This.is.not.normal: Reflecting on Roles Pre- and During the Pandemic

In this session, participants will reflect on how their various roles and identities (e.g. student, child, musician, prom-goer, etc.) have been affected by the pandemic. They identify the roles that they are still inhabiting and have the opportunity to grieve the roles they cannot play right now.

Objectives:

  • To identify which identities and roles of theirs have been affected by the pandemic
  • To have the opportunity to mourn the roles that they are not able to play and experiences they are not able to have because of the pandemic.

Materials:

  • Whiteboard on Zoom (or other platform you may be using) Set up the whiteboard prior to the start of the session by clicking on the Share Screen button. Add the text found in the “Roles You Play” section below. Once the list is set up, you can stop sharing the screen. The list will remain on the whiteboard ready for later in the session.
  • If you are using Option 2 below, contact participants prior to the session and ask them to have a rock or piece of paper for the meeting
  • Candle and matches (if this is your ritual), suggest to participants that they prepare either with their own candle, or a GIF of a candle on their phone.

Opening (20-30 minutes)

Check in with participants by doing one or more of the following:

  • Roses and thorns: Invite each participant to share one good and one not so good thing that’s happened over the past month.
  • Memes: Invite each participant to share one of their favorite memes or videos that they have seen recently

If it is your ritual to light a candle and say the prayer for the new month, do so now. Encourage participants to light a candle along with you, or to hold up a gif of a candle.

Meditation (5 minutes)

Lead participants in the following meditation.

I invite you to find a comfortable seat and close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your legs against the chair, and feet against the floor. Notice any sounds in the room around you. Now, picture yourself February 15th before many of us had ever heard of Covid….it’s the middle of winter…it’s an average day…feel the weather outside…picture yourself and what you’re wearing…. Think about what you are doing in a typical day/week . . . How does your day start? What happens next? Where are you going? Who are you with? What are you thinking about? Let your mind completely re-experience your full life…No judgement – anything that you thought about is the right answer. Take one more deep breath in and out. Now, open your eyes.

ASK:
  • What was that like for you?
  • What was easy about it? What was hard?
  • How does it make you feel to think back on your pre-Covid life?
SAY

However you are feeling about this is okay. In fact, one of the things that may be confusing or feel complicated is that we are all getting a lot of messages about how we “should” or “shouldn’t” feel and about our privilege at this time…and that can crowd our very real feelings of sadness and loss and anger. And while yes, it is true that so many of us are fortunate to have Netflix to binge on all day, or lucky that we hopefully aren’t sick, this does not mean that the ways in which you miss your “old” life are not very real.  What we want to do today is of course to hold the gratitude for what we do have – but also honor the parts of our lives we are currently missing, as well as the many things we have had to let go.

ROLES YOU PLAYED (5-10 minutes)

SAY:

Chances are that when I asked you to think about yourself on February 15th, you pictured yourself in a lot of different places other than your house. You may have been at a basketball court because you were on the basketball team, or in the theater, because you are an actor, or maybe in your favorite coffee shop, because you are a coffee drinker.

SHARE the following list on a whiteboard:

SAY
Here is the beginning of a list of various roles you may have been playing – or looking forward to playing – in your pre-pandemic life

Friend

Prom-goer

Track star

Student council member

GSA participant

Youth group member

Student

Mall-goer

Babysitter

Gamer

Movie-goer

Soccer team member

Activist

Cheesecake Factory- goer

Daughter

Iced coffee drinker

Student

Actress

Employee

Sister or cousin

 

ASK
  • What is missing from the list? (if participants are having trouble coming up with roles, ask them to think of an activity that they do often and then add “goer” or “doer” to the end of it)
  • ALLOW participants to add other roles, reminding them no role is too small or silly to list here!
SAY

Part of what has happened is that some of these roles are still part of your life, and some are not. You may have new roles now and you may not.

ASK for examples of each from participants. (Offer one yourself if they need help getting started. For example, I am still a daughter, but I am no longer an iced coffee drinker because my favorite coffee shop is closed). ALLOW as many participants to answer as possible.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU MISS? (10 minutes)

ASK:

Look at the complete list and take a minute to decide which role you are missing the most right now.

Remind participants again that there is no judgment here – if their beloved coffee shop is closed and they desperately miss that, its 100% fine to say “iced coffee drinker.”

ENCOURAGE participants to write down the role they are missing most and a few sentences about why.

  • When was the last time you got to play that role?
  • How were you feeling then?
  • What about the role made you smile?
  • What about the role was challenging?
SAY

While we all need to keep trying to move forward and function in our new reality, we also need to acknowledge and accept the many feelings we are carrying about ways in which our lives have changed, and the roles we no longer get to play in school, in our community or in the world. These likely include: sad and angry. They may also include relieved, or a mix of a few different emotions.

Letting Go Ritual (10 minutes)

Choose one or more of the following activities to help participants grieve and let go of the roles they cannot play during the pandemic.

Option 1: Dibarti/Shamati Ritual

Send pairs of participants into breakout rooms for about 5 minutes. In the rooms, ask them to take turns sharing the role they are currently missing and why it was so important to them (from what they wrote). When one of them is speaking, ask the other one to just listen. After they each finish, the speaker should say “dibarti” (I have spoken), and the listener should say “shamati” (I heard you). Then they switch roles. You might want to put this in the chat before you divide them into breakout groups:

  1. First speaker shares. Partner listens. (2.5 minutes)
  2. When first speaker is finished, they say, “dibarti” (I have spoken). Listener says “shamati” (I heard you).
  3. Second speaker shares (2.5 minutes).
  4. When second speaker is finished, they say, “dibarti” (I have spoken). Listener says “shamati” (I heard you).
Facilitator’s Tip: Use the broadcast function in zoom to tell participants when it is time to switch roles (speaker becomes listener and listener becomes speaker).

Option 2: Rock/Paper

Have each participant find a rock from outside (if they have access to one). If they don’t, they can use a piece of paper. Invite them to write the role they are missing most on the paper/rock.

Then, read them the following:

For wisdom in this moment as we reflect on the roles we are missing most, let’s turn to Ruth and Orpah, two women from the Book of Ruth, one of the 5 Megillot (scrolls) in the Bible, which is read on the holiday of Shavuot (usually near the end of May/beginning of June). Ruth and Orpah are sisters-in-law who both experience loss and handle it in different ways. Their husbands both tragically died at the same time because of a famine. After their husbands’ deaths, they each made a different decision about what to do next. Orpah decided to go back to her parents’ home. Ruth decided to venture forward to a new place, the home of her mother-in-law, in Bethlehem, and face a more unknown future. It is a future that ultimately brings her great blessing, a new love, and a child who ends up being the grandfather of King David.

After this pandemic, many of us will be able to reclaim the roles that we have lost during this time. In some ways we may be like Orpah who returned to her family with her grief over her lost husband.  We will go back to our former roles as people who have been changed in bigger and smaller ways by the pandemic.

Some of us might decide to part with certain roles after the pandemic passes, and like Ruth, take on the risk of trying something new, trusting that we will be okay.

Both Orpah and Ruth had to grieve their losses. Neither could bring back what was taken from them. And many of us cannot reclaim some of the roles and experiences that this pandemic has taken from us. We may also find ourselves drawn to new experiences and perhaps new roles that we wouldn’t have found without this pandemic.

None of this is easy. And we might have the impulse to “solve” this. But this pandemic and its effects are not solve-able. Sometimes the only thing to do is sit with and acknowledge our feelings. Take a moment to notice how you’re feeling in this moment. (pause for a moment)

I now invite you to choose somewhere to place your stone or piece of paper. Maybe you place it somewhere in your room as a reminder that you will pick it back up again. Maybe you put it in your garden or in soil with seeds as a reminder that as you let go of it you are changing, growing, and building resilience. Or maybe you have another place in mind for it.

Take a moment and visualize where you will place your stone or paper after this call. (pause for a moment)

As we move through the pandemic and we let go of certain roles, it’s important to acknowledge your roles and identities that are constant and enduring through the pandemic. We are mourning loss and maintaining consistency – both are true in this moment, and both are important.

Lead your group in a closing ritual or take a last breath together before you close.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.