Dr. Jennifer Ashton opens up about dealing with the unexpected loss of her husband

The author of "Life After Suicide" talks about how she worked to become a better person after her husband's suicide.
7:50 | 05/09/19

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Transcript for Dr. Jennifer Ashton opens up about dealing with the unexpected loss of her husband
taking his or her own life is a tragedy no one wants to imagine. But it became a reality for ABC news chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton when her ex-husband and father of her two children died by suicide. She opens up about it in her new memoire "Life after suicide, finding courage, comfort and community after unthinkable loss," and she joins us now. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, good to have you. This hits close to home for me and I would imagine everyone in this room is connected to suicide. It was just two years ago your ex-husband took his own life. You were co-parenting Alexander Chloe. How are you three doing now? First of all, thank you guys for having me here to talk about this. We're really family. We're doing thanks goodness pretty well. We have our sad days for sure. We're incredibly lucky to have a great therapist. We're all learning about this concept of post-traumatic growth which I didn't even know was a thing. It's a real thing in psychology. I think my daughter said it really well. I talk about this in the book. She said she remembers a week after rob died thinking I have two choices. I can let this destroy me or I can use it to help me become a better person. I feel like that's what we're all doing. She's a mature woman. Unbelievable. The one question I'm sure you get all the time is, when you look back, were there signs. Were their moments where you thought you should have noticed something was going on? You can imagine being a doctor, married to a doctor for 22 years those questions go through my mind every day. Rob didn't have any of the classic signs we learn about in medical school. We had just gone through what we were calling an evolved divorce. Then in retrospect maybe the reason it was so evolved is because he was slowly pulling away from life. No one who loses someone to suicide ever gets answers to those questions. They never come. The proceeds of this book are being donated to a suicide prevention organization in rob's honor. We talk at this table a lot about suicide. One of the things that comes with suicide in your sphere is the stigma. Yeah. You get stigmatized or you stigmatize yourself. You start to pull away in odd ways. How did you realize that this wasn't on you? Well, I'm still learning that every day. You're right, whoopi, there's like a scarlet letter for this. If in 2019 we can't talk about these things and people still feel like they have to whisper about them, we're never going to be able to fix it. Why do people whisper about it do you think? I think we whisper about mental illness in this country. Think about the analogy, if someone dies for cancer, people aren't angry at that person. They're not embarrassed. There's no shame in that game. We have to start thinking about mental illness no differently than heart disease and cancer and get rid of that stigma. This is new for us in the United States. We used to put people away that had cancer and hide folks. It's not surprising we're just sneaking up on it. You have to remind yourself every day you have to go forward. It's so difficult. When you lose someone like that, you think what did I do? What could I have do? All that goes through your head, right? When I decided to share our story, one of the conditions was it wasn't just our story. It was from other survivors that reached out to me. We all have gone through the shame game from day one and the blame and the guilt and the these are important emotions we have to address. Dr. Ashton, we had Jill Biden on the show yesterday. She was talking about grief and loss with us. You share your own process by saying at times you felt angry, other times guilty feeling some level of happiness. I agree with all that. Grief is a tricky bastard. How have you been working through that and does it get easier? I've been working through it because I've been educated that grief is really just love. You don't grieve someone you didn't love. Once you acknowledge that I think you can almost welcome those feelings of grief a little bit. Then I learned another concept for the first time as we were going through the healing process called multiple truth which is really this issue of how -- right, whoopi? Uh-huh. You can feel tremendous pain and grief and sadness because of one thing. Then literally at the same time joy and happiness. One feeling does not negate the you have to know that or you can't recover. Have you learned anything else? Oh, my god, a lot. She wrote a book. I'm learning. I'm learning every day, joy. As any parent knows, my kids teach me every day. One thing, you know, that I talk about in the book is my kids with their spirit have really shown me how they live every day in a way that honors their father's spirit. I know you do too. That's incredibly inspiring. You also talk about in the book about this new life in terms of living as a solo parent, which really means your kids only have one parent to rely upon. In the time that's passed that that's been very scary for you. Whether you're a solo parent by choice or you're a solo parent through the death of a spouse or other parent, it's scary and there's a lot of pressure. I feel like if something happens to me my kids will have no one. The funny thing that happened because there was a moment of comedy when I finally found new love and I was everglading and kayaking. I sent my daughter a picture. There's a 12-foot gator and there I am with my love Todd. She said what's next bungee jumping? Thank you so much. If you or someone else you care about is struggling with suicide, you're not alone. Help is available 24/7. Call the national suicide prevention life life at 1-800-273-8255 or text talk to 741-741. Dr. Ashton's book "Life after suicide" is available now. And members of our studio audience are going home with a copy of the book as well. Thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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