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The first thing I did after hearing Mary Richardson Kennedy had died was start doing the math in my head. She'd been married to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for 16 years. They had four kids. Which meant it was highly unlikely any of those children had yet reached age 18.
I was right. Reports say the Kennedy kids' ages range from 10 to 17. They're all old enough to understand the word "death." And yet, they're all too young to be facing a world without a mother.
Imagine you're one of the Kennedy children. Your mother didn't just die. She committed suicide after years of struggling with alcohol. Her death was splashed across every newspaper in the country. And you're already haunted by the early deaths of your grandfather, your uncles.
And the one person you probably most want to talk about it with is gone much too soon.
It's not that there is a "good" age to lose a parent. A 55-year-old can grieve just as hard as a 15-year-old and vice versa. But I don't think anyone would argue with me if I say that part of parent's job is to get our kids to adulthood. When a parent dies before their kid gets there, they can't finish the job.
The results can range. Some kids make it out just fine, either by luck or a wonderful support system. For others, the trauma can be great. Drugs. Alcohol. Depression. A lifetime of fear that the people they love most are going to leave them.
I hope that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the rest of the clan huddles around these kids and gives them the support they need to make it through the tumultuous teen years without their mom. It's the only way to prevent more tragedies for an already tragic family.
Have you lost a parent? How old were you?
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