Lifting a Weight We Didn't Know Was There: Students Reflect on a Year With Covid

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

We are doing it! We are living in a pandemic, and in many ways we are not only surviving but thriving! We’ve learned to keep each other safe by wearing masks. We learned how to connect even six feet apart. And, we’ve learned a TON about ways to use technology to enhance learning and maintain connection.

In fact, Heathwood Hall has been so adept at living in a pandemic it is sometimes easy to forget the challenges. We have started ignoring the spiritual and emotional toll this “new normal” takes on us.  There is an underlying anxiety that comes from knowing you or someone you love could get sick. We’ve seen how social isolation is affecting our mental health and wellbeing. There’s economic insecurity and overload of uncertainty.

The idea of acknowledging one year of pandemic life is about balancing these conflicting emotions.  We felt that students and teachers alike needed a chance to process our extreme gratitude for this Heathwood Hall, our ability to be in person learning for this long, AND all of the things that may still be worrying and we may be grieving the loss of.  Ignoring emotions is not the right way to deal with them.  In this case you have to acknowledge the array of emotions to normalize it all. 

So, Rev. Williams and the counseling team put together three activities for the day.  Students began the day with a special prayer service including a litany of prayer for pandemic times.  In the Episcopal Church prayers always include acknowledgement of God’s goodness, prayers for the world and its leaders, prayers for the sick, suffering and those in need, and prayers of thanksgiving. 

During advisory students were given the chance to identify different emotions that they have been living with this year.  Each color paper represented an emotion; you might write “extra time with family” on the yellow joy paper or “missing the convocation” on the blue sadness paper.  These papers were all collected and made into an altar linen symbolically laying down all our emotions for God’s care. We will use the altar linen in the Easter season. 

The culminating project was a gratitude exercise to help us remember to give thanks in all things.  Ending what was a day full of emotions with some time to practice positivity. 

From our youngest to oldest students this was an important experience that helped them to process and not hide from all the emotions of the time.  Many of our students were reluctant (as we are) to continue to talk about the pandemic, almost like talking about it gives it power, but when they engaged in the activity they said it was like a weight they didn’t know was there lifted.  They said it helped them find more joy, and that it was helpful. It was an experience that helped them to see they aren’t alone.  It was an experience where surrounded by God’s love, adult support, and community we began to heal.