Jackie Kennedy Suffered From PTSD After Witnessing Her Husband's Death | "Love for Her Children Gave Her Strength" to Overcome Grief

Jackie Kennedy Suffered From PTSD After Witnessing Her Husband's Death | "Love for Her Children Gave Her Strength" to Overcome Grief

She had nightmares from the day she saw her husband die right next to her that didn't let her sleep.

Source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) Hulton Archive, (R) Getty Images

November 22, 1963, was one of the grimmest days in American history. The 35th president of the United States, John F Kennedy, was assassinated in cold-blood while his wife was sitting right next to him as they rode through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, in a presidential motorcade.

Just before leaving for Dallas, John addressed the people who had come to the event organized by his beautiful wife Jacqueline Kennedy right outside the hotel they were staying in and said, "I appreciate your being here this morning. Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself. It takes longer, but, of course, she looks better than we do when she does it."


Those were his last words of appreciation for his wife, according to JFK Library. Right after the speech as the couple traveled in the motorcade, as their car turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza, he was shot in the head by Lee Harvey Oswald who was later gunned down by Jack Ruby.



Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson, President (then-Vice President) Lyndon B. Johnson's wife described what she witnessed after the attack and said that she "saw, in the president's car, a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms, lying on the back seat. I think it was Mrs. Kennedy, lying over the President's body," according to Biography.


Jackie wiped the blood off her face but refused to change her pink suit that was covered in her husband's blood and gore. In fact, she stood strong all through the funeral wearing it. Later talking to Life Magazine she recalled, "I thought, 'Why did I wash the blood off?' I should have left it there; let them see what they've done."

She came back to the White House on December 1, 1963, to get her and her deceased husband's things sorted while the White House helpers wept at the loss of their beloved president, but Jackie stood strong again.


She said, “We’ll cry later when we’re alone." She did cry later but loneliness and the trauma of watching her husband die in front of her took a toll on her mental health, reported Closer Weekly.



Jackie was haunted by nightmares of that day and she found herself in a very dark place. Paul Brandus, the author of Jackie: Her Transformation From First Lady to Jackie O revealed, “In the spring of 1964, she actually thought about ending her life. She was miserable for quite a long time.”

Just 34 years old at the time and with two kids, son John F. Kennedy Jr. and daughter Caroline Kennedy, to raise, she moved to a neighborhood of Washington D.C.’s Georgetown for a change. Did she feel any good? The answer is no.


Talking about her troubles she once said, “Can anyone understand how it is to have lived in the White House and then, suddenly, to be living alone as the president’s widow?” No one could understand, not even her. All she ever thought about was if she could've done something to save her husband. Brandus exclusively told the publication, “She could not stop thinking about it. She had nightmares during the day and going to sleep brought her no rest.”



As a result, the former first lady found herself drinking too much. She spent her nights crying, locked up in her room with alcohol, reported Irish Central. She was clearly suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but there was no term for it back then. Brandus talking about it said, “The term PTSD did not exist back then, but clearly she was traumatized." Jackie was so disturbed that she once asked Father McSorley, a priest her brother-in-law had introduced her to, “Do you think God would separate me from my husband if I killed myself?” because she thought God was "unjust."

That's when her children came in. Although she thought they should've lived with her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel, her children became the reason for her to live every day.


“Her love for her children," Brandus said, "gave her strength.” He added, “She said at one point that if you do a poor job of raising your children, then nothing else you do in life really matters. She lived up to that. They always came first.”

By 1964, Jackie was done with Washington D.C and moved to New York with her children. There she began a new life and was introduced to Aristotle Onassis by her sister Lee Radziwil. In 1968, from a Kennedy, she became Onassis and finally found the peace of mind she was so desperately in search of.

“Jackie didn’t believe the Secret Service could protect anybody — especially after the assassination of Bobby,” Brandus said and added, “Whatever doubts she had about Onassis, they were outweighed by what he had to offer — first and foremost security.”


Talking about her husband Onassis, she once said, “He rescued me at a moment when my life was engulfed in shadows.” She was finally at peace until her death in 1994 because of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.