Mary Kennedy's Shocking Suicide Attributed To Heartbreak
After Mary Kennedy's shocking suicide, friends and family are feuding over how to remember Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s troubled, estranged wife. He says her depression eluded help. But Mary's friends say that the split and losing her four kids may have put her over the edge. PEOPLE examines these dueling portraits in this week's issue and asks what drove this mother of four to suicide.
A gifted architectural designer and welcoming hostess, Mary, 52, was universally seen as a giving woman devoted to her children, her friends, her husband, her charities, and the Catholic Church. Her husband, 58, estranged since 2010, had only achingly kind words in his eulogy. "She was genius at friendship," Bobby Kennedy Jr. said from the pulpit. But, he added, "She had this sadness that kicked her and chased her." He talked about doctors being unable to figure out what medications she needed, that she "did everything she could" to fight that crippling sadness. "I know I did everything I could for her," he went on. "And she knew that."
But it is also no secret that for the last four years she'd been struggling to rescue her disintegrating marriage. "She was heartbroken," says a neighbor. "She loved Bobby and wanted him to love her." Another says, "Her identity was wrapped up with her husband's. It was like she lost her sense of self." Three years ago Mary became convinced that mold in her aging house was exacerbating her kids' allergies and asthma. Halting the guest traffic to her home, she spearheaded a three-year renovation showcasing green technology. By the time she was done in 2010, she and Bobby were separated. "After the renovation, it was different," says Victoria, a friend from Brown University and wife of pal Peter Michaelis. "The marriage was unglued. Everything was quieter. She was taking sedatives to deal."
As her husband and his family tell it, Mary battled depression long before her 1994 marriage or its later problems. "She struggled from the time I met her, when she was 15," Kerry Kennedy, 52, told PEOPLE. Others disagree. "Battling demons? That's hyperbolic language," says Carole Radziwill, a Mary friend (and the daughter-in-law of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's sister Lee). "I didn't see anything close to that." Adds another friend: "Mary did not have a history of depression. She became a troubled person because of the divorce."
Still, Mary was determined to hold her marriage together. "Mary didn't believe in divorce," says Michaelis. As the proceedings grew nastier, friends say she began drinking more. "The following summer, "Mary was told she wasn't welcome in Hyannisport," says a friend, referring to the Kennedy compound. "As a result, Bobby was told he couldn't come into her house." As last Christmas approached, she held out hope for a reconciliation, even though by then Bobby was in a relationship with actress Cheryl Hines. Mary believed her kids were going on a ski vacation with Bobby – and probably Hines – yet she told friends she would be going. Instead, Mary spent the holidays tearfully telling Michel Rossignol, owner of Bedford Village Pastry, "It's not easy to divorce a Kennedy."
For more on the Kennedy family cover story, pick up the 6/04/12 issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere now.
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