Town Hall Will Aid Those Struggling with Post-Pandemic Re-entry

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 1, 2021

California and much of the country reopening have been met with rejoicing by many people, but not everybody is completely comfortable with jumping right back into their old lives. 

Charles Caldwell, Hospice of Santa Barbara’s director of strategic advancement

That’s the impetus behind Hospice of Santa Barbara’s “Navigating Re-entry” Town Hall, an online forum featuring a half-dozen community leaders discussing the fears, anxiety, and issues people are dealing with in the wake of the sudden end of pandemic protocols. The event, which takes place at 6 pm on Tuesday, June 29, is part of HSB’s Illuminate Speaker Series, which began last summer when the nonprofit that offers patient care services for people struggling with life-threatening illness as well as grief counseling for children and adults, contemplated the impact the COVID crisis was having on the community. 

“There was a lot of anxiety with our clients because nobody knew what was coming next, and people had that deeper sense of things that were normal, whatever that is, had shifted in a powerful way,” explained Charles Caldwell, Hospice’s director of strategic advancement, who developed the series. “Dealing with the mortality of the virus fit within our overall approach towards the psychosocial and spiritual well-being of people when they approach the topic of death.”

The series has presented a wealth of nationally known speakers beginning with Frank Ostaseski and Joan Halifax through Daniel Goleman, who spoke about “Emotional Intelligence in the Challenging Times of a Pandemic” earlier this week, with a special focus on practical advice and tips for “people to use to help them move through this journey in a thoughtful, compassionate, and poignant way,” Caldwell said. Some speakers have drawn as many as 1,000 viewers from across the country and around the world, the robust response a testament to the hunger for healing, he said. 

Now, with reopening having arrived in mid-June, the June 29 panel will address the varying response evoked by the lifting of all restrictions, and how to deal with the range of emotions that have emerged, from joy and relief to anxiety and survivor’s guilt.

Suzanne Grimmessey, division chief of programs at Santa Barbara County, Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health

“People are really at a loss about what the return to normal looks like when they have been shell shocked while other people seem to be acting like nothing happened,” said Caldwell, who holds an M.A. in mythological studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. “It’s not only about continued anxiety about COVID. It’s just a weird, strange time where the basic premises about how you approach the world have altered. There’s no rule book to go by.” 

Indeed, Caldwell himself is among those who found “value” from the pandemic as the lockdown allowed him to be a stay-at-home dad for most of the first year of his son’s life, something he said never would have happened if he were working at the office. Others are fearful of once again dealing with FOMO (fear of missing out) as reopening also means a return of competing demands on our time, as addressed by a recent New York Magazine cover story. 

Caldwell says the panel will talk about such questions as “How do we come back into the world?” to “How do I feel safe if nobody is wearing a mask?” to “Was the pandemic all bad?” to “How do I just start hugging everyone again after 15 months?” and, finally, to “How do we take into the next stage of our lives some of the gold that came along with the dross?”

Kristen Rohm, Hospice spiritual care coordinator

“Part of the purpose of the panel is to help people see that there are others who are feeling the same things they are, identifying and normalizing whatever they are experiencing,” he said. “You’re not strange for feeling the way you do. But it’s also to have compassion for people who have a different point of view.”

Which is why the panel is composed of local experts from a variety of fields and disciplines. Kristen Rohm is Hospice’s spiritual care coordinator while Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido has a perspective from the point of view of parents and their children. Suzanne Grimmesey, division chief of programs at Santa Barbara County, Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health, has the psychological perspective as the leader of the community wellness team, while Yoga Soup founder Eddie Ellner is a somatic practitioner with a long-standing interest in the lessons of death and dying. KLITE’s morning show host Catherine Remak serves as the people’s point person.

The Zoom Town Hall audience will have a chance to pose questions that will be funneled to the panel through moderator Caldwell. 

“When people hear the different questions and the different answers from the speakers, hopefully they really get that we’re all in this together,” he said. “We have to act with kindness and compassion to each other.”

Register for Hospice of Santa Barbara’s Navigating Re-entry Town Hall at

Bodhi Path’s Potluck in the Park

Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Santa Barbara is emerging from online-only offerings to host its first in-person event of 2021 right here in Montecito. Members and friends are invited to bring some vegetarian food to share or just arrive in good cheer to bask in the glow of being with real, live, three-dimensional humans. There’s no formal presentation, although it’s likely you’ll be able to also mingle with local resident teacher Dawa Tarchin Phillips, the lay dharma teacher, researcher, educator, author, and social entrepreneur who serves as an authorized teacher at the Kagyu School of Vajrayana Buddhism. His secular work focuses on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for school children, educational, and business leaders around the world. The gathering is slated for 5-7:30 pm on Thursday, July 1, at picnic area “A2” in Manning Park.

Bodhi Path SB’s teaching and meditation schedule will once again be available in-person as the center throws open the doors at its downtown location starting on July 7, while continuing to also stream all its programs online at In the meantime, there is a Zoom-only Dawa-led evening on how meditating on the nature of Buddha, aka the awakened teacher principle, can be a shortcut to discovering and realizing our own potential, slated for 7-9 pm Thursday, June 24. Visit


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