Each individual team member at Stratos has their own unique passion projects and things we devote our time and energy to outside of work. From nonprofits to other jobs to hobbies, everyone has something that fills their heart in a special way. As a team, we love to celebrate each other’s passion projects because working on creative projects outside of Stratos can fulfill other parts of our lives AND inspire us when we are back at work.
I shared a while back about how I’m prioritizing my mental health as a 26-year-old widow, part of which includes a group called Widows Lost & Found. When my husband Michael died, I felt so alone. I was suddenly a 26-year-old widow, a fact I could not begin to comprehend. A “widow,” in my mind, was an old lady whose husband died of illness or old age. A widow was certainly not a young woman whose husband of less than a year died unexpectedly. I was positive there was no one else in the world going through what I was going through. I quickly discovered how wrong I was. Friends from all walks of life started reaching out, telling me I should meet so-and-so because they lost their partner, too. I want to meet every single one of these people.I’ve also realized that when you’re 26 and you can’t sleep at 2 am because you’re grieving the loss of your husband, it’s hard to know which of your friends you can call for comfort.For these and so many other reasons, I started an online community called Widows Lost & Found. It is a group for those who’ve lost their partner to find community. I have often found that when I feel helpless in my own circumstances, I find hope in helping others. We’re on a mission to connect 100 widows together because those who’ve lost their person deserve to find an empathetic community of people who’ve been there and who get it when none of our other friends do. Since I launched the group in April 2021, we have grown to 47 members, and our Instagram has 350 followers. By sharing content like infographics and reels, we are not only reaching widows but also helping non-grievers learn how to better support the grievers in their lives.
Widows Lost & Found mainly lives on our Discord server. Discord is a social media platform that is mostly used in the video gaming industry and it acts a lot like a semi-organized group message. I chose Discord over something more conventional like a Facebook group for a few reasons:
- We don’t want to require someone to join a public social media platform like Facebook in order to join the conversation. Discord allows anonymity where Facebook does not.
- As our group grows, we want the online platform to be scalable. Discord makes it easy to create new channels (read: message boards) as needed without junking up anyone’s feed.
We are a small but mighty group who shares everything from memes and WTF moments to tears and heartbreak and everything in between.
As I was dreaming up an online community for widows, I kept coming back to this concept of loss. We as widows have lost so much. We lost our person. We lost the future we expected to have with them. We lost who we used to be. This loss is ever-present and unavoidable, so I wanted our group to lean into it, acknowledging all that we have lost. But I also want to give back. I want to show my fellow widows what we can find in our new lives without our spouses. The community we find is not meant to minimize the loss, but to compliment it, interact with it, and embrace it. Because we lost our person, we are able to find each other. The lost and the found work together to create the new lives we are living.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Widowhood sucks ass. Losing your partner is pretty much the worst thing ever. It just is. As I started developing a brand for Widows Lost & Found, I wanted a break from the suckiness. I wanted to infuse youthfulness and fun into the brand so that when you see our logo or our social media posts, you feel a little happier, a little more hopeful, a little inspired. I collected a bunch of other logos I loved, drew some quick concepts out on my iPad, and eventually landed on our current Widows Lost & Found branding.
Part of developing the Widows Lost & Found brand included drawing a bunch of copy-and-paste-able graphics to make it easier to create social media graphics. I have a folder on my phone’s photo app of a bunch of hand-drawn graphic assets like sparkles, organic shapes, lines and scribbles, and more, all in the WL&F brand colors.
As a solopreneur running an online community that is not my full-time job and earns $0, I’ve had to get creative with how to create content and manage our digital presence. Since many friends of Stratos are in a similar boat with their own businesses and side hustles, I thought I’d share how I set up our online presence in case there’s anything you can steal from my processes.
- Later (app; free) – I use Later to draft and schedule all my social media posts for Widows Lost & Found. What I love about Later is that the mobile app is easy to use, I can save hashtags to easily add them to the end of my captions, and it sends me a notification when it’s time to post. For carousel posts or reels, which can’t be posted directly from Later, I draft them in Instagram and create a dummy post in Later to remind me to post from my Instagram drafts.
- Google Sites (web program; free) – Eventually, I may want a more robust website, but for now. the simplicity of a Google Sites website works just fine. Google Sites uses drag-and-drop editing and is free forever.
- GoDaddy Studio (app; free) – I create 95% of my social media graphics using the GoDaddy Studio app on my phone. I have a folder on my phone of PNG graphic assets that I can add to a graphic in Studio. When I’m done creating a graphic, I save it to my phone, then upload it to Later to write a caption for it. I like Studio because it’s easy to import custom fonts, color-pick from images, and duplicate projects to use as templates.
- Discord (app and web program; free) – The actual Widows Lost & Found group is hosted on Discord, a platform designed for gamers and streamers. I like that Discord provides an anonymity that Facebook doesn’t, allows me to use bots to automate processes, and is scalable for larger groups.
- Buy Me A Coffee – Widows Lost & Found is free forever. If people wish to contribute to my efforts in hosting the group and creating content, they can Buy Me A Coffee. BMAC is a free platform that facilitates crowdfunding so creators can collect donations from supporters.
I built this community because I wanted to support myself and other widows as we wade through grief, but I soon realized it helps many others as well. Non-grievers have reached out to thank me for the tools and advice I provide because it allows them to better support the grievers in their lives. If you know someone that has lost their partner, I would love for you to share Widows Lost & Found with them.