Why Being A Mother Was So Important To Jackie Kennedy After JFK's Assassination

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was never the same after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the months after her husband's tragic death on November 22, 1963, Jackie blamed herself for not recognizing the first gunshot and for not getting JFK out of harm's way. "She could not stop thinking about it. She had nightmares during the day," author Paul Brandus informed Closer. "The term PTSD did not exist back then, but clearly she was traumatized."

Amid her grief, the former First Lady struggled with suicidal thoughts and with being a single parent to her children, Caroline and John F. Kennedy, Jr. "I'm no good to them. I'm so bleeding inside," she confided to Reverend Richard T. McSorley, according to "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story," per Vanity Fair. Even so, Letitia Baldrige, Jackie's friend and former Chief of Staff, knew that Jackie was strongly committed to motherhood. "She was a good mother. She did look forward to raising those children," Baldridge revealed to The Washington Post.

Jackie's role as a mother was one of her top priorities. "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much," she explained in a 1959 interview, per LinkedIn. Although she was sorrowful, Jackie worked hard to make celebrating holidays fun and to give her children stability by keeping the colors of their bedrooms consistent when they moved to a new home. "Her love for her children gave her strength," Brandus told Closer. 

Jackie Kennedy was always a devoted mom

Weeks after John F. Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960, his daughter Caroline Kennedy turned 3,  and his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was a newborn. Even though she was going to be First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis emphasized her role as a mother. "The children come first in my life," Jackie once said, according to "All Too Human," per LinkedIn. "The kids are young and I just want to do as much as I can within the bounds of my responsibility to my children." Since she knew childhood goes by quickly, Jackie spent plenty of time with her kids. "She was there playing with them and reading to them and painting with them – all kinds of stuff," author Pamela Keough informed People. "She was very involved."

Jackie also tried to give Caroline and JFK, Jr. as normal a life as possible, even though they were living in the White House. "If the kids fell down, they got up. You didn't help them. They had to learn all this stuff on their own," former secret service agent Clint Hill divulged to The Vintage News. The then-First Lady also endeavored to keep her children out of the media. After JFK, Jr. was christened, no more pictures of him appeared for a year. Occasional photo ops were usually arranged when Jackie was traveling, such as a picture of the Kennedy kids playing in the Oval Office while their dad worked. 

Jackie Kennedy helped her kids process their grief

Before President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had experience dealing with grief. She had a miscarriage, her first child was stillborn, and her youngest child, Patrick Kennedy, died a few months before JFK died. After JFK's death, Jackie supported Caroline and John F. Kennedy, Jr. while they grieved, enlisting the expertise of Erik Erikson, a developmental psychoanalyst, to talk with her kids. 

As she had done throughout their lives, Jackie also tried to keep her kids out of the spotlight. After they left the White House and moved to a home nearby, gathering crowds became a problem. So, Jackie relocated to New York in 1964. However, she ultimately wasn't successful in avoiding publicity, since Robert Kennedy was campaigning to become a U.S. Senator. After Bobby was assassinated in 1968, Jackie felt her marriage to Aristotle Onassis would be a good opportunity to leave the country and keep her children safe. 

Jackie also kept JFK's memory alive by recruiting his friends and colleagues to share stories with Caroline and JFK, Jr. In 1971, Jackie secretly visited the White House with her children so they could reconnect with their past. JFK, Jr. got to see his dad's Oval Office desk, complete with the doorlike panel that captivated him as a young boy. "It made me happy to hear the children bursting with reminiscences all the way home," Jackie wrote to Richard and Pat Nixon, the then-President and First Lady, per The Washington Post.