Yesterday, I learned of two moms who killed themselves this week. They had a lot in common. Each had four children, with nearly identical ages, ranging from preteen to seventeen years old. Each was estranged from the father of her children. And each loved her children dearly.
Yet their worlds were miles apart. One, Mary Kennedy, lived in New England and one, Tonya Thomas, lived in Florida. One was older, wealthier, and a member of a famous clan. One was younger and neither famous nor wealthy.
As the wife of Robert Kennedy, Jr., Mary Kennedy’s struggles played out in the public eye. She endured life with a husband battling a drug problem as well as her own battles with alcohol and prescription addiction. Her husband had filed for divorce and allegedly taken up with a celebrity.
Tonya Thomas’ struggles played out in private and in the court system. Domestic violence was at the forefront. In recent times, she endured repeated violence from one of her sons. Years earlier, she was accused of battering the father of her children, and had later accused him of domestic abuse.
They also differed in one other tragic way. Mary Kennedy decided to kill herself and leave her children behind. Tonya Thomas decided to kill herself and her children.
I know that these women loved their children, but were in such despair that they were unable to think rationally. Apparently, one thought her children were better off alive and grieving her loss. And one thought her children were better off dead. For some reason, I understand both mindsets.
What I don’t understand is how we as a society let both women (and, consequently, their children) slip through the cracks. Motherhood is not always about juggling kids’ homework, play dates and a career. Some of us face serious domestic crises that could lead to despair. Even if Mary Kennedy and Tonya Thomas suffered from preexisting mental illnesses, their family problems no doubt played a role in their deaths.
I wish they could have received the help they so clearly needed.