Ward tells Australia's Herald Sun newspaper that Ledger's death caused her to drop out of the media spotlight for the past several years. The model will make her theatrical debut at the Perth Theatre Company in Western Australia later this year.
"I have taken a break from the media spotlight for the past few years and it was something spurred by Heath's death," she said. "(Heath and I) first met in New York and we were both struggling with things that I won't get into, and we bonded over that."
Ward and Ledger met in November of 2007. They spent Christmas together in Perth before they returned to New York. Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose on January 22, 2008.
"The time we spent in Perth was incredible because we were both from Perth and it was also a time when it was beautiful in Perth and both our families were there and we met each other's families," Ward said. "We were able to not be in any kind of a spotlight and not have to be meeting with people or be hounded by press or anything. We lived in a magical kind of world where we weren't intruded upon."
In 2009, rumors swirled that Ward was quitting modeling due to vicious attacks on her weight during her hiatus. But the model attributes the lengthy time she took off following Ledger's untimely passing to a need to address personal issues and figure out what she wanted from life.
"It was a reassessment of everything and I've made a commitment to myself to address some things that were coming up to do with Heath's passing and also things that were troubling me before we met. So it was a retreat from many things in my life and I did think it was important for me to focus on those things," Ward, who also appears as a mermaid in the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", said.
"I didn't know how long it would take. I didn't know if it would solve anything, but I set out to focus inside myself."