How Do We Look Back on the Last 15 Months?

Last night I led an evening of reflection for the Mom’s Group in my parish. We titled the evening Life After COVID (even as we recognize that it is not all over).

We picked the topic because while COVID affected all of us, in many ways mothers – whether of young children or adult children – often bore a particularly heavy load.  Mothers with children at home were dealing not only with their education, but their unhappiness at not being with friends, as well as own anxiety about how this was affecting them. One survey found that, among employed parents who were working from home all or most of the time, mothers were more likely than fathers to say they had a lot of child care responsibilities while working (36% vs. 16%). Working mothers with children younger than 12 at home were also more likely than fathers (57% vs. 47%) to say it had been at least somewhat difficult for them to handle child care responsibilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

I began by leading the participants in a guided meditation that asked them to reflect back over the last year and then ask themselves questions such as

  • What were some of the feelings I experienced over the last year?
  • What did I find most challenging about my experience this past year?
  • How was God with me in those challenges?  (Did I remember to turn to God at my most difficult times?)
  • What did I find most surprising about the last 15 months?
  • Were there ways relationships were weakened or strengthened?
  • What am I most grateful for about the experience of the past year?  Where did I find blessing?
  • Are there some good habits I picked up during the pandemic that it would be good for me to keep?

What I was struck by in the discussion we had following the reflection was how much the women were able to focus on the blessings of the past 15 months. To be sure, there were a lot of difficulties and anxieties (everywhere, but especially here in the Twin Cities as we faced COVID along with the aftermath of the George Floyd murder). But each mom was able to identify positive lessons and blessings from the experience, and there is no question their prayer lives and relationship with God accounted for that.

One of the women participating last night – named Catherine Lindquist – wrote this morning to tell us that the guided reflection mirrored some of the questions she has been asking herself, as she wrote an essay about the experience. In it, she talks about the loss, but also about the hope, the joy, the creativity, and the gratitude. Here is an excerpt from the essay, which I share with her permission:

2020 was also joy. The slower pace of life allowed me to notice the little things— how going outside, even for just five minutes, lightened my children, transforming frowns into smiles and complaints into giggles. Watching the immense joy with which my six-year-old stopped to pick up fallen leaves, kicked at chunks of snow, or jumped in a puddle filled me with joy, too. I found joy in the smiles on my children’s faces while they played, in the compassion they showed to others, and in the happiness with which they experience life, even with all its uncertainty and scariness.

You can read the entirety of Catherine’s essay here.

And if you haven’t reflected on questions like those above, you might consider doing so.