In October, I was able to experience a joyous and long-awaited occasion. Our leaders across Nexus Family Healing gathered in Bloomington, MN, for a three-day in-person retreat. Historically, this has been an annual event. However, due to COVID-19, our last several attempts to hold the event were thwarted.
The anticipation was great as people arrived at the venue and entered the room. Due to the number of retirements over the past two years, growth of our services, and the normal turnover of staff, there were many “new” faces in the room. Some of these leaders have been with Nexus for over a year, but this was the first opportunity to meet each other in person. The joy and excitement in the room was palpable. Comments such as “You’re taller than I expected!” were commonplace and produced many laughs as we were able to see people in 3D (instead of 2D on a computer screen). Those of us presenting remarked that we could put on a lackluster event and people would still rave about how great it was months later, just to be in the physical presence of others.
As I reflect on how fulfilling the retreat was, it is evident that Zoom can never replace the connectedness that results from spending time with another person. It was not that long ago (pre-COVID), where I can say I took that for granted.
Today, people are lonelier than ever. The shelter-in-place orders have lapsed, but the seclusion people are experiencing continues. Withdrawal can have a cumulative effect making breaking the pattern and “getting back out there” more exhaustive as the months have turned to years. People have developed new habits that do not necessarily benefit their overall wellbeing.
At the end of the first day, attendees were dismissed and given free time for dinner on their own. I encouraged everyone to check with their colleagues to ensure everyone had plans for dinner that evening. Several people made mention of how appreciative they were of this suggestion. It is important for us to be intentional about including others because even in this large group, it was possible to feel lonely.
As the days get shorter and people tend to go into hibernation mode, there is a risk that the loneliness people already feel will be exacerbated and raised to new levels. I ask you to join me in combatting loneliness by being a “reach out warrior.” Let people know you’re thinking about them. Call them, set up a virtual meeting, or if possible, find a safe way to get together in-person. As the pandemic continues, we need to balance the risk of gathering versus the risk of not doing so. We’re in this together. Let’s be sure to take care of each other.
This blog article was contributed by Bobbi Kochevar, Chief Operating Officer for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.