Grief From The One We All Grieve

jfk letter
Letter at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation written by JFK

As we approach the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, the country reflects on its grief and memory. It is interesting, while so many reflect on their grief over the death of a great president, to look at his grief during his own life.

On August 7, 1963, the Kennedys gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. He was born premature and died just 39 hours later. He had a lung condition that blocked the oxygen from his bloodstream, but JFK recounted after his death that he “put up quite a fight.”

While Kennedy did not usually show emotion, he was seen crying three times during that week. He was seen crying by himself after the death, when he told his bedridden wife about it and at the funeral when he was “overwhelmed with grief.”

The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has, in its possession, a letter that JFK wrote and signed during that time. Written on August 14, 1963, he thanked his sister-in-law’s brother, George, and his wife Pat for their message of condolence. As he wrote in the letter, “You were kind indeed to think of us at this very difficult time. Your message was a comfort to me and my family and we are very grateful to you.”

And the nation will, again, be thinking of JFK at this “difficult time” as we approach the anniversary tomorrow of his death.


Rachel Forsythe has a B.A. in English Literature and worked as an editor for a local weekly news magazine. She is now a stay-at-home mom, raising three younger boys and two older daughters. Her favorite activities are hiking, reading, traveling, bike riding, skiing in the winter and surfing in the summer. She also loves to cook. Be in touch with Rachel at Rachel[at]

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