« Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris

#181: Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Life After Suicide

2019-04-03
With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the likelihood is that nearly every person in this country knows someone who has died by suicide. In just the last couple of weeks, we learned of the suicides of three people linked by American tragedies - two survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the father of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Jeremy Richman, a recent guest on our podcast. ABC's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton 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. In a quest to provide comfort and solace to the countless others who have had to face the aftermath of suicide, Dr. Ashton joins us this week, not as a medical professional, but as a person whose family has been rocked by suicide, who found the courage, community and grit to move on with her life. The Plug Zone Website: https://jenniferashtonmd.com/# Book: https://jenniferashtonmd.com/book/life-after-suicide/ Social: @DrJAshton
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For maybe see ten percent happier blacker than her before we start limit? Let me just give one piece of business out of the way and that business is this. I can't believe it to this, but we are now at the fifth anniversary of the publication of ten percent happier, the original book he came out in March of he doesn't fourteen and the fifth anniversary edition of the book is coming out on April. Sixteenth. So come up soon, can pre order right now at Hcc see come slash happier repercussions. See that come slash, happier, dad there's a new preface that I've written that's it and also there's an expanded list of guided meditation. in the back of the book from ten percent happier app teachers, including Joseph Goldstein insurance halls,
forget. If you buy the book you get free access to audio versions of those meditations in the ten percent happier. happen if you already have subscribed to the EP than you: you'll get him anyway. Oh go check that out, if you're so inclined are the item of business. Now, let's get to the show- and it says this is a heavy episode like a lot you I will I was blown away and not in a good way, I a piece of news that came over the transom recently, which is that a former yes on the show a man who sat right here in this in the chair that I'm looking at right now, Jeremy Richmond Recent, we committed suicide took his own life. He was the father. of a little girl who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in new town and handled the aftermath.
for way, by Rating foundation called the Aviano Foundation named his daughter of yell and. It was all about looking into he used his background as a in in now science to launch foundation to look into what goes wrong with the brain. Tat would cause people to resort to unbelievable. Levels of violence. if you go back and listen to the episode just a few, to go on the show me he was an incredible I'm in being just radiant really, despite his grief, about which he was extremely open, so it didn't didn't a strike me, and I don't think I ll strike you if you go back and listen to the episode of somebody who is in denial in any way had really done. You know taken tremendous step
to create meaning in the face of this, overwhelming suffering at day. He had. Happened to him. The worst thing I think in it there Anybody, in my opinion, and- and he, as I said, is handled it beautifully by being constructive and in the wake of this disaster, and and also went on. Quite in a very you know, he talks about this. Very in a very moving way and in the past intervene can I do with him a few months ago- went on to have more children, and so I was I was shocked when I heard that We had taken his own life and I, wanted to end. I heard from a lot of you about it on twitter. I had to do, something in his honour and also to do something. educational and meaningful. On this issue of suicide, where we are in the United States right now seeing record levels of suicide, what's going on here, what can be done about it?
so my mind immediately went to my colleague, Doktor Jen Ashton, who is the chief medical corresponded and health editor here. It abc NEWS and says she's a friend, and so I have an enormous amount of respect for she's a board certified Adobe G, why and has written several books, but she has a new book that's coming out in if role I normally would have waited until April to interview her about this late April when the book comes out, but the book is called life after suicide, so I got tat you there and asked her if we could speed things up to so that I could talk to her. About her book, but also journeys case as you'll hear sheet. She knew Jeremy she'd. Madame then that's its complete coincidence So anyway she written a book called life after suicide because she had a horrible thing happened to her, which is that shortly after her divorce from her husband, Rob
it also a physician took his own life too. Growing together. That's been obviously extremely difficult for those children and this a couple of years ago and she's got onto, in my opinion very bravely right this book life after suicide witches in part a memoir about her experiences, but also try. The stories of other folks who have endured. assess suicide in in the family or under close circle of friends and so I wanted to have come on talk about her story and and also to to give all of us some. Hopefully Useful information in the wake of this disaster. That's hit our little ten percent happier world here. So we talk as I often structured these conversations. We we started by talking about Jens history with meditation. She does have allowed his with meditation the meditation practice? And then we talk about what into her and and her husband and her family she's very open.
about that, when we talk about Jeremy and yeah, I'm very grateful to Jen went on and end opening up in the way in which he did end and for doing it and in an expedited fashion. So thanks to gender and here you go here. She is doctor, Jennifer Ashen NICE, to see you like why tough topic, but I was great to see you no matter what we need to start before we get in to suicide. Let's talk about your history meditation. How did you get to meditation so you and I, talked about this on sad when we have like whopping ten seconds in our were not working and I feel like meditation- is kind of like a club ever like feel that way. Right like when you meet someone who meditate you're like oh, what do you do? What do I do like, and so I think you I would like that to- and I think when your first book came out and we started- I was shared with you. experience, which was I
he's been curious about meditation, because ass, I describe myself as a relentless self improver attempt her so I'm always looking for ways to be healthier, especially as a doctor. Rain- and I kind of got to the point. In my life when I was in my early forties, where I thought well, I'm doing everything pretty well from the neck down- and I was totally ignoring the neck of right I mean not uncommon, not uncommon at all and so I had met a bunch of people, coincidentally or maybe not coincidentally, if you believe in the cosmic universe, which I totally do, who had learned meditation, and they were like you. You know it had changed their lives. It had benefited their lives in so many ways.
Finally, it was kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back, and I met one last person and I said: ok, that's it. The universe just trying to give me a message, I need to learn so I am so type a that I had to Learn a method, a technique as for years, people had said now, there's no right or wrong wage. I totally out of the great you don't well. I mean there are lots of techniques right, but you can certain close, your eyes and think about you, going lunch and think your meditating? But that's not exactly, but I didn't know that so that as a complete, novice. As someone who is completely naive to meditation, when I would here people say no there's no right or wrong way. There's no method! I, as a student, a perpetual student, just thought that can't be he like that. Doesn't make sense to me it doesn't make sense to me either. What are you going to do just sit there and I hope you know to hear the music of the spheres I have not yet you definitely need to take me to get my opinion
so the only technique that just coincidentally happened to present itself to me through these random people that I had open to about it was happened to be Tamar transcendental meditation. So I took my four days sequential lessons and my teacher. said, I said: ok, so do I just start doing it and he said yeah. You know ideally its twenty minutes twice a day, but if you do once a day, that's fine to an now, if you don't feel any different in two weeks, just stop and I said what and how said yet no one dozen field, two eggs, and he was right and then and now is it. But why is this? Why is probably five years ago now and so you know I was paid be consistent for a couple of years and then, when Roy I've died. I actually at the time I probably needed at the most is when I stopped and I just got
ray into it. You know begin we have twenty nineteen and just as you know, that example that just shared of what the in my teacher said about feeling different, I mean it. I feel a night and day deference in a good way, So I am very glad I'm back in the pact I want to hear more about how made a difference right now, but let's you go back in time to we first are doing okay. How did you feel different, What well guy we were one woody. Important things in your life that you wanted to the major one of your life. Well, what was funny is that kids who are well, then they were just Middleton Asia is now there are later teenagers older end of their teenage years. They saw a difference in me immediately and when I say to them. Oh really like what do you see and while we, my daughter who I think was you know, fifteen and said I m o your much more relaxed and I said well how tight was I before that and she goes a pretty have died.
am I didn't even now, so I think at super interesting that that they noticed a difference, but what I feel and It's just my kind of how it registers with me all the time is when I meditated, I feel a completely different degree of mental energy. So I focused, I feel mentally energetic. I feel pie It is in my mood because you know we all can get kind of like down on life or the world are some person or an event or whatever. I notice that much less and I just feel like it, gives me a buffer buffer like a cushion right, a probably on a bunch levels. Oh yeah
that in a moment by moment level moment can give you a cushion between something happens like whatever you cut off in traffic and your response to it. That's an important question, but then there is, I think, maybe what you're referring to of also just generally Speaking on a macro level, there are lots of ups and downs and to have some sort of psychological money in the bank, gives you give her cushion against the forces that are buffering us totally hostile or money in the bank or gas in the tank. That's that's how I feel it you know, I'm an end, the mental efficiency is really interesting to me because baseline. I generally feel pretty Italy efficient. However, when I meditated I am I feel like I'm supercharged, but in a calm way. If that makes sense, though I feel like I don't have the chatter of my own in her head
You know saying: oh well what about doing that, or what about doing that? Or do you really feel like doing that like that voice, which we all have in our consciousness Ah, as I've learned more and more about kind of our psyche in unconsciousness, that voice is not as loud or as distracting when I'm meditating. Oh, I would imagine the voice for you a baseline, is right, simply, let me you're a kick ass, Ovid you, I am with a very at you. You have risen pretty fast in it. He cut throat world of tea we, while maintaining a medical practice. You have kids too two I couldn't handle more than two well, who you got two teenagers and is it before the fiasco round raw brain? So I'm just project here I can imagine that that's meditation be particularly useful in your case. Oh I I think it's been the secret weapon
otherwise, I mean just like the reason I I draw that comparison to the below the neck health and above the knack health, and I use and all the time when I talk about me, and finance, until health. Spirituality. Anything anything that's going on in the brain right is because nothing below the knack is gonna work. Well, if the stuff above the knack is not working well, and the same way that I talked to France, and family and patience and viewers on ABC about what they can do for their below the knack hell. You know, like I say, listen, sleep is not a luxury. It's a medical necessity people ask me all the time. Oh, how do you do whatever you? You know you do you get up at five in the morning you gotta GM. May then you go to see some patience. Then you come back. I'm off in it maybe see at seven o clock at night. I'm writing my segment until eight o clock at night. I'm
king out and they go? How do you do that, and I say I get seventy eight hours of sleep a night. So am I have energy for that day? How do you find time, to do everything you just listed plus seventy eight hours asleep. When I was twenty to forty minutes of meditation today, I have no social life I do not augur well now. I do, thank God, but I mean it's time management and I think that's where meditation and sleep has really helped me be efficient with my time and that doesn't come from outside that comes from within if that makes sense right that comes from not being distracted by the voice. That says. Maybe now is a good time to text your mom or maybe now is a good time to reach out to that person. It's all kind of what we say in medicine and media tree aging right, so I
be given moment, unlike how should I use this minute this hour to its maximum kind of benefit and that's different at different times. The day, but my ability to manage my time comes from the fact that I'm not sleep deprived comes from the fact that exercise my body, which is the autumn the hour of my day. That is surely for myself other than my twenty minutes of meditation, and it comes from the fact that I don't waste time. It's time for me to go to sleep, to get my seven hours, I'm not flipping through Facebook or watching something on tv and that's what I mean kind of when I say like well, you know my my social life like not that that those things can't be fit in to people's day, Just that my day they don't usually have time. I mean look at me, you know the studies better than I do, but there's been there have been.
showing a link between social media usage and depression totally so iii. So, and I think it's a a coincidence that were seen on president levels of examining depression among young people. Today it move. went up in this area, so I don't think you're missing much buyer. Although I do want to say one thing about that which is kind of interesting, and we ve talked about this as well, which, as you know, this fake kind of facebook or insight, Graham perfection in life. think there are two sides to look at that. You know two different perspectives. One is Well, that's not realistic. No one's life. Is that perfect all the time? No one looks that good all the time. Why are we only seeing like this? victories in the celebrations and then other side? Is you know what it's be like watching the Happy Channel kind of like guy it's sometimes it's nice to just see like all. That's nice and that's nice too, and that looks pretty and back
good and they're doing now, things because there's a lot of bad stuff there were exposed to as well. So I mean, I think, that it's not on over the other. It has two different perspectives for that, but you I think too much is just I I just don't have time for it. That's the bottom line. I think the deleterious effect of it is that it while I dont disagree with anything you just said, and I'm not like blanket anti social media. I'm a man so familiar as our you, I'm just. I just think if fires up what the in meditation circles is referred to as the comparing mind and can make you feel ice I did and inferior and gets its tough anyway, so I know this is an unusual things. How global we talking about how here what happened with Rob yeah so in February,
of twenty seventeen, my the father, my children, rob why had been married to for twenty one years, took his life. Were you married the time we had been divorced for two weeks and I it interesting. I just wrote an article for a popular I and they wanted, and eight hundred words a discreet. of what happened in the way I described it is you know, He had gone through marital counselling therapy. We had what I called and what he would call if he were sitting here are any evolved divorce. So there is no screaming there was no viciousness there. we weren't lawyers up, we weren't trying to eviscerate and destroy each other. It was evolve. it was just you know what we can do this differently- we just Didn'T- want to be married to each other anymore, but we were stuff
and we still loved each other and ironically, we were always the best as co parents and so literally the weeks before two and a half weeks before robs death. We were it in courtroom finalizing, in which you have to do in the state of New Jersey to show up in court. Finalizing our divorce and we hugged each other afterwards, and we were tat seeing the day before Rob killed himself, about our son, who had been homesick and it can't his suicide came out of the blue. It came, at warning. There were, he was a doktor. Obviously I'm a doctor. There were no none of the classic warning signs. and I mean I had never, even though I
I had known, of course, likes. Sadly, most of us do people very close to me who had died by suicide, the thought that he would ever strike. My family was like totally incomprehensible. Orderly and to understand what that was like for me. I think you first have to understand that you know- and this is Ironically, a little similar to your story. When your first book came out- and you explain your tv moment right- it's part of why that was I'm sure. So hard is because on the server as it looks like you, have your together right, like always, and you have a major job and your attractive in your smart and your do it and then until you're, not rain, and that basically encapsulates what I was slammed and confronted with
when when Rob died by suicide, because I had done? A really good job in my life of putting a lot of time and effort into things that paid back so to speak, this success and I don't mean financially, like you know it. I decided to get a degree and nutrition. I got a degree in nutrition. If you know I had two children, exactly when I wanted to in medical school and graduated at the top. Twenty percent my class- and I did that- and I you know- and everything on paper looked perfect. but inside for ten years I was in a really unhappy marriage and not the war of the roses unhappy marriage like that's. The thing is there was not any fighting, kids never saw fighting our friends never saw fighting. It just was to people the crew apart and
I first saw Long Dan walked around literally, and this was that this, what I I myself well John, You can have it all. You ve got to greet her errors. You of your house and you ve, two great kids, So you don't have a relationship everyone has to deal with something, and I was litter, believe resigned to the fact that that was gonna be there so my life and wetted when our marriage, slim didn't work, and when we finally decided that we would be it was kinder and more loving and respectful to each other and to our children to live apart. And to end our marriage. is when I really kind of I had a bigger epiphany that I had a responsibility, not just my children but to myself
as a human being on this planet to live the best life I could live and that involved not faking it through and unhappy marriage. So out, I kind of dealt with that which took and I thought I was in the clear I literally thought like wow. We did this like we, We went through our new year or of getting divorced and our kids are good and we're good and were civil and we didn't like the try to rip each other's throats out. And then two weeks later he killed himself and did you think yourself? My fault, oh totally, really is the first thing I said to my brother when my brother arrived at my apartment an hour later and it s peace and my brother, whose also
doktor said to me John you're, a doctor. You know that divorce doesn't cause suicide, that if Rob was gonna kill him. Self. He would have killed himself married to you or not married to you, and to this day. There are you know if you divide- but it up my brain. Probably ninety percent of it would know that that's true and the ten percent emotional part still feels like it's my fault and I think that's probably, unfortunately, a universal pain that anyone who's been affected by the suicide of a loved one feels I've just guessing, noble concurrent with self meaning was are also anger. I mean I imagine this is horribly painful for your children. Well, you know it's funny, because anger, blame guilt. Shame are kind of the four, emotions that I talk. A lot about in my book.
life after suicide and obviously have talked a lot about those four emotions in therapy and my children have as well for us. First. Let me tell you myself, I felt like I had promised is my anger towards Rob in the last five years of our marriage. So I kind of had ridden that out before he ended his life and to this day a not really angry at him, Much as I am, incredibly sad for him and for my children, even my protective instincts for my kids, dont register as anger. It registers as pain I feel tremendous pain that my children are from the ages seventeen and eighteen growing up without their father. I feel tremendous.
Pain, slash sadness that one of the like maternal feelings that I I think will always you with me- and you know this as apparent every parent at that there is a God parental instinct to protect your child from pain from anything, that's painful. And even though I- oh, the specifics of the fact that I couldn't take them from this. I feel I have failed doing the most important maternal job I had of which is to protect my children from pain and there's too watch them, even though they I've been soldiers and so emotionally mature. in sight fall in their journey. So far, I feel like I would have thrown hotels in front of a bus to shield them for what they have
I'm through and what they have to go through for their the rest of their lives without their father. So it's for as it really wasn't as much anger- and I will so say that, in terms of anger, I think All all three of us myself, Alex and Chloe did not anger, isn't really as hard wired into our dna ironically, custom Jewish and Italians, who you think I have like a doubles dose. ip homozygous worthy anger, jacking by it Rather than repressive, I feel like we kind of Intuit we decided that to become angry at life or even at Rob, and his memory would be to cause. secondary tragedy in his death, and none of us wanted that very was.
Not the Saudis. It was an intentional. I literally think it was an intuitive response. What you decide you wanted to write this book. I didn't. Actually I didn't really decide and I didn't really want to which is interesting. I had been approached. by Harper Collins less than six months after robs death to write a book telling my story and that was the summer of two thousand seventeen- and I cried through the entire meeting- and I said to the wonderful people who were there and very kind and sensitive. I said I will never tell the looking back story. I'm not gonna, be I'm not gonna. Give people like a voyeurs look into robs life he's not here to talk about himself.
I have two children that you know I am there. My primary concern. And I'm not looking back, I'm not I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm not a mental health professional. I'm just not reading the book that you want me to write, I'm not gonna. This isn't gonna, be a tell all inside the Ashton family- you no suicide story, so I thank them when I left and it was a year later when As you remember, the tragic death of Kate Spade. By suicide hit the news and honour rate, and we in our world here as ABC busy journalists. You know, obviously have to cover a lot of really tragic stories that the whole country is talking about or hearing about, and we have to explain those stories and
The day that Kate Spade Suicide hit, the news was a Tuesday and I was actually leaving my medical off. I've been seeing patience and I was fine now to allay to be on a panel about power. already issues and women in medicine and health and it was gonna be in West Hollywood, and I was taking both the kids with make us. They were already out of school and I'm sure this has happened to you in in your career. As a journalist, I was literally boy. in the plane and my phone rings and it's one of our ports Sir said good Morning, America, and very sensitively very kindly said to me, Jan, would you feel comfortable talking about Kate, Spade suicide tomorrow, an ice add, and she said- and I prefer you even give me an answer,
The answer is no. You do not have to qualify it with that'll, be it yes or no, and if it's no, it's now and I said well two things. First of all, I have to check with the king, it's, because if it's not ok with them than it's, not ok with me and second of all, I would only consider talking about it if I were not speaking as your chief medical correspond and not just as a person whose family has been rocked by suicide and sir, hung up with her and I went to the kids and I told them about her request and they, both without hesitation, said mom. You have to do it if to talk about it and that's scared. The crap. Out of me because now I had my kids kind of saying you should do this on an eye kind of hoping that they ve been saying no like we're, not comfortable and give me the out and
I had never spoken about it publicly before and as I said to you with this, like perfect facade life that I had tried to cultivate as a way to kind of make myself now focus on any pain or heard that I had in my past now it was like you know the moment of reckoning, and I was gonna have to talk about just how imperfect my life had become recently, and so I was terrified and the next morning you know their. I sat in our Glenda Glenville Bureau, so you flew to go for you. I was younger, yet I was in allay for this for this being a van and, as you know, crack of dawn. Unfair, GM may, and I d Not know if I was gonna be able to do it. I was so terrified down. It was I in again there's something I know you can relate to and
I had gotten an email from one of the air senior producers in the whole room that morning and she said, Jan basically, we have your back and we will take our lead from you and if you start to lose a wii, get you out, and I just knew that you know I was, I couldn't be in better hands. I mean and so I had. I did this interview with George Stuff anomalous and really spoke about arab, Emily experiences and, as you know, it was maybe two minutes long and I wasn't even off the said yet, and my phone just started blowing up with tweets emails tax from people. I knew people I didn't know viewers, it was one hundred percent positive and by the time I got back to the hotel. My kids were up waiting for me and I showed them some of them and they both looked at me and said, see my
So many people are hurting and you just spoke for them, and I I just was blown, I buy it, I was totally blown away and then, sometime soon, thereafter, Harper Collins reappear, watch me and said now, will you write a book and I said well There are still two conditions. One the same thing I told you a year ago, I'm not going back, I'm not telling you secrets about rob that you know is anything. Titillating or disrespectful or negative. It's not gonna, be that book and the only other crime area is that I don't just want us to be my story. I wanted to be the stories of other people whose lives have been a did by suicide and they said fine and I went on and like a blitzkrieg to find you know about ten other people who, been emailing me since Rob suicide, and some of them I reached out to.
unsolicited and told them I was doing and said, would you share your story and, and while The story is different. Every story also has similarities, and it was just it. It was unbelievable or do Waterloo, most important learning for you and, by extension, for the rest of us. You know, I think, for me what I learned from the book is I mean I, I is used the term filter and unite Eugene. We use that term allowed in media in journalism in life even and the filter. For me, with life after suicide, is that first of all, unfortunately, now suicide being the tenth leading cause of death in the. U S, the likely is that almost everyone on Fourchan We now know someone who has died by suicide and
the estimates from the CDC or that for every person who dies by suicide, a hundred and thirty five people and their immediate circle or touched that's millions and millions of people, and so One of the filters is suicide, like what's the journey like how do you find a road to healing and recovery through that particular type of grief? Cause death by suicide is different than other types. Death in its different and other types of grief, but I also feel like the bigger filter is dealing with any. tragedy that rocks your world and you know How can you get through it? So I mean, I think, Those are kind of the two levels, and may I didn't I, and so much from talking to these people not just about their stories, but about myself.
How do mean we live in a universe where weak everything's out of our control, mostly so we're all gonna experience difficult things were whether it the site or something else too What did you learn about how we can deal with the vicissitudes of life? You know, I think what I learned and I am obviously still learning it literally like you, today I learn something three day, hopefully I'm learning something about how you deal with the pain that life brings. initially right after Rob Suicide, one of my patients actually, whose a seventy five year old woman, with a phd in education and she's of deeply spiritual woman with a tremendous amount of eighth and she said to me: you know: the purpose of life is not avoiding paying. The purpose of life is living through pain and law.
Running from it, but, as you said, no one gets through life without pain, so that really stuck with me two years ago, you know two days ago I read an incredible book called the untutored Sol. Did you ever read that its recommended to me a lot by people on Twitter that mothers and yet are definitely should and I actually listened to the book and there's a big part, an air avowed pain and The image free- and this is a direct paraphrase of Michael singer, but the image three that he describes which real he resonated for me is that you know we are of pain or hurtful experiences in life and most people, and I was So leading the pack and this maneuver it was ridiculous. Most p, All respond by
drawing up a wall, putting up our defence mechanisms and and why voice in. Our heads has never again, I'm never gonna. Let myself feel this kind of pain again was too much I will never allow this to happen again. So we barricade ourselves, we put up this fortress right. We wall That area that's been hurt to protect ourselves. We protect we defend and Michael singer basically says in the book, is when you put up that wall and you close those shutters and put the bars on the windows. So you don't get hurt again, you're also blocking out the sun, and I thought, oh, my god, that is so true, Hamburg out just the birth rate Borg Array. And so he says you know the point, and this is also a very kind of buddhist ash way of dealing with life, is that you should actually welcome pain as it makes its part of Europe
range of emotions, but you should let it go through you, you shouldn't hold on to it and I think That kind of brings me to one of the most had kind of the biggest way that when People ask me how my different today than it was before Rob. suicide? I say it's kind of like that, Charles Dickens line. It was the best of times it was the worst of times there are times where I feel like I've, never stronger and then there are times I feel like I've never been weaker and luckily, most of the time I feel the former I feel like I am stronger now because I have a different philosophy about life. I have a different appreciation for the rich Of my emotions and the gaps of pain that I can feel and still recover and heel and laugh and of and fine joy unhappiness, but there are.
Four times where I feel like when I shattered that I was good back together again and I might be more fragile and an I'm ok with that. I'm ok with like those that dichotomy. Ah come again that it is more on the better side than the weaker side. But you know learning literally every day is part of the process. You said this thing about if it was a patient who Seventy years old, you a woman, again faith. He thinking a little bit of a book that almost done with commanded by of recent and repeat guest on this podcast Gretchen Reuben written a bunch of excellent books but happiness. She recommended that a book called man's search for meaning by Mr Michael who had survived. several concentration camps during the reign of the Nazis, and I hope I M gonna
faithfully restate one of his theses, which was that You know in a world where- we're all going to suffer its than the people who do the best and in particular the crucible of it in his experience in a critical of a concentration camp, but people were will it get to frame their suffering through the lens of meaning to make meaningful? It sounds to me, like that's what you ve done. not only for yourself, but also through writing the book and I would imagine, even though the books not out yet other avail, for pre order. I assume that there meaning in helping other people which, by the way is your job is both of Eureka have re rain? No, I mean there is there is meaning in helping other people in a lot of the people that I interview in the book, whose stories or in the book ah talk about that.
talk about. That is a major means for their own recovery and healing is doing something for the greater good, an and that's not knew that that's therapeutic for people I mean we. We know that from life from communities from medicine from science, so that thing part of it for me, but a bigger kind of meaning in life and how how and why this happened to me and how I will do. With it and how my children are dealing with it in what, learned from them because, as you know, so, even though your Alexander is very young, our kids teach us as much as, hopefully we teach them, and my kids, who are now nineteen and twenty, have taught me massive
life lessons through the way they have been living since their father, suicide and You always want to be your best person for your children right cause, that's the kind of eager involvement and you not only want to be a good role model, but you want them to be proud of you, but it's it's really a circle, and so that's been that's been. It really really interesting experience for me, which I really I really didn't ever as before, and and I think that the biggest one and the bigger one to refer back to what I said about a filter of enjoying Well, how do you deal with a crisis or a tragedy in your life? Is that in in the book I give the visual analogy of when
rob died by suicide. I felt like I shattered. I was a plate that had shattered into a million pieces and to go. who them back together so that it was a functional played. There were gonna, be some ugly pieces that I had to look at and handle an for this happened, I really had tried my best to not look at any ugly parts of my life and that's why I realized it. That's a real Annie, you don't really grow as a person? If you only want to look at one slicer, one angle of something- and so I think For me that is being comparable with those imperfections and that vulnerability not just to the WAR
call Dad large publicly. I mean that's that's kind of secondary, even though it's hard super hard for me, but for myself that was massive and you know It's it's much easier for me. I mean, as I just wrote in this article for this magazine. You know I believe I was put on this planet to be a healer. I am so much more comfortable taken, hair of you than having you take care of me. and so when I started to recover from Rob suicide, I really had to lean on people, and that was really hard for me was really hard for me. It's housework from here you correctly that this traumatic experience force you to open up ways that were really painful, but also it sounds like exhilarating and deeply meaningful. I think
oh yeah, I mean by that is literally how I'm looking at it now. I feel, like I I've learned so much about myself and about and it it has changed. You know me the whole view on life. Really I mean you know in a way that, to be honest, I was always jealous of other people having this before this happened and I am usually ironically, we see it allow with people who have had a disease like cancer and or near death accident, or something like that- and I would know these people we would all hear them speak and hear their stories and I would always say, yeah, that's not really how I feel, though, about life. And I wish I did, but I didn't and you know what they say like now. I understand really what matters to me, or am I don't sweat the small stuff or I really like chair
every day like all these principles and we get so jaded to them right because their these sayings and Now I lived it so really really feel those things you know like deep in my core. I feel them but I think a lot of it had to do with hitting rock bottom and having to put that play together and starting from scratch, which, ironically you know four, different reason you did too might ever. In my experience, it's hard to live out these first, while cliches become we Schaefer reason because their true crane, largely and second, it's hard to operation as these closures in your life? If you have it, if you haven't earned the hard way. I think, from an aimless. Moreover, comic nation is on the way after this better help offer licensed professional councillors specialised in a wide array of issues like depression, anxiety and grief, connect with their profession
counselor and a safe private online environment. It's a truly affordable option and listeners can get ten percent off your first month by going to better help dot com, slash happier fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with the counselor you'll love you said, or that one of the ways people if these are not new, but one of the ways of people make meaning out of horrible things- is to turn round and try to help other people and a decent and constructive in the war which brings to mind somebody who did that Jeremy Richmond who it was because of Jeremy, Recent suicide that one to have you on Normally I would have had one rightly book came out, but I- bring you in early because an you very kindly to do? Did you announce incredibly short notice, because I'm here a lot of people in our audience who listen to my podcast with Jeremy, a couple more to go and jar just kind of mystify at an absurd as a consequence of the news
about him he's a little background on him. You know he lost the daughter of yell and in me Shooting a new town which I covered and turned around a star, the real foundation where he was trying to use his background and neuroscience tough to see. If he could, really understand what go sour in the minds of some people and I met him because I spoke turn. This speaking one of his foundation events- and so obvious that he's the kind of radiant man I know you you, Madam the radio, guy and he seemed so resilient and and and had got. He and his wife had gone on to have more choice. Bernie just seemed in credit. It a background. invitation was really interested just so I really monitor bringing gone- and I did I see, sat in the chair, you're sitting right now, and we tad this big long, really
inspiring very difficult conversation about his personal experiences and how meditation it later positive role for him. I am obviously as the ten percent guide, not of the view that meditation as a panacea none the less withstanding the horrible circumstances in his life. I was really surprised to hear that he had taking as our life, and so I just if you can free associate a little bit about about this case well, first of all, the again I said before that I am a believer that there are no real coincidences in life and I think that, ironically, I had met Jeremy back in two thousand thirteen, I did not hear his episode on your podcast, but I had met him because radar after the sandy hook, shooting which I also covered for ABC I
decided very privately, because one my patience at my medical office, was so devastated. She wanted to do something I wanted to do something like so many people, so we were had this idea that we thought we would never be able to execute and we sent a letter to the New town City Council, I think, or town Hall, Town Hall and I've picture, which I'll show you of a long table of which they had like for such tables that were covered with tens of thousands of letters. From all over the country and parts of the world simply saying the same thing that my letter said: what can we do to help you out were hard broken and someone from the town picked up my letter. and what my letter said was that even I have a very public role with one
The world's largest media companies, ABC News. I my fur ends in my community Jersey wanted to do something for them. We want to keep this completely private they'll be no media involved, but we wanted to come up and plant twenty six trees around their school, not the Sandy Hook elementary school, but in their kind of centre of their town, and it happened. You know these in credible people we started talking, we made it happen and joy Army Richmond and his wife? Were there that day in April and so I have all these pictures with him, and and in one picture Dan there's about forty or fifty of us, including com, it's not my kids were there are some my patients, kids were there who had come and spent. This whole day
digging in the dirt planting twenty six ten foot hall, ten foot tall trees for these children and teachers who were killed that day and in this one picture, there's rob my ex husband standing, maybe five feet away from Germany Richmond, and I look at the picture and I I think the same things that you just said like how oh, do you wrap your head around these two men, these two fathers, these too smart, educated healing, giving souls who chose to get off this planet way too early and
You know, in particular this week with Germany's suicide, came on the heels of two of the parkland students down in Florida suicide. So this concept of suicide contain Jan, which I am sure you know about which we hear about a law, which is that the more the media reports- suicide there are almost copycat suicides, but it and that could have been at play with Jeremy rate will never know he could have heard about the parkland students suicide and could have triggered a response in the Sandy, look elementary school shooting and survivor guild, play in panic, and we don't know, but I think that all, I could think about, was that this was a person who had chosen to deal with it horrible tragedy in a way that helped other people.
And you know, may not have had any of the signs just like Rob had none of the signs, and I think that It's a reminder to me to us than you, ever know what someone's going through and that we should really be as kind and sensitive as possible. Anyone we pass because not because you prevent them from taking their own life, but because it's the right thing to do, because such a lot of people are self Bringing you don't see. It on the surface on cases like Robin Jeremy. When there are no signs. Does that mean there's nothing? We can do other than just be nice. If we can't everybody what I mean, think. That's the million dollar question we don't know forceful, we don't know what causes suicide in the first place rain. Over fifty percent of the people who die by suicide, had never been diagnosed with a mental illness. That's the CDC stat! So rich,
was one of them. Maybe Jeremy was one of them, we don't know rain worse doesn't cause suicide, but some people who get divorced wind up, killing themselves rain. there are so many complex factors that we can't just make it as simple as a like a media, sound bite and say this is the one thing. I think that. I'm starting to look at it kind of like the open. Lloyd Crisis or a lake wearing a seat belt. a car, which is, I think, it's become so pervasive now for whatever reasons we dont yet understand that we we need to start walking around with this consciousness and awareness of. What's the talk hotline number, what do you do if you see someone that's struggling overtly, you know what should you say to them? What should you not say to them? What should you ask them? You know all kind,
The proof like you would practice a fire drill and your apartment her home and of the same type of thing. I think it's just has to be awareness has to Greece and no one can feel like this can happen to me or my family or the interests of those questions, well, the one answer that I learned way back in medical school is that, if you are, if you thought crosses your mind that someone might be depressed and thinking of self harm. You should ask them that out, You will not be insulting them and you won't be giving them an idea and if a person is truly depend, and you say, have you thought bout, hurting yourself or taking your own life or killing yourself that is literally no different than asking them. Is it raining outside the we'll give you a yes or no answer. And if they say yes, the next question. Were taught in medical school is to say to have you thought of a plan.
and the either way. Yes, I've thought I have a plan. No, I haven't thought of a plan, but I've thought of hurting myself. That is a medical emergency that that needs to be that person can't be left alone? That person should be brought to. psychiatric emergency room, I mean that is a medical emergency and it can't be like. Oh, I don't want to embarrass the person or I don't want to insult the person Not it's not like that, no more than it would be like if you having a nose bleed- and I said to you down- you know your nose is bleeding that in our view, we have to deal with it and I think just that is really important. and and unfortunately talking about a kind of in the what its is important. You know, Unfortunately, when rob- and I were in couples, therapy are therapists that asked both of us. If we had ever thought of hurting ourselves and Rob said in Fattic Lee, absolutely not,
oh, you know what changes in the moment where some, unlike robber, Jeremy Richmond, decides they they ve had it. You know my therapists, Doktor Sue, simmering, told us rate after robs death, and this really stuck with me, because when when suicide is a foreign concept to us, it's impossible to fathom House someone would do something like that, it's so scary and it so frightening rate but the way she described did which really really had such an impact on me is a non suicidal person when things are at their worst Wilson. aid to themselves. This is gonna, get better it's Maybe tomorrow will be better or they look for them, great spotter? They look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it on articulate it at that to themselves, but it's they somewhere subconsciously,
suicidal person when things are at their worst says to me, Euro is gonna, be a thousand times worse. I have to get out now. Am I right that we, our seeing levels of suicide. There are unprecedented in this area so what he thinks, driving that being a god. So many it's like, if you ask me, what's driving the maternal mortality crisis, I could give you six reasons I think there. a lot of reasons for the spike in suicide on number one life is more stressful. Today, right you turn on the news or your in your community and bad stuff is happening. Recent more stressful today than it was in world WAR two, when your kids are being drafted to go further, to use or why am indifferent and you and I were alive then so we don't personally now but, like me, you know different different types of stress the different exposure to stress and bad stuff. There's no question right
I mean you literally can get away from it now. I think. That's a factor think there could be environmental factors. We don't know social isolation, that social isolation is a big one. There's an an extra Newsweek article on suicide that I think was written in either two thousand thirteen or two thousand fifteen, and it talks about the dangerous triad of someone who is at risk for suicide or suicide attempts and its feeling isolated or not belonging, feeling like a burden to your circle, whether it's your family, your friends or whatever and now being afraid of death, so losing the hope in the future and losing the fear of death when people can have one of those
things happen at any given time, but when both of them happen together, it is a very dangerous situation and when you think about that, it makes sense right because most most patients for eggs like we want to do everything we can to stay alive. Most people want to do everything we can to stay alive were afraid of something that might kill us or- result in our doubts. It people who think about suicide are not afraid of death and they have no hope for the future. So those two things together make it a very The precarious kind of situation, but feeling isolated, feeling socially isolated, feeling like a burden and like you can't belong is, is something that seems like. We should be able to address right, yeah, but Lomas loneliness is an epidemic. and did it kills him enough? We were hard wired revolution. Would, as social animals loneliness actually could kill you on this
then a because you didn't have other people around to protect you, so it sir, that's a dangerous situation, two more questions, one is, is there a question I should have asked but didn't now you always ass the best questions than you now. Is there a question about suicide or life after suicide? I think I think I've ronicky it has to do with happiness, and I think that the question is: can you be happy after suicide hits your life and I think the answer is yes, I'm very happy. I am happy now, but it's a different happiness Obviously it said it's a different, maybe they're, not all capitalized letters or Maybe it's it's just different,
as I said, I have a different appreciation for life and I have a different understanding of myself than I ever did before. I wished and wish that it Didn'T- or she wouldn't have taken, rob suicide to get me to that point, but I think my children could say the same. Thing, and I think that was how that was kind of our way of recovering and healing is to look for that deeper meaning, and I in speaking to a lot of suicide survivors for my book, a lot of them, Guilt is something that we all deal with, and. we all say. How can you ask me down if I'm happy when two years ago my children's father killed himself and the a concept that I learned from my amazing therapists is one called multiple truths ass. I can be happy with my
standing of life with my children's life. With my career with my new relationship, I can be happy and I can be incredibly sad that my children to have a father one does negate the other, and I think that's probably the most important piece of advice that I could give any one dealing with either a loss from Suicide or any crisis is that multiple truths. does not make you a bad person, does not mean that there is Something wrong with you or you know, end when you talk about being happy after someone, you love dies by suicide. I believe that it's actually a tribute to that person Spirit so yeah I mean, I think, that's that's kind of the most important question. I'll, say something for ass. Well, ass was from which is in the last questions were practice, which is you know your job as a doctor
is to help people your job on TV is to help people. I think it's it's possible that, through the look, you may have done your most dramatic impact for work of helping people it's possible. I hope so on its ironic, because most everything I've done in my life, I really planned out and this obviously I did not plan any of it. Even the book part, but you- know the book life after suicide. I do think and hope helps Waymore P of all that I have helped. You know as a medical correspondent or even as a practising physician, because there are a lot of people suffering in the shadows that I I want us all. to be brought more into the light, and I hope that the book does that. I really do. As we said. The book is called love after suicide- it's not out yet, but is going out soon you can pay order, it is providing realise, had promoters are discounted but of course I'm sure you'd.
no, I didn't know yeah, but that's the cheaper rate other thing you know, oh, if we want to learn more about you work, we find you a social media and all that stuff and any other reason, it's just that you want, I just get out of my Twitter. An interim is at the r J ashen. Ah I've heard a lot from so many people who have been affected by suicide, especially when I announced at the book was coming out, and is available for pre order. Obviously, I'm on ABC News Good Morning, America and World NEWS tonight, often if an almost daily and dumb. You know that American Foundation for suicide prevention is an amazing resource and for military families taps which is the tragedy assistance programme is also an amazing resource and dumb. There is a lot to help out there, but people off times. Dont know where to ask for it or had again
and there is no question that access to him to mental health treatments is now out where it should be, but there are people there who want to help and can help. It doesn't have to be expensive. But we need to ask for Thank you again for writing a book and for on Covenanters podcast, an extremely short notice to upper listeners. and me I really appreciate thanks, Stan big thanks again to die began Ashton, as I said, The top the show really appreciate her coming covenant expedited fashion. so let's turn now to voice males hears number one day and make an evident that go there I read or after listen to your book, meditation for dignity sceptics I during a one hour said I well I'm lucky to get three breaths and a row weren't focused on
and breath and then after some time. I realize, though crap I'm not to my indeed my I'm anymore, I'm often rabbit or thought the men thanks to you, born. I say silently to the thought, welcomed the party and I began again to focus on my breath. Thanks to you,
I now know, and I am grateful to know that I might get one breath or online pay attention to is my breath. Coming into my body in going out of my body, I get three brothers or even seven whole brought in a row. Braun focused on my breath coming into my body in going out of my body, but your book meditation, particularly sceptics, really help me understand that this is meditation and beginning again is the practice and I'm not doing it wrong. As long as I began again, when I realized my mind, a mock and my father raising and I no longer focused on my bra my question. My question is: ever since my friend I'd buy suicide, I've been meditating every day, as much of my schedule allow everyday for at least in our, but often for three to four
focusing on my ride losing that focus and getting lost in my thoughts, realizing I'm lost, saying, welcome to the party and beginning again very few things you need to meditate every day for as long as I can and part of me wonders if I'm using meditation the way someone else is that drugs alcohol and are using it as an escape from a thought. I don't wanna, have actually isolating up exactly what I'm doing. My father, too overwhelming at aligning deal with my after my feeling that you want to focus on my browser. Do you think this is harmful to me? Do you think I'm using medication to oil aid, something I actually should be thinking about thanks for any guidance about this, and thanks again for your work, your books, your podcast Dan? Thank you very much. You ve had an extremely positive impact on my life, thank by
I am gratified to hear that that my work and the work of all the folks with whom I worked as having a positive impact, really appreciate that very sad. However, to hear about the death of your friend, I want at issue caviar Ray say whatever I'm gonna say, which is that not a bit professional, not a mental health, professional- and I you know, diagnose you, even if you right in front of me, but I definitely can't diagnose you after voice mail, so I you know, I would say, if you're dealing with the kind of trauma with which you clearly are dealing. I think this is also a question that makes sense to talk to somebody with credentials about so I'll, get out I'll, say a few things that I hope are useful, but under the umbrella of the aforementioned caveat.
So so one thing is that I hope I've, clear in my various public utterance Is that I'm not I'm not? meditation fundamentalist. I don't think that meditation is gonna solve all of your problems and I I don't think it's the only modality when it comes to well being, I think, is something we should. Having an arrow, that's really useful, to have in the quiver, but you don't have to do it and, although I think it's there's plenty of evidence suggests it's really good. For you, but that is that there are other things you should also you should consider, and I would say in your case it I think it's safe for me to say that the talk therapy might make sense. You may already be doing this. So that's the danger of trying to give advice and new in this kind of antics as I cannot have all the information, but I think, given that this suicide, quite
Finally, I would imagine, is having a really dramatic impact than a nation can be useful, but I would imagine it's it's not the only tool that you might wanna access so while I would consider that anything, I would say, as you know the way describe your practice which, as you say it and try to focus on your breath, and then you notice, you become lost in thought, and you say internally welcome to the party what well That sounds on some level to be the good practice, which is Europe fighting off the thoughts you're ok with whatever's arising sadness, frustration, anger, confusion, and your truly welcoming it in, but you then went on to say that you are worried that actual you're using this to escape those thoughts in it strikes me that, I just wonder whether the welcome to the party that you're
flying in the face of your thoughts and emotions is sincere. That's just that came up. In my mind, do you really mean it when you're saying welcome to the party because we truly are using them meditation. The way it's generally taught, which is too. Allow in whatever is arising and splore it even in the face of the pain. So that it doesn't have so much power over you, then it isn't a form of denial or anesthesia or self medical. It is truly it one modality for processing, very powerful emotions, so yeah, I would take a look at that and I would also I think, Use, as I said before, talk therapy as as another way of dealing with these very powerful emotions. Ever I
we appreciate your voice mail and yet I wish you nothing, but the best go for it sounds like a really tough situation would go into well number. Two, then Barbara. My questionnaires is intergroup meditating consistently. I start telling the truth more and more back so much to my feet and you're sort of a role model for that for me, because you think to be very forthright with your guests, like you, if you're interested and with somebody a thing you just go. I do know that means, and I really like that. I don't think a lot of people are willing to be so blunt But when I, when I open my mouth like that, it feels like I'm not being a proper Buddha, you know I'm a fucking like mindful of my speech,
before you know pacing to something like this something and I don't know if there really is in the offing. Hunger thinks of critical, but just wondering if you have any thought about that lake. Are we supposed to I'll be like he's maker, the way lay come, the Dalai Lama is a meditative or with a third, or can we just their cells as meditatively? Can we can we lend our states not be so constricted all at home? They fought by That's a great question, let me just say: hey, I know it. I tend to do this play, I'm going to give you an answer, but first I'm going to get you a cab yet, but I can't help it so I'm going to do that now, that. I appreciate you saying that. have a role model in this way, but I gotta be asked I have a lot
work to do in my communication style, it's probably mercury communications down upon ass a reasonably good because I am being watched in a sense or listen to both in the rest of my life, there are times when my communications style is sub optimal. I've said before on the podcast that a couple of months ago, I had a witch three sixty review where lots of people in my life gave anonymous feedback, and I was able to read that feedback and One of the things I was doing before was being dismissive at times, so I asked been working with some Buddhists, who are communications, corporate communications specialists, not just within corporations, but committing interpersonal in and professional communication. So I've I've. I've learned
the time for them, and I will talk about it at length in my forthcoming book whenever it actually comes out and on this pipe cast and wherever else I get a chance to talk about it so more to come on. That's for sure, but I urge or be clear. I am not some sort of paragon of perfection when it comes a communication that your question You can we tell the truth without being rude or on Buddhist this unkind and yet so the model within the within Buddhism of Corn, court right speech or wise speech, that the Buddha talked about saying that, which is true that which is useful and saying it at the right time. and it s a really. I don't I may I fall run a foul of these guidelines over time, but I think is a north star that are really a great way to operate,
operate, or at least aspirations. So again say that which is true, is it The question is asked for yourself as you're about to say something and often we say things before we ve considered open and that's cool. Well, it's not cool. Obviously, but it's it's understandable. We all do that, and I don't think you need to be yourself up if you do it, but if you're mine fallen you're on your game, the questions to ask yourself before he say something is: is this true is before and is now the right time to say it, and I think that that does not preclude who from saying tough and honest things you? U invoked, the Dalai Lama. He says tough and honest things, but I suspect that, when he's on his game. They eat what you say is true: you find in the right context, so one of the things drive me crazy about the meditation
world is that there can be this way of talking, that's little precious and, tragically and and fake, besides that happen all the time, but it we can devolve into that, and so I would surely I recommend that you walk around pretending that everything's rosy in Europe, you know and imperturbable peacemaker all the time You also don't wanna, however, be rude and just telling people you don't like their shirt just because you feel like telling them and whatever judgment happens, Through your mind is not needed, then come out your mouth but I really like the is a true. Is it useful? Is now the right time to say it and it's a great great lands through which to try to assess whether what you're about to say is the right thing to say. I hope that was useful definitely was true, and I hope that the hopefully it was the right time to say to you
I really want to thank everybody for for the major questions wanna thank the folks at work on this podcast to include Rang Kessler, Samuel, Johnson and Grace Livingston, please, if you get a second rate, Us Review S, talk about us, social media. All that stuff really helps, and I will be back next Wednesday with more show them. There there's not a person in America who hasn't been impact it in some way by the corona. I was pandemic, but it every community. There are pockets of people who were soon
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