Joy Pavelich's life changed forever on Aug. 4, 2013. That's the day her middle child, Eric Schmit, took his own life on the family farm near Kenaston.
Pavelich chronicles that painful day in her new book, Chasing My Son Across Heaven.
Schmit was 20 years old. He had experienced ups and downs of depression and bipolar disorder, but his death came as a shock to Pavelich and her other sons, Justin and Connor.
Pavelich was at home in Calgary the day Eric died. She said there had been no warning signs.
"Eric had been doing well. He seemed to be feeling good, was in great physical shape, and was about to go to college," she said.
She said Eric was referred to as a rapid cycler, which means he would spiral up or down into depression very quickly.
Pavelich has struggled with her own demons in the years since Eric's death. Depression and thoughts of suicide were hard to conquer.
She admits there were times she said she had nothing left to live for, but her other sons spoke up and asked, "What about us, Mom?"
"I realized I needed to find a way to live, because I wanted to go with Eric," she said.
It was a long process of figuring out how to live again and how to make that a meaningful life.
Pavelich possesses more understanding of trauma and the treatment it requires than most. While pursuing a masters degree in communications, her research was in trauma and the importance of sharing stories to move past it. Her research project looked at men who had been sexually abused and how they moved beyond those experiences.
After Eric's death, she shifted those skills from communications into mental health awareness and advocacy, working with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Calgary.
She now works with the Centre of Excellence in PTSD out of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
"I knew from my research that if you didn't deal with the trauma it often turns into addiction," she said.
Pavelich turned to a treatment called narrative completion, which has people process trauma piece by fractured piece to help them process what's happened. She also sought spiritual help.
In figuring out how to live again, she felt compelled to tell Eric's story.
Pavelich said that before Eric could read and write, he would draw little picture books of super hero exploits. He'd staple them together, bring them to her and say "Write Mom, write."
"In some ways I felt like I was his hand again. I was writing his story, just like when he was a little guy," she said. "The result was Chasing My Son Across Heaven."
The book was released in late August. Pavelich hopes it helps others going through loss to know they are not alone.
"I want people to feel hopeful, and know that you'll find your way," she said. "It will look different, and it will take a lot of work to get there."