At the kitchen table: the future of glow

photo by  R. Siegel

photo by R. Siegel

Dear Readers,

For three weeks now, we've been talking about what Glow in the Woods means to each of us.  Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts and input with such candor and openness, during this period of reflection.  We, the regular contributors, feel such a sense of relief and gratitude to have been reassured about Glow's value, in your life, and on your unique grief journey.

For our last kitchen table discussion in this series, we want to talk about the future.

It is probably the most important discussion of the lot.  One which will help us stoke the embers in our fire, in just the right way, for the benefit of Glow's readers, new and seasoned.  One which will help inform how we preserve the best of what Glow represents, while gently evolving our look, feel, content and the ways in which we are found by weary wanderers in the woods.

We want to hear from you as to what should stay, what should be enhanced or emphasized, what has grown stale and needs a refresh (or a swift kick out the cabin door) and how you believe we'll best stay relevant and current to our readers.

So, go ahead—dream away.  Tell us what you think, about where we go from here.  Help us capitalize on what has been, for us, and we hope, for you, such a meaningful and reassuring month of reflection. —Gretchen

First, we'll give you some insight into what each of us, Glow's regular contributors, want and anticipate for the future of Glow. 

Burning Eye: Glow has been such a refuge over the past few years. I want it to continue to be a refuge for others, even as I am drawn here less in my grief. I am heartened and grateful to all the responses from readers over the past few weeks, seeing what Glow means to everyone. That it means the same things to others as it has meant to me has left me a bit in awe. What other community can fulfill our varying and oh-so-personal needs?

When I first came across Glow, it was primarily a literary writing site about babyloss. Over the years, though, it has expanded to be so much more than just reading others' beautiful and hard insights into loss and grief and rememberance. Now, for me, it is mainly a site for support. That doesn't mean I want the literary writing to go away. I feel like that is so much of what sets Glow apart from other forums that deal with loss and grief. I want to see strong writers continue to be brave and write what's on their hearts for others to read here. And I want to continue to see the sense of respect and sympathetic/empathetic consideration that we have in our forums, where we can say whatever we need to say and not feel judged. As heartbreaking as all the new stories are, I want the newly bereaved to keep finding Glow, and these little cohorts of support to form and grow and move away.

Book reviews have also been important to me, as an editor. Though we don't get to choose when a new babyloss book is published, or which writers are willing to do an interview and let us review their book, I have really enjoyed that part of my 'work' at Glow. I think it's important to Glow is able to offer a few resources here and there, beyond ourselves. I don't want to see Glow become a "referral" site, but more to point each other to something else literary that has helped us... be it through our community blogroll or the bookshelf. Ultimately, I want it to stay about a community about support and the personal and writing, not research or articles or a collection of links. 

Justin: What a completely exciting and complex question to consider. Glow is, in its current state, more than I could ever imagine. That such a place exists where I could find some measure of comfort amid the swirling confusion of life after loss is truly amazing. More than anything, Glow has given me a voice and not just in the way as a contributor, but long before I ever considered to write down my own thoughts. When I first found the site, I sifted through the archives, bookmarking and reading, making notes and reading again, sharing in the mixed joy and raw pain that others so bravely shared. There is a community here at Glow that continually lends me their voice in the times when I simply cannot find mine.

I will forever want to talk about my children, as would any parent. I will forever have a story to tell that is unnatural and painful, that will have the same heartbreaking narrative regardless of the number of times I have spoken the words. In sharing our story, there will always be a hesitation and calculation in order to protect both my daughter and myself through life's daily unending possibilities. And, despite my hope to become accustomed to carrying this weight, I know that there will always be the possibility that the moments in life will leave me breathless.

It is my want and anticipation that in these moments, I will be able to return to this community and borrow their voices again. It is my hope that others will be able to do the same. I feel that Glow allows for this so very well, which brings the complexity of the question. This cabin in the woods has been built with such care and thought that it can feel wrong, and scary, to think about even the smallest change. What does a continuation or evolution of empowerment look like? To be honest, I knew this question was coming, I had the benefit of previewing the schedule, but I struggle with listing out the practicalities of what a future for Glow might hold. There are small thoughts of content and topics, of books and digital media, of tweaks to design and navigation. There are grand thoughts of increased accessibility, of reaching the newly bereaved early, of the hope that they will find this place useful and comforting before they even leave the hospital. In the end, my hope for Glow is that its community continues and increasing feels like this is a place where they can come to share – the pain, the fear and the joy – and to know that there are others that are listening.

Mrittika: As I keep reiterating in my real-life interactions, as well as on Glow itself, Glow saved my sanity. I was completely alone in a new town with a preschooler to care for, after the trickle of first responders to the catastrophe disappeared. Alone and broken in a hotel, I did not know anyone here, let alone a bereaved parent. It took me many weeks to find something I could comfortably come to, and once I found Glow, I have not looked anywhere else. 

I am technologically challenged, so more of my thoughts about the future of Glow are about its essence and less about its format. This format looks great to me, it is such an elegant, tender appearance when a bereaved parent finds its glow. I know I was drawn to the banner, to the little bird in the woods painting (or etching? I can't tell), it seemed so different than the sugary sweet pink angel websites or those laden with information and resources that I had chanced upon until then. There is something melancholic about the banner, and it is so meaningful to me. I have often used the analogy of flight to describe how my children came to me (a lullaby I made for them and have never sung since Raahi died, goes, in rough translation from my mother tongue, Bangla, "A tiny little bird/Did it come flying to me/Into our home/S/he began a voyage..."), and the way Raahi left. To see that bird perched on the branches, somehow tells me that this is one place where Raahi is back, gently, precariously, and oh so temporarily, to sit with her mother, in between her flights....

I also want the literary writing to continue. Babyloss is ugly, the darkest and ugliest thing we have ever experienced. It almost strips us of everything we knew made us human, and I, for one, have often felt like a terminally wounded animal, wailing from my gut, clawing anything in front of me, dead eyes looking far far away. In the rest of the world, I am socially appropriate with my grief, within my home, I am a hunted, prehistoric beast, in the pages of Glow, I am a human being, a mother, Mrittika. The beauty in these pages astounds me even now, and helps me connect with myself. I do believe I would want to write here for a long time in the future. I also believe that just like we were found, we too can find other bereaved parents who would like to share their grief laced with some beauty and reflection, by becoming regular contributors.

I agree with Justin, if we can get in touch with bereavement nurses and social workers and add our name to the resources they give to parents as they leave the hospital and go into the abyss called their without-baby-life, that, I'm sure, would be helpful. It takes one a long time to find us, and we should be a little more accessible. That being said, Glow may not be for everyone, and being more accessible would necessitate greater control over the comments.

We could add a private group for sharing pictures of our babies, like a couple of years back, when a reader started a Flickr group that people had to subscribe to. I LOVED seeing everyone's babies, and the subscription was only possible through sending the reader an email and her approving it, so it was voluntary and controlled. I am not suggesting that we have a section with the pictures of our babies, since this is a public website. I am suggesting we open another private Flickr account or something similar, and link it to Glow.

I do not know if we maintain a database of private email IDs, but we could add a section with them, of course as safely and discreetly as possible. Again, participation is voluntary. Sometimes we come across a cover piece or a post that we want to comment on, or connect with the writer over, and the thread or the piece is dated, so it's not possible to be in touch. If we had some sort of database, we could look up their email and get in touch. I know the strongest bonds I have made with Glow parents outside of Glow is because either they, or I, decided to write an email. This way, we can also get in touch with the emeriti, and request them once in a while to contribute a cover piece to share with us their experiences and perspectives since they stopped contributing to Glow.

I do think we should add a section with all our babies' birthdays. Readers could share the dates, and some of us can compile the list. Often we do not check Glow in time to read a post by a baby's parent about their birthday. It means so much to all of us to have Glow readers remember and celebrate our babies. If we can add a monthly reminder-sort of thing, like that which comes on Facebook to remind the friendlist about a certain person's birthday, it could be posted at the top of the cover piece that is run on the first Monday of the month. That way readers will know and remember to celebrate the baby on his/her birthday, and also get in touch with the parent.

This site has given me so much. It was my closest confidante when I literally had none. My life, without Raahi, would have been very dark and different without Glow. Whenever I am sad, and I want a refuge, I come to Glow. In the middle of the night, at the crack of dawn, while taking a roadtrip where I am missing the second carseat at the back, while singing a song I thought I had forgotten. All those time my heart wrenches and craves my little girl, to hold her once, see her once. I only have Glow to hold on to as I lay quietly as the wave lashes at me, and wait for it to pass. 

I want Glow to touch the lives of many more bereaved parents, as they are ravaged by a death so severe and so senseless that one loses words, and sometimes all one can do, for months on end, is to read quietly. Glow gives readers that comfort of reading along anonymously, its writers the freedom to bleed their hearts out, and that is so special.

Gretchen:  There is so much about Glow that feels timeless to me.  Someone new to the site - now, in 2020 or 2050 - might sift back through the archives and find the most resonant piece of writing, for his or her broken heart, in a post from the first year of Glow's inception.  The people who come seeking support via the discussion forums are always going to want to tell the story of their loss and their child(ren), in all its nitty gritty, in an unrestricted, free-form way.  The babylost are going to continue to seek out each other, virtually, beyond "like"-ing an article or adding their two cents to a tweet, for real validation, support and friendship. So, foundationally, I want to see the concept and thrust of Glow continue to exist and flourish as it is.  

In terms of what we might cultivate or consider doing differently, I'd really like to make sure the newly bereaved can find us.  Every time I hear of someone who didn't know of Glow in the early months and years of grief, I am saddened at the missed opportunity.  Of course, we need to evolve our findability in a way that preserves our feeling safe, and in some cases anonymous, that prevents (or minimizes) discovery by unwanted or unmerited opinions.  I'd also like to see us add a forum for those of us who won't or can't have children subsequent to our loss(es).  I think there is a real need there that cannot be fully or sensitively supported via the forums that exist today.

Alas, every bit of dreamed evolution must be considered in the light of feasibility and sustainability.  We are an ever-evolving team of editor, forums moderator and a handful of contributors - all of whom have lives and responsibilities beyond Glow.

Julia:  I didn't have the experience of finding Glow, but perhaps the experience of being a part of it coming into existence, and of watching so many people then and over the years find, if not a home, then a way station, and certainly understanding and acceptance, is comparable. Because I thought of the founding medusas as friends and fellow travelers, it had never occurred to me that it might be intimidating to comment here. Thank you, wonderful readers, for sharing that. So my number one thing is to make it easier/more welcoming to comment or maybe even simply "react" in some way. It seems to me that there is a community in that too - seeing that a piece of writing is resonating with other readers even if nobody has said so in words might be affirming and sustaining not only for the writer, but also for fellow readers.

Jo-Anne: I have pondered a lot about this site a lot these last weeks, especially with the background discussions on upgrading and enhancing; I am beyond grateful for the existence of Glow and that I found my way here in 2013 during my most difficult time. Primarily I hope that a lot more newly grieving parents find their way to the safety of these woods and that they find comfort and acceptance here, which is what I experienced when I arrived. Someone logging in for the very first time should know they are not alone in this truly overwhelming time and find the courage to openly explore their grief any way they feel comfortable with. I envision a place where everyone will not only be encouraged to, but want to, share the weight I know I once carried, knowing that there is someone who will share the load or simply listen.

I hope that we will continue to operate in a manner that makes others feel that their stories, their losses, their heartache, their children’s lives are all significant. This community is needed so much. Over the years growing up in a small community, I recall hearing of so many babies dying during or soon after pregnancy, some even in my own family. When I think about it now, all I know is that there were so many precious lives that slipped away completely unnoticed, so many tears were wiped away too quickly, some unshed. I know that would be me if it was not for the support of contributors and readers on this site. May this site offer the light that babyloss parents are searching for in the darkness that follows the tragic loss of a baby or child.

I would like for us to expand our library of resources to include more information. Such as face to face support groups in all the different areas which anyone found helpful. Up to date information parents need and don’t want to even think about. I would love for us to add a memory wall of sorts where parents can add their children's names and birthdays. Maybe we could have a gentle pop up "thinking of baby ... today". I really love Burning Eyes's book review and links to articles suggestion. I have thought about that a lot lately, how important it is to share these amazing writers' stories with the community. Let’s not just be the place they are referred to, but the place in which they find just what they need. Yes, I sometimes wish that we didn’t have to exist, but the need for this site cannot be over emphasized. I foresee us being more interactive with our readers from now on, in the months and years to come. The further we reach the greater the impact. I personally can attest to the benefits derived from his site.

Readers: it's your turn.  Help us evolve.  What do you want for the future of Glow?