Unprecedented. New normal. Post-pandemic world.

Those are just a few of the words that have been swirling around after COVID-19 upended our collective lives. The pandemic left so many of us reeling from job losses to losing loved ones, to racial trauma, emotional trauma, isolation trauma—and everything in between.

How do we start to pick up the pieces mentally, spiritually and relationally after so much has changed?

Just as the impact COVID had on us is multi-layered, so is the approach to finding health in the post-pandemic world. Here are three initial steps you and your community can take:

Begin to lament

Though we are beginning to see the world open up again, the reality is that any time we experience trauma or suffering, our bodies keep the score—and we have all been through a major collective trauma. If we want to move forward in healing, it is imperative that we learn how to share our pain and hurt with God. Lament, a biblical expression of crying out to God in grief, is the Christian’s response to pain. We lament for our own pain and for the pain of others.

In Psalm 13, David laments, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” (Psalm 13:1-3).

Do you see the honesty with which David spoke? Do you hear the depth of his pain? Can you feel the desperation in his voice? He did not hold back. And by doing so, David began to experience healing from his hurt. Consider beginning a lament journal, form a grief circle, or host a night of lament with your neighbors. As you lament, you’ll find God’s presence meeting you in your post-pandemic experience.

Seek wise counsel

After the difficulties that have come our way this past year and a half, it can be easy to remain disconnected from others, and even from our own sense of self. We need wise voices to guide us, to help us sift through our emotions, and to empower us to take some initial steps toward healing. Proverbs 13:10 says it this way: “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Our spiritual, mental and relational worlds have gone through a major upheaval. So, of course, there is wisdom in finding a therapist, talking to a safe friend, or sharing your burden with a pastor. In so doing, you’ll find strength and greater wholeness.

Move towards others

When we are hurting, it is easy to retreat in isolation. Add to that, a year and a half of isolation—well, there is an understandable amount of anxiety that comes with returning to social gatherings. Events that used to be easy, like church or work or parties, can be difficult to return to. But we were made for community, and we can find healing in safe spaces within relationships—even if it takes time.

Like the apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians, we are called to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It is through our relationships with one another that we can begin to find the encouragement we need, especially in the midst of our collective new normal.

If you’re struggling to be in community again, take a small step. Invite one friend over to sit on your back porch. Or return to your favorite local spot for a few minutes. Be kind to yourself as you step out in bravery towards others.

By learning to lament, seeking wise counsel, and moving towards others in community, we can begin to untangle the layers of hurt and find hope after (and in the midst of) our season of suffering.

Pastors Brian From and Aubrey Sampson host The Common Good podcast Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm (CT) on AM1160 Hope for Your Life. Aubrey is the author of The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament and the upcoming Known: How Believing Who God Says You Are Changes Everything. Brian leads Four Corners Community Church in Darian, Illinois. They are passionate about civility, compassion, and unity in a divided world.