On May 16th, 2012, Mary Kennedy, estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., took her life.
Her suicide devastated her family on multiple levels, resulting in two separate funerals with her family of origin at one and the Kennedys at the other – with neither side included at the other. I wonder what her children would have wanted. At least they got to choose where she was buried.
The emotional landmines associated with an unexpected, painful, confusing suicide can blow a family apart and wreck havoc on the lives of the children. The need to find fault when looking for a reason for why she would take her life, kept her children from being able to reach out and experience warmth from all those who loved their mother when the children needed them the most.
When we are certain about who is right and who is to blame, we close down and limit possibilities for intimate connection, for loving support, and for much needed understanding. When we can let go of needing to be right, and can open our hearts – in the midst of terrible pain — we are able to connect from a place of love and begin to dispel some of the hurt, and even hatred. In this way, healing can begin to happen and the suffering that led to a suicide in the first place can begin to dissipate as those who experience that deep loss can console and support each other.
Children need the adults in their lives to stop blaming each other when they are upset and unhappy.
Children need the adults who love them to stop and ask: “What would love do?” when confronted with something as painful as a suicide.
This traumatic time will be forever branded in the hearts and minds of Mary’s children, and will shape their relationships with each other, with their loved ones now, and with their future spouses and partners. This is Mary’s legacy, and it is being solidified by the warring factions that are her children’s family members. For Conor, 17, Kyra, 16, Fin, 14 and Aidan, 10, trust has been shattered by their mother, and instead of joining together to pick up the pieces, her family members picked up the shards and pointed the sharp ends at each other, causing rifts to grow deeper.
When we focus on our anger and hate, we don’t have to feel the sadness, grief, and sorrow, nor do we have to wrestle with the confusion and uncertainty that is the truth – the only one who will ever know the reason for her suicide is Mary herself.
My heart and prayers go out to all the members of her family and my sincere wish is that they can find a way to come together with respect, honor, and love.