Loss comes in many different forms - for most people, while it is challenging, it is bearable.
For others, as we saw recently with the suicide of Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy, Jr., loss can be devastating to the point at which one might believe that relief can be found only in death.
It has been widely reported that Mary suffered from depression. With the break-up of her marriage, she lost so much: the family life she knew, the role and identity of being a wife and, in this case, the status of being part of the Kennedy family.
Perhaps to her, these were defeats that she apparently could not cope with. But what about the family she left behind? How will her four children, ages 11 to 17, deal with this great loss of their own?
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Painful Questions After Suicide
So often the knee-jerk reaction to a suicide that strands young children is to ask the question: How could a parent do this to their kids? How could they leave them? In Mary's case, it was not about her not loving her family, it was a blatant statement about her not being able to love herself. For whatever reason, she did not have the internal strength to survive her depression.
That leads me to another question many people often ask: How could she do this when she seemed to have so much security in terms of her friends, a career, a nice house, and a family that she loved? My answer is that while she was surrounded by the people and things that should have helped her feel sheltered, the depression that she was plagued by took away her self-esteem.
Related: Death Can Teach You How to Live
The Truth About Depression
No matter how much she had that would otherwise give her worth, she just ended up feeling insecure and worthless. Depression destroys any joy or pleasure you might usually pull from these things. It is like the Pac man video game, wiping out whatever happiness crosses its path. The divorce may have been the final rock in the heavy bag she was carrying; the fact that it evidently wasn't finalized may have made things harder for her. In addition, the idea that Robert was already in a new relationship was likely to have intensified the feelings of heartbreak. There was no end in sight to putting down that bag full of sadness, and it seemed to become more than she could stand.
When somebody chooses to commit suicide, it is usually because his or her loss of self feels insurmountable, and there is nothing left to live for. They believe there is no hope, that they will never find their way back. We can only speculate about Mary's exact reasons unless the note she left is someday made public.
My heart goes out to her family. It is so painful to be left behind. If I could pass one thing on to them it would be to understand and believe that committing suicide is not an attempt to leave the people you love, but rather to rid yourself of the demands and disappointments you can no longer handle, that you might even believe you are inflicting on people you don't want to hurt. It is not a statement about the ones who are still here, but rather about the one who is now gone. Understanding this might help sustain her children's own self-esteem and self-worth. What it doesn't help with is the pain of missing her.
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