Ministering to women who’ve lost a child

November 21, 2014

In order to help us best minister to women in different life circumstances, I invite women to share on my blog in an occasional series I call “In Her Shoes”. Awhile back, I asked my friend Angela Bassett to share. Angela is the homeschooling mom of three adorable little girls. She and her husband Justin also have a little girl in Heaven, Charlotte Jane. I asked her to help us understand what it's like to lose a child and to grieve with hope in Christ. I also asked her to help us know how to help those who are grieving. I invite you to read and listen with a heart to minister to women in her same position.

On February 17, 2010, as the sun broke through the darkness of night outside of Cook Children's Hospital, Justin and I held the lifeless body of our precious baby girl. After Charlotte Jane's week-long fight for life, her little body had done all it could to survive, and she surrendered her last breath in our arms as we wept and cried out to God in worship.

While we'd known that Charlotte's life would be full of challenges, telling her goodbye just after we'd met was overwhelming. I still remember walking out of the doors of the NICU that morning to see my dearest friend, Taber, sitting and waiting to embrace me and cry with me. She had no words to say that I remember, but she was there. She held me close. She knew that's what I needed. Justin is incredible, and he was such a rock for me in that season, but there was something unique about having a fellow mom there by my side. She truly grieved with me.

In the days that followed, there was a lot to be done: a funeral home to choose and meet with, a cemetery to choose, a memorial service to plan, two big sisters to tell that Charlotte was not coming home to our house, an obituary to write, clothes to pick out, pictures to print, balloons to order, music to choose, a grave to be dug, people to feed, and the list goes on. All the while I was still healing from giving birth just seven days prior.

Conquering to-do lists

There were obviously things that had to be done by Justin and me, but everything else was put on a list, and a team of women from our church banded together and conquered all of it. I am not typically one to ask for help, but in this case, it felt very natural to just let those around me take care of me. These women were not pushy, but they were assertive in asking how they could serve us. I never felt that asking them to do something was a burden. Taber was my point of contact and everyone knew to go through her when seeking out how to serve our family. This was incredibly helpful, so I didn't feel obligated to return a million text messages.

Providing meals and snacks

Following the memorial service, food kept coming for at least two weeks. This gave us a good opportunity to just “be” as a family and begin to grieve and heal. We didn't just get dinner every night—ladies brought some of our favorite breakfast foods and things that were easy to reheat. This blessed me greatly, because it was especially hard to get going in the mornings. Food was the last thing on my mind, yet I had little loves who were hungry. One friend brought a huge bag of Costco snacks for us. I still remind her what a treasure that was. Absolutely nothing in me wanted to be standing in a grocery store with a million snack options and trying to make a reasonable decision; the Costco bag served us well!

Some other wise friends brought a Chick-fil-a party tray that lasted us several days for lunch. Others simply left coffee or special treats on the doorstep. These are just a few of the practical ways I felt incredibly loved and equipped to keep putting one foot in front of the other in those early weeks.

Caring for our children

Another huge gift was ladies whisking away my big girls for a few hours here and there to allow me the chance to cry, sleep, write, read, pray or do absolutely nothing. Often they would just say, “I'm coming to get the girls at 10:00,” so I didn't have to make any decisions or wonder if they were just offering to be nice. I don't remember who it was, but one friend told me very clearly, “Please don't write us thank you notes.” As much as I wanted to put into words my thanks, that was incredibly freeing! I had permission to just take care of me and to love my family.

Writing notes

One of the most precious gifts I received was at least one note from a friend every week for the entire first year after Charlotte's death. A sweet friend compiled a list of those who had been especially invested in our journey, and she scheduled out who would write me each week. This was amazing for several reasons.

  1. It said to our family that our friends had not forgotten.
  2. It provided me with encouragement and truth when I was not able to seek it out on my own. Lastly,
  3. It shared how God was using Charlotte’s life in my friends’ lives. This gave me such joy in the midst of my grief because I was reminded that nothing is wasted in God's economy. He works all things for good.

Celebrating birthdays

On Charlotte's first birthday, those friends gathered with me and celebrated her life. They gave me notes, encouraged me and again they said with their actions that, “We have not forgotten! You are loved! Charlotte's life is worthy of celebration!” This year was Charlotte's fourth birthday. Friends still gathered. A meal was shared. Cake was eaten. My girl was celebrated, and I was able to talk about what God has been teaching me recently through Charlotte Jane.

The love that God has poured out on me through friends has been nothing short of incredible. They have not forgotten. They have walked this road shoulder to shoulder with me, only letting me go alone when there was a narrow opening that I have had to face myself. Even then, they were there to greet me on the other side and to continue the journey as a visible reminder that Jesus never leaves my side, and he alone brings true freedom.

Ministering to your community

While I hope you never have to walk this road with a member of your community, the reality is, in our broken world, it's likely that you will. I encourage you to pursue these women and rally the troops to care for them as much as possible. This is a prime opportunity for the Body of Christ to come together and function as God intended. It can be a beautiful example of the love of Christ on display for those who follow Christ and those who don't. I can give you multiple examples of people who were drawn to Christ because of the way the Body served our family through Charlotte's life and death.

In addition to what I’ve written about, here are a few more tangible ways to serve women who have experienced the loss of a child:

  1. Think practically. Take any weight that you possibly can.
  2. Grieve with her. Allow yourself to go to those hard places with her and to feel the depths of her pain.
  3. Encourage her with Truth. Remind her frequently that she is loved and lifted up, well beyond the first weeks.
  4. Give her the opportunity to talk about her little one by asking questions, while always asking the Holy Spirit to guide your conversation so you know when to back off.
  5. Celebrate the life of the child.

By this, all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

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