When Julia Wilson’s son Tyler left for his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, she was nervous and worried. Any parent who has had a child serve in the military can relate to the fears you feel while they are gone and the peace that comes when they arrive home.  After three tours of duty, Tyler finally returned; Julia and her husband breathed a sigh of relief.

Not long after he arrived, they began to notice behaviors that worried them. Tyler was often up at night. He struggled to sleep and when he did, they dared not startle him. He had difficulty finding a job and fitting back into civilian society. He seemed to be depressed. He was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When Tyler was accepted into an apprentice program, they believed he had finally found his footing. He moved out, bought a truck and a house, and he seemed to be on his way to a new life.

Just a few days after Tyler’s brother’s wedding reception, they received devastating news. Tyler had ended his life. They were blindsided.

“Child loss is so horrific there’s no word in the English language to describe it.  When you lose your parents you become an orphan.  When you lose your spouse you become a widow.  But there’s nothing to describe child loss, it’s just so horrible.”

In the beginning, Julia needed God’s help just to breathe and put one foot in front of the other. They knew Tyler was dealing with PTSD, but they had no idea of the depth of his struggle. Only after his death, when they had the opportunity to read his files from the Veterans Administration, did they begin to know what he was going through.

“We live a life of should have, could have, would have. Suicide grief is layers of loss and lots of suffering. We always think we should’ve done this, we should have tried harder. We don’t want anyone else to live a life of should have, would have, could have.”

As Julia processed her grief and relied on God, she felt a desire to reach out and help others dealing with loss. She and a friend began a support group called Working Out PTSD, to provide free gym memberships to veterans. Julia also started Angel Moms, a support group for mothers who have lost children. You can reach out to Julia through the Working Out PTSD Facebook page.

Hear more of Julia’s story in this week’s episode of Epic.

Hope in the wake of tragedy