Fear Gone Wild: A Story of Mental Illness, Suicide, and Hope through Loss

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Fear Gone Wild: A Story of Mental Illness, Suicide, and Hope through Loss

Author:

Kayla Stoecklein

Publisher:

Thomas Nelson

Publication Date:

September 29, 2020

Format:

Paperback

Length:

256 pages

OVERVIEW

On the surface, Andrew Stoecklein had it all: a loving wife, children, and a prominent job as a megachurch pastor. Then he slowly succumbed to depression, a rocky journey that ended with his death by suicide in August 2018. Here his wife Kayla tells the story of their experience, how they handled Andrew’s struggles and the teachings about on suffering which got her through mourning.

Stoecklein carefully captures the pain she and her husband went through during his depression period and the pain after his death. By connecting Andrew’s depression to Biblical teachings about wilderness experiences, she gives a Biblical perspective to his pain. Since everyone’s mental health journey is different, some of her reflections about her husband’s situation won’t apply to apply to other people.

The fact this book is written so soon after her husband’s 2018 death also makes it hard to say whether this book shows her final opinions about her husband’s death. Obviously some people find closure sooner than others, so it’s possible Stoecklein has managed to process her pain faster than most people or used the writing process as a means to process. Still, it will be interesting to see if Stoecklein returns to the subject in a later book and whether her perspective has changed.

Regardless of how definitive Stoecklein’s opinions are about her husband’s struggles, she finds helpful ways to connect his journey to Biblical ideas. The way she describes talking with her two sons about Andrew’s death and what she’s chosen to remember provides a compelling look at how someone can honor a loved one’s memory even under harsh circumstances.

Stoecklein also does something rather rare for a Christian memoir about suffering and mental illness: she gives a positive pictures of a church helping the hurting. Generally, Christian memoirs about pain describe the struggles the writers had with other Christians giving condescending advice, assuming they lacked faith or hadn’t repented of some secret sin. Stoecklein notes she feared those kind of reactions, but her church was actually very helpful. Congregants offered much-needed support during Andrew’s struggle and much-needed comfort after his death. Some of this empathy seems to due to the fact the church’s previous pastor, Andrew’s father, was open to his congregation about his leukemia diagnosis. One could argue this set up a pattern of the community gathering to help the hurting which continued with Andrew’s struggles. In a society where far too many hurting Christians experience apathy or impractical help, stories like this are much needed.

A fascinating, sometimes over-reaching but inspiring book about an under-discussed topic.

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

3 stars

Suggested Audience

Christians interested in true stories about ministry leaders dealing with mental health problems, and the logistical and spiritual concerns that arise from mental health problems.

Christian Impact

The author gives a raw account of the pain that depression and suicide can cause to family members, and relies on Biblical teachings to show a larger perspective about suffering and how God can use it in unexpected ways.

Fear Gone Wild: A Story of Mental Illness, Suicide, and Hope Through Loss


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