How to deal with our pandemic grief

June 9, 2021

The pandemic has been difficult, to say the least, and even with reopenings and a sense of normalcy, there is still a fog that hasn’t lifted. These moments can be quite disorienting and discouraging as we try to recognize the reality of our lives without slipping out of hope’s grasp. 

I think a major contribution to this fog is that the grief of the last year goes unrecognized or even minimized. Sometimes this occurs when we compare our grief to another’s or ignore it because it feels too overwhelming to face while still trying to navigate the current life season.

Grief is capable of shocking subtleties. And the reality is that we are actually trapped in grief if we can’t recognize what is worth lamenting. We get stuck when we can’t make sense of what has happened, why, or how it affects and changes our lives.

Grief in our current climate

I recently counseled a couple who worked overseas but had to return to the states for purposes related to COVID-19 restrictions, the death of their unborn child, and the repercussions that a medical threat posed to the wife. Under those circumstances, the marital relationship was quite strained, and it was easy for previous annoyances that had been covered up for years within the marriage to be pointed out. The sudden return to the states also meant a lack of closure with friends and co-workers.

That is a lot to grieve and to begin unpacking and processing. Unfortunately, grief was not a priority to the couple. Instead, one spouse focused on the marital frustrations of family interactions, while the other spouse focused on appeasing the other. Both tried moving around the “annoyances” of grief so they could look into returning to their work. This is avoidance, and it is an unhealthy attempt to deal with reality.

Symptoms of grief

Grief is the sense of loss in one’s life, and it comes in many shapes. We may experience the loss of graduations, celebrations or family gatherings, hugs and kisses with grandkids, a job, a break up, a death, not being able to comfort or communicate with those in the hospital, and being unable to even attend funerals. Although these are all varying degrees of difficult circumstances, the impact is the same: a need to process a sensed loss (i.e., grief). We’ve all experienced losses throughout the pandemic, and many of them often go unnoticed. Our lives of normalcy and predictability have halted, and the byproduct of broken dreams and plans gets mislabeled as unimportant in comparison to the medical tragedies.

Grief can symptomize in many ways, and so can our unhealthy attempts to soothe the pain. There may be a lack of energy or an abundance of activity. We might mask pain through overt use of humor, withdrawing from close friends, or with overcommitted schedules. Perhaps there are angry outbursts that blame loved ones instead of having to deal with the painful emotions within. We may even feel isolated from others or experience guilt.

Honoring what we value through grief

It’s unfortunate that we overlook the necessity to care well for each other and ourselves in the midst of all that we negatively experience in life. Grief doesn’t go away simply by avoiding or being unwilling to admit its existence. It doesn’t even go away by acknowledging there is sorrow. We must come to terms with the new reality. It takes courage to recognize loss because nobody wants grief to be a true experience in life. But the truth is we honor what we value when we can also grieve its loss. Until we can do that, it is just a stuck emotion that is like a lodged cracker in the back of the throat.

The good news is that you’re not the only one who struggles, and it isn’t a sign that you’re going crazy. The psalms show us it’s actually quite normal to experience the human emotions given to us by God. These emotions are necessary for healthy living. You can take ownership of your grief and understand what has happened and how you have been affected. I encourage you to reach out to others whom you trust and know will care for you. As a Christian, you have a compassionate resource built into the local church community. And of course, take your grief to Jesus. He knows your sorrows and cares for you (Rom. 8:16; 1 Pet. 5:7). 

Of course, you may need to process your specific issues with a professional counselor. I have benefitted from this and from talking with good friends and my wife. My encouragement to you is to be courageous and curious enough to deal with the grief that may be stuck and overlooked after the challenges of this pandemic season.

Jesse Masson

Jesse Masson has been counseling since 2012 and lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children. In 2020, he started Connected Counseling LLC, a Christian counseling practice that offers professional in-office and teletherapy sessions. Jesse regards himself as a “broken healer” who desires to bring healthy change in … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24