Amy Yasbeck on John Ritter's Death and Being a Widow

John Ritter's widow shares how she coped with his sudden death and moved forward since then in the edited version of our phone interview with her

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
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Photograph: AOL

More: Aside from a very successful career, most people also know you as John Ritter's widow.
AY: Were you a Three’s Company fan?

More: Huge!
AY: What’s so funny for me is there is a whole new generation watching that show thinking, this program is so pure, while my generation thought it was the edgiest show of its time. As time went by, it became an iconic series. You can even compare many of the Three’s Company characters to ones on shows on television today.

More: I loved John Ritter. He just made us laugh.
AY: He was naturally like that. He was just so funny. Yes, he could be serious, but he would always err on the side of humor.

More: John’s passing [in 2003] was totally unexpected.
AY: I remember Henry Winkler [best known as The Fonz in Happy Days] saying there was an incredible amount of swearing from refined people in Hollywood when John died. There was such shock throughout the community. People lost their shit for a minute when they got the news.

More: I can’t imagine what you went through.
AY: It was way too hard to process. He was America’s brother/son. John was in everyone’s home. He was the quintessential comedy and TV star. John loved his job and John loved people.

More: How did you and your daughter, Stella, get through this?
AY: I have described it as the five stages of grief on stage. It is different every moment of every day. There is no formula for it. We are still getting through it to this day; it is an ongoing process. There are some days you think about the person or the feelings you have for them and sometimes it is just a dream or a song that puts you in a certain mood.

More: How are you now?
AY: There is the moving forward, which doesn’t necessarily mean moving away. The relationship that you built with that person will always live inside of you.

More: I am sure you want to keep John’s memory alive for the sake of your daughter. Having said that, does that allow you to move forward?
AY: There is nothing I can do to change John’s relationship with Stella or my relationship with John. It becomes an untouchable thing.

More: Does it change?
AY: Although your relationship grows, you hold it differently. I would do a disservice if I did not model John’s full life in front of Stella. That can be confusing for kids who lose a parent. Look, I was in no position to completely shut down. I couldn’t, for the sake of my daughter. Not only is that not good for her to watch, but you also have to model healthy life skills for kids to learn from. Stella has her own private way of dealing with it. What I can tell you, no one gets through their life without losing someone huge. Although there is a hole in your heart, you have to keep living. Instead of always being in mourning, which is a pretty shitty tribute to pay to someone you loved, you save a permanent place and memory in your heart for them. Once someone is planted in your heart they are always there.

More: How do you best honor and remember John?
AY: The best way to honor John for who he was and what he continues to do for so many people is to just be silly once in a while. John loved that more than anything. He loved to be silly at really inappropriate times. I try to be that way too because that was something we had in common. Stella is that way naturally.

More: Will you ever get over this loss?
AY: No. You never get over something like this. I honestly don’t know what getting over it entails. Aside from losing John, I also lost both of my parents, when I was 19 and 21 years old, from cigarette nonsense.

More: You are the creator of the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health?
AY: This foundation is like making a giant family for myself. I am so honored to have affected so many people and encouraged them to get informed about their genetic history. I want to educate them about their risks so they don’t end up like John.

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