"A brave young woman left our world yesterday," Maria Shriver told her followers on Instagram Friday
Shriver, who is the niece of Robert, John, and Ted Kennedy, shared an Instagram post on Friday, just one day after her 22-year-old cousin died after a suspected overdose at her family’s famed Massachusetts compound.
In the touching tribute, Shriver did not identify Saoirse by name, but instead referred to her as a “brave, young woman” and called for her tragic death to serve as a reminder for everyone to be kinder and more compassionate to one another.
“A brave young woman left our world yesterday. She left a gaping hole in the lives of all those who loved her dearly,” she wrote. “May God bless her. May God hold her parents during this unbearable hour and give them the strength to make it thru [sic]. Amen.”
She continued her statement in the caption by pointing out that nearly everyone was struggling in some capacity and to embrace your loved ones before it’s too late.
“Life is fragile and heartbreaking. It turns upside down in a minute,” she said. “Love your children, hold them tight. Love your family, hold them close. Love your friends, keep them near.”
“Be gentle with others, as so many are fragile and struggling,” Shriver told her followers. “Actually, I think it’s best to assume everyone is struggling, so treat everyone with love, tenderness, and compassion.”
Shriver then echoed her thoughts with a note on Twitter. “Today, may you walk out in Love. May you walk out into the world with compassion and tenderness. We all need tenderness and we can all bestow it,” she wrote.
Saoirse’s cousin Patrick J. Kennedy, who is the son of Ted Kennedy, also wrote a heartfelt message in the wake of the devastating news.
Along with a gorgeous shot of his younger cousin, the former Rhode Island Congressman, 52, wrote on Twitter, “Saoirse will always remain in our hearts. She is loved and will be deeply missed.”
Patrick later shared Saoirse’s emotionally-raw essay for her high school’s student newspaper, where the then 19-year-old wrote candidly of her own mental health struggles, including her time in a treatment facility after a suicide attempt.
In his tweets, Patrick encouraged his followers to read Saoirse’s words before calling for the nationwide stigma around mental health to end.
“Saoirse’s sincere account of her depression is a powerful reminder of how so many people suffer alone and feel isolated,” he wrote alongside the link to the published piece. “I am proud Saoirse was able to be open and tell her story. I encourage everyone to read her words.”
“Feel what she felt. Do whatever you can from your position in life to stop the isolation, the stigma, and the devastating lack of acknowledgment that often leads to tragedy,” he continued.
“Families across the nation, including ours, are suffering,” Patrick finished. “We must come out of the shadows.”
Saoirse, one of Robert F. Kennedy‘s granddaughters and the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill, was found unresponsive at the Kennedy family’s storied Massachusetts compound on Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, the local prosecutor’s office confirmed that police responded to the scene, in Hyannis Port, 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.
In a statement on Thursday, the Kennedy family said they were “shattered” by Saoirse’s sudden death.
“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.”
Family matriarch Ethel Kennedy, 91, said Saoirse “lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit.”
“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,” she continued.
“The world is a little less beautiful today,” Ethel said. “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 are struggling with addiction issues, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.