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It’s hard to talk about PPD (postpartum depression), even for moms who are struggling with it.
It’s not a dazzling conversation when you speak of Lent, even for Christians. Some Christians choose not to observe it at all, but others attend mid-week services, focus on the grave reality of their sin, and give up some kind of food or “luxury” for the 40 days of the season.
Lenten worship services are simpler in nature. Usually, special music is reserved and hymns and songs that are sung are often in a minor key (they just sounds sadder). The church sanctuary is stripped of anything festive and bright. It literally is about as solemn as you can get.
And while many observers may not think much of it, the season of Lent can be a particularly challenging one for others to observe.
After the birth of my first child, I experienced my first Lenten season while also figuring out how to handle my postpartum depression. And to be honest, it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. In all honesty, I hadn’t even thought about it being a problem. I’d observed it since I was a little girl and it was a very familiar (almost comforting) time of year for me.
All of a sudden, that nostalgic mindset had changed. All of a sudden, I was fearful, annoyed, frustrated, grieved, and anxious. Here’s the thing: Lent is a time of inward reflection, about confessing your sin and bursting your pride bubble for a few weeks. It’s all about remembering our doomed condition and helping us to look toward our Savior. But as a newbie mom who was struggling to cuddle her own babe and only brushed her hair once a week, I was already feeling like a lowly piece of crap.
That’s the thing about postpartum depression: it presents itself in many different ways, but the overarching theme is the same. Mothers just don’t feel like themselves. Instead, they feel worthless, confused, ashamed, angry, scared, and guilty. And when you’re down in the dumps like that, you don’t need something like Lent to make that all worse.
Now, I am in no way bashing the season of Lent or those who observe it. I still deeply appreciate it and still observe it myself. However; I no longer give up sweets, focus on the darkness, and think upon my own guilt. I have come to observe it in a different way, and that’s what I’d like to share.
For my fellow mamas who have or who are dealing with postpartum depression, here are a few ideas about how to observe the season of Lent without adding more guilt or hurt to an already difficult time.
- Do not “give up” something. Just forget about that tradition, and don’t feel bad for not participating in it. This was the very first thing I decided to do (with some compassionate nudging from my husband) and it was a great decision. It eliminated the likelihood of incurring more stress, guilt, and shame.
- Go about your routines as if Lent wasn’t currently happening. Keep playing cheerful music at home, get some sunshine, visit friends and family, and keep eating healthy. I grew up in a home where my mom would even “decorate” for Lent. I chose not to do anything like that.
- Be careful about attending mid-week services. This point is going to be a very personal decision for each individual, but I went as far as staying home from Wednesday Lenten church. The somberness and minor tone of the service greatly affected my mood, and so I chose just to attend church on Sundays, like usual.
- Grab your Bible and take comfort in God’s Word. Find your favorite Psalm or comforting scripture and really soak it in. Give all your worries and concerns to God, be in prayer, and trust that he loves you so much, is taking care of you, and will help you.
- When Easter arrives, soak it in! Easter church has been and still is my favorite service ever. It is absolutely the pinnacle Sunday of our faith and should be cherished and enjoyed. Take a deep breath of those lilies, enjoy the triumphant music, and know just how much you mean to your Savior who died and rose for you. Truly celebrate!
These are a few of the things that really helped me get through that tough Lenten season. Even now, as a healed mama, I still adhere to these “guidelines” I made for myself, and I’m so happy I do. By focusing on the joy of Easter and the resurrection, I reduce any chance for personal guilt to creep back in hardcore.
This season, try navigating Lent with Jesus and his joy at the helm. There’s nothing shameful in that!