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Jackie Kennedy Discussed Suicide with Her Priest After JFK’s Death

Updated

What did Jackie really know? Get new details about her complicated marriage to JFK, suicidal despair after his death and how she found the strength to go on. Subscribe now to get instant access to this Kennedy confidential, only in PEOPLE!

In the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy‘s assassination in 1963, his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, was so consumed by grief that she privately spoke of her suicidal despair.

Eddie Adams/AP

Jackie, a devout Catholic, turned to her faith to cope with the traumatic loss of her husband — and the devastation of having to raise her children Caroline, then nearly 6, and John Jr., almost 3, alone. The First Lady, who was then just 34, opened up about her anguish in conversations and letters with two priests.

 

Writing to Irish priest Joseph Leonard, she confessed to feeling “bitter against God.”

Another priest, Father Richard McSorley, described to author Thomas Maier a conversation in which Jackie asked him “if God would separate her from her husband if she killed herself.”

 

Maier recounted the conversation in his 2003 book The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kingsexplaining that as the priest told Jackie the church’s position on suicide, “she finally interrupted him and said, ‘Father, I understand. I know it’s wrong. I wouldn’t do it. But it’s so lonely out there.’ ”

RELATED VIDEO: Natalie Portman Talks About Becoming Jackie Kennedy 

But Jackie soon learned to cope, drawing on the strength and resolve she possessed throughout her life.

Her Vassar College classmate Susan Wilson tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, “She had a lot of confidence in herself — in all the things the rest of us ordinary mortals were sort of struggling with.”