The wife of a pastor who died by suicide finds hope amidst grief and now believes God is giving her a mission to remove the stigma about mental illness and suicide in the church.
Kayla Stoecklein, the pastor’s wife told the Christian Post, “For a long time, the Church has seen mental illness as something that can be prayed away or healed if the person suffering spends enough time with God or surrounds themselves with people who have greater faith.”
Suicide And Depression Is Real
Further, she added, “Many believe that real Christians don’t struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. But that simply isn’t true. Depression is a real physical illness and there’s a real chemical imbalance happening in the brain. It’s something that the person suffering did not choose.”
“As people that love Jesus, we’re called to really love those walking in seasons of darkness, depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. We need to lean in, ask questions, and really try to understand,” she pointed out. “Then we are able to treat that person with love, compassion, empathy.”
She Didn’t Understand Until She Experienced It Herself
Kayla’s husband, Andrew Stoecklein—a megachurch pastor died by suicide on Aug. 25, 2018. He is survived by three young boys. After her husband’s death, she realized how mental illness is surreal and deeply personal for some.
“Right after he died, I realized that suicide wasn’t something that Andrew chose that night; it was the result of the underlying physical illness and deep pain that he was experiencing,” she said.
“I didn’t understand what that pain felt like until after he died. And I myself was struggling with suicidal thoughts. It’s an overwhelming pain and it feels like the only way to make the pain go away is to die.”
Kayla also recalled that his 30-year-old husband preached on “Mess to Masterpiece”. Apparently, he had shared “his own experiences with depression and anxiety.” Moreover, highlighting “the importance of addressing it in the Church.”
Fear Gone Wild
Today, Kayla shares her story through her new book “Fear Gone Wild: A Story of Mental Illness, Suicide, and Hope Through Loss.”
“I think I cried as many tears as there are words in the book,” she said. “But it was so therapeutic and I needed to do it. It really helped me in my healing journey to write it all down and one day be able to share it with my boys. God gave me the strength to do it.”
“My heart behind the whole book is that Andrew’s life would be defined by the way he lived, not the way he died,” she added. “God doesn’t waste pain. I hope our tragedy would be somebody else’s triumph, that our story would reach into the darkness and save somebody else’s life.”
Helping Those Who With Suicidal Ideation
Through her book, Kayla wants to help those struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. More so, she wanted to provide them “practical tools” to overcome the negativity and doesn’t want the book to be “just a sad story.”
“I want to show people how to walk alongside someone struggling, how to respond when someone tells us they’re thinking about suicide, and identify things everyone needs to know about mental health,” she explained.
Also, in the book, she encouraged readers to open up with others.
“It can be easy to minimize it in your mind and think it’s no big deal and try to shrug it off but it’s real. Invite somebody to share that pain with you. Invite friends, professionals and family into your pain. You do not have to carry it alone. Keep reaching out for help. Ask God to teach you how to live with the pain.”
Additionally, Kayla addressed those who are living with someone struggling from mental illness to have patience, grace, and transparency. She also revealed how she regretted isolating herself from people, causing her to feel more alone.
“You don’t have to carry it all by yourself,” she stressed. “Make room for self-care, find ways to fill yourself up so that you can keep pouring out. You cannot keep caring for somebody that’s struggling with mental illness if you’re not caring for yourself.”
Reference: The Christian Post