Saoirse Kennedy Hill died Thursday after a suspected overdose at her family's Massachusetts compound

By Liz McNeil Helen Murphy
August 03, 2019 01:55 PM

After the tragic death of their beloved granddaughter and daughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the Kennedy family is feeling shock and sadness, a close family friend tells PEOPLE.

The family is handling the death with “tremendous sadness,” the family friend says, adding, “Specifically the young kids, the cousins.”

“Everybody seems to be in shock,” the family friend adds.

Of grandmother Ethel Kennedy — who was seen Friday on a sail through Hyannis Port alongside Saoirse’s mother Courtney Kennedy Hill — the friend says the Kennedy family matriarch “is a very, very strong person.”

“It’s not the kind of grieving that one would normally expect,” the family friend adds. “It’s that stiff upper lip Irish stuff that Rose [Kennedy] was a master of.”

For the third generation of the Kennedy family, including Saoirse’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the death “reignites” decades of tragedy.

“That generation has been through so much,” the family friend explains. “They’ve had to live with that all their lives, where these kids have been somewhat removed from it.”

Saoirse Kennedy
Saoirse Kennedy

“Trauma reignites the trauma,” the family friend continues. “You go through the trauma all over again of the prior trauma you had. I can only imagine what this is doing to Courtney’s siblings. Every time there’s a tragedy it has to rekindle all of those tragedies.”

“This young woman was about to enter her senior year of college,” the source adds. “She had done so much. She wanted to give so much. She had done these internships in Mexico. She had dreams and things that she wanted to do and accomplish, and it’s all wiped out now. It’s so sudden.”

RELATED: Patrick Kennedy Calls for More Attention on Mental Health Issues After Cousin Saoirse’s Death

Earlier this week, a source close to the Kennedy family told PEOPLE that Saoirse was found at her grandmother Ethel‘s home Thursday after an apparent overdose.

On Friday, the local prosecutor’s office confirmed that police responded to the scene, in Hyannis Port, one day earlier at about 3 p.m.

The Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office did not specify the nature of the police call in their statement on Friday, beyond saying that Saoirse was found unresponsive at the scene and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“An autopsy performed today has revealed no trauma inconsistent with lifesaving measures,” prosecutors said. “The cause and manner of death are pending the toxicology report.”

Both local and state police are currently investigating, according to the D.A.’s office.

Saoirse Kennedy Hill
Facebook

Shortly after the tragedy, the famous political family confirmed the news of Saoirse’s death in a statement to PEOPLE.

“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse. Her life was filled with hope, promise, and love,” the family said. “She cared deeply about friends and family, especially her mother Courtney, her father Paul, her stepmother Stephanie, and her grandmother Ethel.”

RELATED: Ethel Kennedy and Saoirse’s Devastated Mother Emerge from the Family Compound to Mourn the Student

Family matriarch Ethel, 91, also said of her granddaughter’s unexpected passing, “The world is a little less beautiful today.”

“She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit,” Ethel said. “Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico. We will love her and miss her forever.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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