First Lady Jill Biden Remembers First Big Thanksgiving After Beau's Death: 'I Knew How Hard It Would Be'

"At some point in our lives, we will all be broken and bruised — but we are not alone. We find joy together," Dr. Biden wrote in a personal essay

Dr. Jill Biden
Jill Biden. Photo: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/Getty Images

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is opening up about her personal experience with resilience.

In an essay for Oprah Daily published on Thursday, Dr. Biden reflected on her family's 2016 Thanksgiving celebration — their first since her stepson Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

As she and husband Joe Biden arrived in Nantucket, Massachusetts, with their grandchildren, Dr. Biden, 69, recalled putting "on a smile that I didn't quite feel."

"The year before, our family had forgone our yearly Thanksgiving tradition. Nantucket was just another place to remind us of all that we had lost," she wrote. "I knew how hard it would be to come back, but this year, the grandkids had asked."

"They wanted to be together and feel normal again. So, Joe and I said yes," she added.

Jill Biden; Beau Biden
From left: Jill Biden and Beau Biden in 2013. Shutterstock

While watching the grandchildren, including Beau's son and daughter, quickly fall "back into our old routine," Dr. Biden was struck by how they were able to "find joy" together.

"As I watched the kids laugh in the firelight, I thought about the first year we came here. It was just Joe, the boys, Beau, Hunt, and me, exploring Nantucket for the first time," she wrote. "It was where we learned how to be a family. We had formed and carried on traditions here. And now, our grandchildren were doing the same. We move forward, day by day."

It was a lesson.

"At some point in our lives, we will all be broken and bruised — but we are not alone. We find joy together. We persevere together," the first lady wrote. "These are the gifts we have to give: our strength, our vulnerability, our faith in one another. We know we cannot always heal ourselves, but we can lean on each other and lift each other up. And together, we are so much more resilient than we know."

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Dr. Biden has spoken numerous times over the years about the enduring pain of Beau's death.

"It was totally shattering," she said in a 2019 interview with USA Today. "My life changed in an instant. All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live, up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope."

"I feel like a piece of china that's been glued back together again," she wrote in her 2019 memoir, Where the Light Enters. "The cracks may be imperceptible — but they're there."

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Earlier this year, Dr. Biden and the president spoke to PEOPLE about how they've leaned on each other during the many challenges they've faced over 43 years of marriage.

"I've read all that data about families under pressure," President Biden, 78, told PEOPLE. "I know everybody says marriage is a 50/50. Well, that's not true. Sometimes you have to be 70/30. Sometimes when somebody's down, the other one steps in. And the good news for us has been — thank God — that when I'm really down, she steps in. And when she's really down, I'm able to step in. And we've been really supportive of one another."

The first lady added: "With all that we've been through together as a couple — you know, the highs, the lows and certainly tragedy and loss — there's that quote that says, 'Sometimes you become stronger in the fractured places.' Over time, that's what we try to achieve."

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