Monday, September 5, 2011


I had heard before that Jackie Kennedy lost a child shortly before her husband's assassination. I had heard it in passing, but never really thought about it.

It wasn't until I experienced a stillbirth that it really hit home with me. Maybe it's because I'm sensitive to these issues now, but her story really hits home with me.

Jacqueline Kennedy's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. The next year she had a daughter, Arabella, who was stillborn. Her daughter Caroline was born the year after that, followed by son John. In  August 1963 (when John was two) she became pregnant again. She went into labor and delivered her son, Patrick, 5 1/2 weeks early. He died two days later.

If you are doing the math you would realize that the death of her last child occurred just three months before her husband was assassinated.

After JFK died at the hospital, Jackie slipped her wedding ring on his finger and said, "Now I have nothing left". She refused to remove her blood stained clothing (the now famous pink Chanel suit), and even wore it during the swearing in of President Johnson. She buried her husband on her son's third birthday. (The bodies of her infant daughter and son were moved to be buried with their father.)

She wanted her children to have a normal life.  I think she probably tried, but during the year following JFK's death her daughter Caroline told her teacher that mommy cried all the time.

When her brother-in-law was assassinated in 1968 she feared for the lives of her children. Many believe she married Aristotle Onassis partly because he could provide the security she desired. (They were married just four months after Robert was assassinated).

Her step-son died in a plane crash in 1973, and her husband died two years after that.

When I first read about JFK years ago, I glazed over the parts about Jacqueline. At that time in my life I only saw her as having a supporting part in the story. Now, that I'm a mother and wife, and now that I've had some of the same experiences she had I look back on her story with amazement. She must have been an incredible woman. I kind of feel bad for not giving her the credit she deserved.

When you are suffering in pain, I think it sometimes helps to know that you are not alone. Other people have suffered as much, or even more, than you. Jackie is just one of those stories.


mommacommaphd said...

Ugh. This is like a punch to the gut. It reminds me of my maternal grandmother. She lost her husband, my grandfather, on Christmas morning. She was left with 5 kids in age from 2 to 12. Within 2 years, she would also lose her mother, father, and sister. Years later she would also lose her eldest son.

I cannot imagine that life. I cannot imagine surviving that kind of loss. Your entire support system gone in 2 years? How do you survive that?

As for Jacqueline Kennedy, part of me is relieved that she didn't live to see John's death. Which then makes me think of Caroline- an orphan, losing her only surviving sibling.

Such tragedy. And such strong women to persevere.

Jayme said...

Her story blows my mind. I cannot imagine losing my husband so close to the loss of a child. I don't know if I'd be able to survive that.

Love in the Nest said...

Wow this is a really interesting post, I didn't know her story at all but will do some reading up now.

You're right that its good to know you are not alone when times are hard.
Wonderful, brave women xxx