ABC News' Jennifer Ashton On Finding New Love after Ex-Husband’s Suicide
Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent, is opening up about her ex-husband’s suicide and how it affected her and their family. She reveals that, although she wasn’t looking for a new man, she fell in love unexpectedly.
On February 11, 2017, only eighteen days after Ashton finalized her divorce from her husband of 21 years, Robert C. Ashton Jr., the man jumped from the George Washington Bridge.
Two years later, Ashton if finally opening up about the traumatic experience on the memoir book “Life After Suicide,” which also serves as a guide for people that, like her, are dealing with the loss of a loved one that took their own life.
“I was on my way to Soul Cycle that morning. I missed Rob by maybe 10 minutes, which is beyond a sickening thought to me,” Jennifer told People. That morning, she recalled, she was feeling optimistic about her and her ex-husband’s future.
“I was thinking with pride that we had really done our divorce well,” she said. “I was thinking about the rest of my life and excited for everyone’s future.”
Then, after she arrived home, police knocked on her door with the terrible news. She became hysterical.
THE FEELING OF GUILT
Although she describes the rest of that day feeling “in a thick fog,” Ashton has a vivid memory of being alone with her brother and finally letting out her thoughts: “I finally said to him exactly what I was feeling, and what I imagined everyone was thinking — ‘This is my fault.’”
“He put his hands on my shoulders, looked directly into my eyes, and said, ‘Jen, you’re a doctor, I’m a doctor, Rob was a doctor. He would have done this married to you or not married to you. Divorce doesn’t cause someone to commit suicide. The reality is, you cannot let this destroy you.”
Rob left three suicide notes, one each for his Ashton and their children, Alex and Chloe. The first line on Jennifer’s letter said: “First no one is to blame,” she told People. “It speaks to how well he knew me,” she added.
Jennifer and her children started visiting a therapist to deal with their feelings of guilt, anger, shock, despair, and more.
Because of that, Ashton says she wasn’t thinking about finding love again. “I was dealing with plenty of my healing and recovery issues. I didn’t need a man to deal with on top of all that,” she wrote on the book.
And then, she met Dr. Todd Ellerin last summer.
HAPPY BUT AGAINST REMARRIAGE
She described falling for Ellering with lyrics from Lady Gaga‘s “A Star Is Born”: “You found the light in me that I couldn’t find.”
Part of the experience led Jennifer to learn she can be happy and in love again.
However, that doesn’t mean she’s looking forward to getting married again.
“It doesn’t matter if I ever remarry again. Right now, I’m against remarriage,” she stated. “It doesn’t matter though. I’m in an amazing relationship that I hope to be in for the rest of my life.”
Todd, who is also a divorced parent, has earned the love and appreciation from Alex and Chloe, and he has never tried to replace Rob’s role in their lives.
Ashton recalled a conversation with Todd about parenting:
“I have asked him, ‘How do you think it would be if Rob were alive and you had to see him at hockey games and whatever?’ He said, ‘I actually think we’d be friends.’ I think that says a lot about him. It says a lot about Rob. I think he’s right. I think they would be friends.”
And as for Rob, who Jennifer says must have been in a lot of pain to leave his kids behind, she concluded: “I think he’s at peace. I think that he is happy that we’re happy.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org
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