Sometimes it all starts with a post. A way to connect with a loved one, amplified. For individuals or families on a journey toward healing or loved ones wanting to follow along during a healthcare crisis, CaringBridge has been on a mission to provide an outlet online.
Over 20 years after the original idea, this nonprofit’s websites remain dedicated to personal health journeys, connecting people from around the world through posts, pictures and updates. Now a documentary series How We Heal spotlights stories of people who are creating their own definition of healing.
The short films and pictures were shot by photographer David McLain, with credits from brands like National Geographic, Apple and Sony. McLain saw an opportunity to talk to families from across the country during some of their most challenging times.
“It reaffirmed that people are much more complicated than that box we put them in,” says McLain. “Every person I talked to had really profound insights not only in how to heal but how to live.”
“Healing isn’t curing. I didn’t realize that. You can be about to die and find healing. Healing is about the restoration of spirit. These people taught me that,” McLain says.
One of the subjects of the series is Edina resident Paula Gleeson. Gleeson lost her daughter, son and husband within the span of seven years. With CaringBridge, Gleeson found an outlet where the search for healing was universal, and her son found a place to connect with others after he was diagnosed with a tumor.
“We all suffer sadness, and we all have hope. When people are good to us, we all feel it,” Gleeson says. “It’s all so inclusive for everyone, whatever their world is.”
While Gleeson says her family will never be the same, she’s been able to use CaringBridge to share her story and connect with people who are going through similar unspeakable loss.
“Sometimes it’s easier to see what other people feel,” says Gleeson. “You can’t empathize until it happens to you.”
CaringBridge hopes to use the series to start a national dialogue about healing.
“It got us thinking about what healing really means,” CaringBridge CEO Liwanag Ojala says. “We all have a different definition.”
The power of community behind the Minnesota-based nonprofit has been a large part of that. Ojala hopes CaringBridge helps solve the “lasagna problem.” When people see a family or friend in crisis, they tend to make a dish like lasagna to help them simply because they don’t know how to help.
“We want to care for each other,” says Ojala. “We just need a better way to show that.”
Lasagna isn’t part of their coding, but there are a lot of stories and strength in the online community. “We were one of the first places on the internet and built for social good,” Ojala says. “There’s been a lot of talk about tech for social good, and we’ve been doing that for 20 years.”
With How We Heal CaringBridge hopes to spread the social good further. Whatever walk of life you come from and language you speak, there are millions of stories to be told and lives that have been and are yet to be healed.