Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort & Community After Unthinkable Loss
Happiness Self-Help/Suicide/Love & Loss
William Morrow (May 7, 2019)
Hardcover: 288 pages
Kindle ASIN: B07FSQ42H1
From the chief medical correspondent of ABC News, an eloquent, heartbreaking, yet hopeful memoir of surviving the suicide of a loved one, examining this dangerous epidemic and offering first-hand knowledge and advice to help family and friends find peace.
Jennifer Ashton, M.D., has witnessed firsthand the impact of a loved one’s suicide. When her ex-husband killed himself soon after their divorce, her world—and that of her children—was shattered. Though she held a very public position with one of the world’s largest media companies, she was hesitant to speak about the personal trauma that she and her family experienced following his death. A woman who addresses the public regularly on intimate health topics, she was uncertain of revealing her devastating loss—the most painful thing she’d ever experienced. But with the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Dr. Ashton recognized the importance of talking about her experience and the power of giving voice to her grief. She shared her story with her Good Morning America family on air—an honest, heartbreaking revelation that provided comfort and solace to others, like her and her family, who have been left behind.
In Life After Suicide, she opens up completely for the first time, hoping that her experience and words can inspire those faced with the unthinkable to persevere. Part memoir and part comforting guide that incorporates the latest insights from researchers and health professionals, Life After Suicide is both a call to arms against this dangerous, devastating epidemic, and an affecting story of personal grief and loss. In addition, Dr. Ashton includes stories from others who have survived the death of a loved one by their own hand, showing how they survived the unthinkable and demonstrating the vital roles that conversation and community play in recovering from the suicide of a loved one. The end result is a raw and revealing exploration of a subject that’s been taboo for far too long, providing support, information, and comfort for those attempting to make sense of their loss and find a way to heal.
*After seeing Dr. Ashton on several television programs I wrote to the publishers and requested a copy of this book to review.
Losing my eldest son to suicide on March 15, 2015, has been devastating for me, our family, and everyone that loved him. I thought enough time had passed that I could read this book to help me on my grief journey and help me see things more clearly with the help of a woman dealing with grief herself. It took me longer to finish this book than I had originally thought. I found that I was not going to be able to read this book like any other book I have read. So, I challenged myself to read 1 chapter each day. Sometimes I needed more than 1 day in between. It actually took me 21 days to complete the book.
I could see right away that my experience was totally different than Dr. Ashton’s. First, because she lost a husband not a child, but it was more than that. Dr. Ashton had resources I never had and most people don’t. She is a wealthy woman and a celebrity for her work as an ABC News medical correspondent. She was easily able to find therapists for herself and her children. A therapist she could call at any time day or night. Where I live, grief therapists are few and you can wait weeks or months to even get an appointment if you find one accepting new patients. My family physician did his best. Being disabled and being unable to drive added roadblocks for me. Thankfully I found an online group that helped me so much.
A few chapters into the book I started to see things from a different point of view. My son’s ex-wife had much more in common with Dr. Ashton than I did. Divorced, was finally working out the co-parenting necessary to raise a happy and healthy child, and the devastation she now faces as the only parent in their child’s life. She has the added burden of finding the right balance of how to explain to her daughter her father’s death because she was just under 3 years old when her dad died. Each year explaining just so much and answering her daughter’s questions. My granddaughter is now 7 and the explanations get harder and harder. I plan to share this book with my daughter-in-law because while Dr. Ashton’s children were older she may glean some knowledge to help her with my granddaughter.
One thing I loved was the way Dr. Ashton’s daughter Chloe, 17 at the time of her father’s death saw signs of her father’s presence in her life. Once, a song that randomly played at one of her hockey games as the players took the ice to battle in overtime, a song they always played when he was taking her to hockey games. She knew it was a sign her dad was watching over her. Chloe’s team won the game. I have had a few things that most people would call coincidences, I just know it’s my son sending me a message.
The author does share 2 stories of women she has met that had lost their children. I identified with a lot of things one of the moms went through. Knowing your child is struggling, happy when they reach out and agree to get help, thinking the help is working, and then getting that call or in my case the knock on the door and hearing that your child took his own life and was gone forever. The pain, the numbness, the tears, the darkness.
Like the mom in the book, I was moved by the funeral service and all the people that came, that loved Kris, were his friends, his classmates, his workmates and all the people that came that knew me, my husband, my 3 other children. If only our son’s had realized that while being released from their current pain they were leaving so much pain behind. Since my son’s death, I have used this quote often “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.
Dr, Ashton is in a good place when the book ends but points out continued communication is necessary. Because of her status, she was able to write this book. She was able to give me more hope. While everyone’s grieving process is different, she understands what suicide survivors feel and think because she has been there. The important take away is YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I really learned this through my online support group, but it is something that needs to be reinforced every day. Some days are good, some are even great, but sometimes that grief raises up and smacks you in the face, even years after your loved one’s death. Together we can go on.
“Together we can put an end to the mental illness and suicide stigmas that have caused an obscene amount of undeserved pain. Together we can make a difference, in honor of those we have loved and lost.”
Myself, I use my online presence to try to raise awareness. People have told me my messages have helped them. I want to stop any other family for sharing the pain that suicide leaves behind. I have struggled and had dark days myself. I know I am not alone in those feelings either. Support from friends, family, and other moms who understand help me more than words can say.
If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide you may find comfort in reading this book. Just prepare head and your heart. I recommend reading it slowly as I did. Have a tissue handy and reach out to friends if you need to talk.
None of our stories are exactly the same. It is hard to share our stories with people we have known forever. I applaud Dr. Ashton for sharing hers and those of others she knew with the public. I am sure she will help a vast number of people.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Ashton is the two-time Emmy Award Winning Chief Medical Correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America. A popular guest speaker and moderator, she is among the leading voices in the country on Women’s Health, and the only doctor with a national television platform who is also a nutritionist and double board certified in Ob-GYN and Obesity Medicine. Dr. Ashton received the prestigious Columbia Alfred I. Dupont Award for Excellence in Journalism, is the author of three books: Eat This Not That When Expecting, The Body Scoop for Girls, and Your Body Beautiful, in addition to a monthly column in Cosmopolitan Magazine and has finished her fourth book due out in early May. Dr. Ashton is a graduate of Columbia College, Columbia University, She received her medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons and her Master of Science in Nutrition from Columbia’s Institute of Human Nutrition. Her private medical practice is located in Englewood, NJ. Dr. Ashton is committed to improving the lives of girls and women by increasing health literacy and busting myths that have spread through folklore with little medical or scientific basis.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”