Papers reveal Jacqueline Kennedy's grief after assassination

Friday, November 14, 2003

WASHINGTON -- To a grieving nation, Jacqueline Kennedy was stoic following her husband's assassination. But over games of tennis with a priest who counseled her, she apparently revealed her feelings, including thoughts of suicide.

She wondered if God would separate her from her husband if she killed herself. She agonized over the existence of eternal life, and suggested that her young children might be better off if they were raised by the slain president's brother Robert and his wife Ethel.

"I'm no good to them," she told the Rev. Richard McSorley, as they traded tennis strokes at Robert Kennedy's Hickory Hill estate. "I'm so bleeding inside."

McSorley, a Jesuit priest and Georgetown University theologian who died last year, counseled her to not give in to the grief. He told her to take comfort in Catholic teachings of resurrection and eternal life.

McSorley kept a typewritten diary that included his recollections of private conversations with Mrs. Kennedy. The diary and private letters were among documents he left the university's main library, which made them available this week. His recollections also are part of a new book on the Kennedy family by Newsday reporter Thomas Maier.

With bold and sweeping script, written on White House notecards and her own stationary, Mrs. Kennedy told McSorley in June 1964 that she "won't ever get over it." But she said her move to New York City with daughter Caroline and son John Jr. "will be good for me and stop me brooding."

McSorley also recounts her description of the November day in 1963 when JFK was shot in Dallas.

"I didn't know he was hit by the first bullet. His head was turned away from me," McSorley recalled her telling him. "By the time I looked toward the president, he was already being hit for the second time."

"If I only had a minute to say goodbye," she told McSorley.

"It was so hard not to say goodbye, not to be able to say goodbye."

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