When a Midlife Crisis Becomes Serious
A recent study found that there has been an alarming spike in suicides among midlife women. I am neither scientist nor statistician, but I am 52. Some have called mid-life "Prime Time." but few midlife women in my circles are crowing that they're living their best life now.
Most of my friends tell me they've experienced periods of moderate-to-severe clinical depression. A good percentage of these women are committed Christians. Though the Church is called to be a community that honors life transformation and fosters spiritual growth, many at midlife report that what they're experiencing emotionally and spiritually isolates them from congregational life - and that their churches are not equipped to respond to their needs.
Case in point: Cathy was once the vivacious soccer mom who coordinated snacks and rides for her kids' teams. She led the Thursday evening women's Bible study at her nondenominational congregation for many years. She sold real estate in her middle-class suburb. She was old enough to remember the ad jingle that went "I can bring home the bacon / fry it up in a pan / and never, never, never let you forget you're a man," because she lived it. Doing it all was having it all for women of her generation.
Now 56, it's been years since Cathy has fried up any bacon. Her cholesterol levels were off the charts at her last doctor's visit, and there was no one left at home to eat the bacon, anyway. Her kids are long gone from the nest she worked so hard to create. Her only remaining parent has late-stage Alzheimer's. The real-estate crash effectively ended her career. She sees her grandmother's body staring back at her when she looks in the mirror. She stopped leading the Bible study at church when her marriage was unraveling 10 years ago, though she's continued to attend Sunday services. A few weeks ago, a well-meaning greeter stuck a brightly-colored "Welcome, Visitor!" flier in her hand as she entered the sanctuary.
When I asked what that communicated to her, Cathy said, "I have been battling the sense that I am invisible in so many areas of my life. The one place I should be visible is to my own church family. And the thing is, I can't even get offended about it. I just don't care anymore."
Because many of our churches are focused on family-based programming, the unspoken message to those who don't fit the target demographic is that they don't matter the same way that younger people do. Pollster George Barna reports that baby boomers are leaving the church in surprising numbers.