Neglect, mental health, and resignation

Started by Jeremy_Loesch, January 21, 2022, 06:46:28 PM

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Hello friends. I thought I would share some news and maybe spark some conversation, since this is a forum after all.

On Thursday Jan. 20th I resigned my call as pastor at Holy Trinity, Grandview MO. I did this because I have not been a good husband or father, and with that aspect of my life suffering, and that aspect spilling over to my pastoral vocation, something had to give.

After ignoring, neglecting, working halfheartedly at it, or just hoping it would magically disappear, I am also beginning intensive outpatient treatment to deal with depression and anxiety. I have not been well for a couple of years, and my wife continues to struggle with an eating disorder.

Either I was unable to see or was unwilling to deal with it, but now there isn't a choice.

I also think there is some burnout going on. Some things I very easily care about and get excited for, and some things I don't. It may not be to the extent of Joe Theisman or Alex Smith, but I think I broke my giveadamn and have been hobbling along. The Lord expects more; the church deserves better.

I know I am not alone. I know other pastors struggle with this.

I think I built on sand, rather than on rock. I put more emphasis on my identity as pastor, husband, father, etc, and those identities change. I'm not the same man my wife married, she's not the same woman. Our children have changed. What's the solid ground? My identity in Christ.

Over the years I have had difficulty processing pastoral grief. If I viewed myself as a Christian first, and kept my identity there, maybe I would not be at this position right now?

Thanks for reading.  Jeremy


Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

Grace and peace to you and your family, Jeremy. May this be a season of healing for you.


Courageous! May God grant you strength, peace and comfort as you seek resolution. May he keep your family and make it whole again.

Peace, JOHN

Dave Benke

Prayers for you, your faith, your treatment, your wife and children, your family, the congregation, those who supervise both you and the congregation, your therapists and all the many you have touched with the love of Christ, Jeremy.

The steps you have taken may seem vocationally difficult, but are at the same time precious to those of us in pastoral vocation who are too often "unable to see or unwilling to deal with" it.  I have been down the road you're on - contact me any time, any day.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray


Thank you for being open about your decision and reasoning. As you say, it affects many pastors, but few are willing to address it. Maybe your willingness to share will encourage others to take honest stock of things and make needed life changes. Blessings on this next, healthier chapter.

Steven W Bohler

I am saddened to hear this.  I know my nephew always spoke highly of your ministry and of you personally.  I am praying for healing for you, your family, and congregation.  Todd Peperkorn at the Fort Wayne seminary has first-hand experience in such matters and may be a good resource for you. 

Rob Morris

Add my prayers to those already expressed here, along with my sincere assurances of sympathy and support. You mentioned something about dealing with pastoral grief. Is that something you'd be willing to unpack a bit, either on the thread or in a private message? As you may suspect, it's an area where I have spent a fair bit of time. More than happy to be a support in any way I can. I appreciate and respect your honesty.

J. Thomas Shelley

Quote from: Rob Morris on January 21, 2022, 08:49:38 PM
You mentioned something about dealing with pastoral grief. Is that something you'd be willing to unpack a bit, either on the thread or in a private message? As you may suspect, it's an area where I have spent a fair bit of time. More than happy to be a support in any way I can. I appreciate and respect your honesty.

I think everyone in the Pastoral office suffers to a greater or lesser degree from what I like to call "the weight of the stole"; a weight which increases as the years go by and the deaths of parishioners become the deaths of friends.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.


Here is what I have been reflecting on when I wrote on pastoral grief.

In the early 2000s a young girl was born in our Delaware congregation. First marriage for the father, second for the mother. Catechesis for them both, joy for the future, but no. The little girl died shortly before turning 4. I was able to baptize her then a few years later bury her. Rough.

2016- "6 in 6 weeks". From the Friday before Transfiguration to the Friday before Palm Sunday we had a funeral every Friday or Saturday. Lenten vespers, funerals, Sunday services.  And these were big services. Every Sunday members. An elder emeritus, stewardship chair, a 99yo matriarch, a quiet rock of a member. And I think I took a half day off when it was done. No one ever accused me of being smart.

2017, death of a 34yo elder, father of one, loving husband. He had been brought into the church after being emotionally abused by his parents. He married his high school sweetheart, was tutored to graduation by his future mother in law. He became a friend to me, a confidant. He was born with his heart pipes in a loop. Blood would be pumped right back to the heart. Major surgery then to get the heart pipes right, at age 12, 24, and 31. A beautiful sunny afternoon he took a walk while at work, a good thing to do for cardiac health. He had a major cardiac event and was likely dead before he hit the ground. Devastating. And still to this day. His wife and son are in early service every Sunday. I go to his grave several times a year to chat, fill him in on what's going on.

2020- death of the shining light of our congregation. Preschool director, VBS teacher, devoted Lutheran, loving wife and mother. Her youngest son, in his 30s, is wheelchair bound, but the happiest guy you'll ever meet. He made his mother dress him in purple, white, green, red according to the church year. His ears were open for the word cross and he'd declare his pleasure whenever he heard it in the sermon. She developed some cancer in 2020, which also was the beginning of the pandemic. She was making it through. But on Friday July 3rd her BP bottomed out. Her husband rushed her to the hospital. He couldn't go in due to covid protocols. She had a major cardiac event and docs worked from 4 to 6:30am to revive her. They couldn't. My son and I had gone fishing that morning. He caught a beautiful largemouth that norning; mine was larger. Then her brother called and told me what had happened. Exponentially more devastating.

When I don't know how to process my own grief, how am I supposed to lead the people through their own?! Still have no answers.


Michael Slusser

You are still a brother, a disciple of Jesus, and called to be a saint, and I am always glad to hear from you. May God bless you and your wife in the time to come!

Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

J. Thomas Shelley

Yes, weighty indeed.

On All Saints' Sunday 2013, knowing that would likely be my final All Saints' in the parish where I had just completed my 24th year I read ALL of the names of those for whom I had conducted Funerals during the Eucharistic prayer.   I was told that it took over 10 minutes to read all the 160+ names.

When the stole was placed on my shoulders at my Western Presbyteral Ordination by Bishop Felton E. May, he look me straight in the eye and said "you are yoked to Christ--forever!"

At first the yoke felt like balsa wood.  As the years went by it became more like poplar, then oak, and by that final All Saints' more like lignum vitae.

But what did NOT change was my yokemate Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jeremy, He stands by you now and shares every burden.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Brian Stoffregen

Scriptures and Prayers for Mental Health
from Evangelical Lutheran Worship Pastoral Care: Occasional Services, Readings, and Prayers

Psalm 13    How long, O Lord?
Psalm 22    Why have you forsaken me?
Psalm 88    My soul is full of troubles
Psalm 130    Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord
Isaiah 43:1-3a    I have called you by name
Mark 4:35-41    Jesus stills the storm
John 10:11-18    I am the good shepherd
Hebrews 2:14-18    Jesus is able to help those who suffer
1 Peter 5:6-9    Cast your anxieties on God

Mighty God, in Jesus Christ you deal with forces that trouble our minds and set us against ourselves. Give peace to those who are cast down, beset by anxiety, or torn by inner conflict. By your great might, drive from us the powers that shake confidence and shatter love. Bring us into the light of your truth, and give us your strong assurance that we are your beloved children in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heavenly Father, have mercy on all your children who live in mental distress. Restore them to strength of mind and spirit, and give them health and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessed Jesus, in the comfort of your love, we come before you with Jeremy in his time of distress. Help him again to find calm in your constant presence and to know peace in your unfailing promise. Touch him, O Lord, and fill him with your light, for you are our hope and our salvation.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Charles Austin

Prayers indeed for clergy wisely dealing with the mental health issues that we frequently want to ignore. I have seen several colleagues crash and burn, giving great trauma to family, not to mention the congregations they served, because they did not practice good "self care" and deal with their mental health.
We are "ordinary," "normal", "regular" people and what can afflict others can afflict us. The vocation is not a vaccination against disease.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. Former journalist. Former news director and spokesman for the LCA. Former LWF staff in Geneva, Switzerland.  Parishes in Iowa. New Jersey and New York.  Retired in Minneapolis.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

I hosted my first Grief Group last year because I saw persons in my congregation struggling with loss. We will start another gathering in February. I've led as many as three funerals in a week since I do member funerals but also non-member funerals. It has been difficult yet also blessed as opportunities to show Gospel-care to hurting people.

I learned while working in St. Louis the value of stress management. I take time to run/walk/exercise, typically in tandem with my wife. I garden and smoke meat when the weather is better. I chant/sing devotionally--the breathing relaxes the body like meditation. I have three full-body stretching moves I try to do each morning. Takes about two minutes. Playing an instrument is relaxing when you just sit back and improvise. I save audio files that help me fall asleep (and not just my sermons).

Right now everything is frozen in central Ohio so this morning I've spent time casually reading Oehler's Theology of the Old Testament, an old favorite, while writing notes and drawing pictures in the margins of the book. Drawing is another great way to get lost in pleasant thought.

I learned in my first church to take a day and just go away.  We do something we enjoy like hike, collect fossils, go to a nice restaurant, create something, see something different. We love our day trips. I work doggedly through the holiday season but then goof off after Christmas when I know my people are with their families and will stay quiet. We ALWAYS take a week away between Christmas and Lent.

I'm thinking of adding a work retreat to my year so I can do long range planning without trying to squeeze it in around other activities. Long range planning reduces stress and improves performance the rest of the year.

I could probably teach a seminar on stress relief because of my experience. But getting that together sounds stressful, so I'm putting it off.  :)

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