Kayla Stoecklein on What I Learned About Mental Health and Ministry After Suicide Made Me a Pastor’s Widow

Image: Courtesy of Kayla Stoecklein
Image: Courtesy of Kayla Stoecklein

Kayla Stoecklein is an advocate for those confronting mental illness and the mom of three young boys. Join her at kaylastoecklein.com and on Instagram @kaylasteck. Her first book, Fear Gone Wild, was published this week.

I was 19 when I met Andrew and quickly fell in love. He was a pastor’s kid who felt called to ministry, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that life with him meant life as a pastor’s wife.

I grew up attending church every Sunday, but wasn’t until I spent time with Andrew’s family that I caught a glimpse of what life was like in the trenches of ministry. As I leaned in, listened, and learned, I saw that although serving in ministry can be meaningful and beautiful behind the scenes, it can also be stressful, disappointing, discouraging, and lonely.

In 2015, Andrew became the lead pastor of his parents’ church, and I quickly found ways to fill my new role as lead pastor’s wife. I served on the women’s ministry team, set up for the MOPS group on Wednesdays, and arrived on time for the very first service every single Sunday.

Ministry was everything. Our entire world revolved around the local church and the calling God had placed on Andrew’s life. His calling became my calling; his passion, my passion; his purpose, my purpose.

Then on August 25, 2018, after battling through a season of burnout, depression, and anxiety, my beloved husband Andrew tragically died by suicide.

Life as I knew it changed forever and I was handed a brand-new life as a widow and single mom to our three young boys. All of a sudden ours was the sad story on the internet. I watched as images of my life and pictures of my family made headlines all around the world. We were thrust into the spotlight in an instant.

While the world was watching, leaning in, listening close, I chose to speak. I wouldn’t let suicide get the last word. Just three days after he went home to heaven, I wrote him a letter and posted it to our family blog. “Your name will live on in a powerful way,” I pledged. “Your story has the power to save lives, change lives, and transform the way the Church supports pastors.”

It was through that letter I first began to see God’s hand at work, redeeming what was lost and even saving lives from suicide. We received hundreds of letters, gifts, donations, books, blankets, and bouquets from complete strangers. The love was loud.

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Source: Christianity Today