Meeting, Greeting and Honoring Our Post-Pandemic Selves

While the entire world has shared the challenge of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has experienced this profound crisis in our own way. And each of us has a story to tell, even if it is simply a recognition within our post-pandemic selves that we are emerging from our pandemic experiences—whatever they may have been—as changed people.

As we here in the United States, and other areas of the world, begin to reemerge into what comes next, it is important to take a moment and reflect upon who we have become, what matters to us now, and how we want to shape our personal and professional lives to align with all of this newness. Our stories hold the gems of insight and understanding needed to inform these essential choices.

What is Your Pandemic Story?

Our stories help us to make sense of what we have been through and who we have become as a result. Whether you share your story with others or not, the act of reflection empowers understanding and illuminates the choices that are available to you as you turn the page begin the next chapter of your life.

If you have not done so already, take a moment to reflect upon your experiences since early 2020 and consider:

  • What left your life that you don’t want to invite back in?
  • What did you gain that you don’t want to lose?
  • What have you discovered about yourself that you want to continue to deepen and develop further?
  • What truly matters most to you now?
  • What do you want your post-pandemic life to look and feel like?
 I highly encourage you to write your story down so that you can refer back to itand add on to itas you and the world continue to evolve.

Who Are These Post-Pandemic People?

As we recognize the newness in ourselves, it is also important to see and honor the newness in others too. As friends come back together, families gather again, teams reconfigure themselves and our social lives blossom anew, it’s essential to meet and greet each other with fresh eyes. We are all changed. That means that who we are—and how we are—together will also be changed. It is important that we hear and honor each other’s stories as we reconvene our shared lives and set our sights on what comes next.

Questions to Invite Others to Share Their Stories

Here are some questions you can consider using to gently invite others to share their pandemic story with you. Of course, you will need to consider and honor your relationship with the person and adjust your level of inquiry accordingly:

  • What did you miss the most during the pandemic?
  • What was most challenging for you?
  • What, if anything, did you lose?
  • What, if anything, did you gain?
  • What did you discover about yourself?
  • What brought you the most happiness?
  • What we do you not want to return to doing/being?
  • What do you want to keep going forward?
  • What matters most to you now?
  • How do you want to honor what matters most to you going forward?

As people share their stories, listen with care and compassion. Be curious about what the person is revealing and ask questions that encourage the person to share at whatever level they  feel comfortable with. Stories belong to the storyteller. Only the storyteller knows what the story means to them. Listen deeply and consider what you are learning about this person from what they are sharing. Be open to meeting them where they are at now, without judgment or resentment for who you believed them to be before the pandemic.

Responses to Acknowledge Their Stories

Simple responses such as the following are ways to acknowledge that you heard and honor what was shared with you without stepping on the sacredness of the story:

  • Thank you for sharing that with me.
  • I’m sorry you had to go through that.
  • I can appreciate…
  • I’m grateful that you…
  • I’m excited for you because…
  • I’m hopeful that…
  • That sounds like it was very difficult.

What do we want to create together?

We have the chance to reinvent our shared experiences. Let’s not waste this precious inflection point by failing to recognize the opportunity. I have heard so many people say that they do not want to go back to the life they were leading before the pandemic slammed on the breaks. If we truly want to have different experiences, we will need to actively choose to.

post-pandemic selves

As you bring your team back together, reunite with friends, and reconnect with loved ones, consider setting aside a time to hear each other’s stories. Consider listening for themes that emerge and use them to enter thoughtful conversations about agreements or guidelines that you want to embrace going forward. Perhaps your team wants to find ways to travel less, or wants to institute a practice of checking in on a personal level going forward to ensure that everyone is getting the support they need. Maybe your friends will agree that it is okay for people opt out of an event without making them feel badly for choosing to take some down time. You might even set some guidelines and make some choices of your own that reflect what you learned, who you have become and how you want to evolve as a result of your pandemic experiences.

Granting Grace

By granting each other the grace of honoring who we have become, we can begin anew. That is a gift that we can all share and benefit deeply from.  By listening to each other’s stories, we can harvest the insights that have grown out of a truly challenging season in our lives. When we choose to honor those insights with actions, we reap the wisdom we gained and plant the seeds of more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Register for our virtual dialogue on this topic: Building Stronger Connections with Our Post-Pandemic Stories

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