridge is to amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier. They also have this little heart with rings above it for members to notify their community about their latest update.
“We have to keep things simple. Especially for those health journeys that feel a little bit chaotic at times, making it easy and simple for people to have a one-stop-shop to have all of their needs met,” she says.
People trust us, and they’re willing to also share with people, outside of their families and myself and the CaringBridge team. They share with us their most vulnerable moments – what’s going on – and be open and be vulnerable with us.
“We know that we cannot always control what happens to us,” Sonia says.
“But we can control how we choose to respond to what’s happening. And we can choose to heal, we can choose to reach out. When we do we’re going to find new forms of healing that we weren’t even expecting.” she says.
Healing is part of the process of living with any chronic condition. One must learn ways to cope with their diagnosis, learn to make lifestyle changes and reach out to those for help and advice on how to heal – both physically and emotionally.
“We find our users have an endless variety of ways that they heal. They have been reaching out and choosing to stay connected with their loved ones and choosing to avoid isolation. Isolation almost and always has a negative impact on healing and on health outcomes.
“These are all things about healing that we know. But to actually have a place to put them into practice is really special.” Sonia says.
“One of my favorite parts of CaringBridge is that amount of control that you have. There are a lot of different privacy options a user can choose, and everyone really has a lot of different needs.
“Depending on the privacy settings, it’ll be easier for people in the community to find you or if you’re a private person you can also restrict it to just the people that you know,” she says.
“There’s a lot of different options for using CaringBridge, and the bottom line is it becomes your hub.”
Speaking of privacy, if a member wants to share their story beyond the website, they can share their latest journal out on Facebook or another social media website.
“There’s a lot of different options for using CaringBridge, and the bottom line is it becomes your hub. It becomes a centralized place for all of your healthcare updates and needs during that journey. It’s really important to have that centralized place for ease of use.” she says.
Members can also start personal fundraising sites through the CaringBridge site and also have their fundraiser linked to their site, so the community can easily find that.
“We want to drive people to the personal fundraising. If that is the kind of support they need.” Sonia says.
You can visit the CaringBridge website and click on the “How it Works” page.
There are some helpful videos and tutorials, and a front and center on how to get started.
“So, we are talking about someone who is making that first step to reaching out, start a site – it takes less than 5 minutes to get up and going – and then you have options to change privacy and personal fundraising, all of those fun tools. It’s very quick and easy.
“You can even set up a site for someone else if you have their expressed permission and they just need some help,” she says.
About 65 percent of CaringBridge member sites are created for someone else. They’re either done by a caregiver or a very close loved one. So that’s another way to get involved as well.
“It’s very easy to search for people, so if you think someone is on CaringBridge, and you would like to find out how they’re doing, you can come to our homepage and get started,” Sonia says.
Create your own CaringBridge website or have a loved one make a website for you.
There are also volunteering opportunities, host fundraising events, and more for the CaringBridge community.
When you have a chronic illness, feeling like you’re part of a community and knowing that you’re not alone in your day-to-day struggles is important.
Some voices in this community stand out as pillars of strength, always there to listen and offer words of understanding and encouragement. Their realistic but positive outlook has a way of empowering others.
NewLifeOutlook’s Community Voices project is our way of recognizing these people — and we need your help to do it.
If there’s a blogger, a tweeter, a YouTuber, a Facebook group creator or a forum moderator who inspires you to persevere in the face of chronic pain, fatigue and brain fog, we want to know about it — nominate them by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
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