Robert Kennedy Jr., his wife Mary and their children arrive to attend a Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights gala in New York on November 19, 2008.
Some blamed the "Kennedy Curse," some pointed to her troubled marriage and others referenced clinical depression. Regardless of the motive, Mary Kennedy's death by suicide shocked the nation.
The ex-wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was found dead in the barn of her Bedford, N.Y., home on the afternoon of May 16. The autopsy results found that she died of asphyxiation from hanging. She was just 52-years-old.
"Mary inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit," Kennedy Jr.'s family said in a prepared statement. "Mary was a genius at friendship, a tremendously gifted architect and a pioneer and relentless advocate of green design who enhanced her cutting edge, energy efficient creations with exquisite taste and style. She applied her talent, energy and passion which were both brilliant and abundant, to advocacy for treatment and finding a cure for food allergies and asthma. She was an instrumental co-founder and driving force of the Food Allergy Initiative to which contributions may be made in her name."
Mary Kennedy was a skilled architect and designer; she oversaw the renovation of the family's sprawling, environmentally-friendly mansion. Kennedy Jr. is an avid environmentalist who has been fighting to save and maintain rivers around the country. In May 2010, he was named one of TIME.com's "Heroes for the Planet" for his success in helping restore the Hudson River.
Despite this seemingly perfect life, Mary Kennedy had a bad marriage, problems with drugs and alcohol and suffered deep inner turmoil. Her death has raised questions about her children, her divorce from Robert F. Kennedy and his relationship with new girlfriend, Cheryl Hines.
A Rocky Marriage
Mary married Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer, son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, in 1994 after having met at an art gallery. She was his second wife. Mary had been close to the Kennedys for years, reported the Daily Mail, after having met Robert's sister, Kerry, at boarding school. The couple had their wedding reception on a boat on the Hudson River.
Their relationship was rocky and, after 16 years of marriage, it hit a breaking point.
Kennedy Jr. filed for divorce on May 12, 2010, according to the Journal News. Two times that week authorities were called to the Kennedy home. On one such time, Bedford police responded to a "domestic incident" where Mary Kennedy was allegedly found "visibly intoxicated."
Three days later, Mary Kennedy was stopped by police outside a school where she had veered her 2004 Volvo off the road and onto a curb. She was charged with a DUI after showing a BAC of 0.11 percent. The legal limit is 0.08.
In August 2010, she was arrested again for driving under the influence of drugs, according to ABC. This charge was dismissed in July 2011 after a judge ruled that the evidence showed Mary Kennedy did not know the medications she had taken would impair her driving, the Daily Mail reported.
Kennedy Jr. supposedly tried to drive her to Northern Westchester Hospital to see a physiologist in 2007, the Journal News reported, but Mary refused and ran from the car out onto the road.
Amidst this struggle, there were rumors of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. being unfaithful. Gossip about his extramarital affairs reportedly added to Mary's strife.
Did her crumbled marriage take its toll?
She was "lonely" and felt "lost," a neighbor told the New York Daily News. She felt "used up and tossed away" another source told the New York Post. "She was expected to toe the line, stay quiet and take care of the kids, tolerate the affairs, and look happy," a family friend told the New York Post.
Mary Kennedy still clung to hope that her marriage would repair itself. She attended the "Celebrity Skifest" in December 2010 at the Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah. A photo uncovered by the Daily Beast shows her smiling by her husband's side.
But a closer look at the photo and you will see another woman smiling in the group. Her name is Cheryl Hines.
The New Girlfriend, Cheryl Hines
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. split from Mary Kennedy and reportedly moved on with actress Cheryl Hines, best known for her role on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The two have been romantically linked since last year, when they were photographed together in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, according to ABC News. The two then attended the Riverkeeper's annual Fisherman's Ball in New York City together in April. They walked the red carpet together, smiling brightly.
Cheryl Hines was previously married to Paul Young, founder of management firm Principato-Young. They filed for divorce on July 20, 2010, after eight years of marriage.
When Mary Kennedy saw the photos of Kennedy Jr. and Hines together, she finally realized the relationship was over, a friend told the Daily Beast. Her hope for a rekindling quickly faded.
"It was very tough for Mary to deal with Robert dating someone else," a source told RadarOnline.com. "And it really didn't help that the new woman is a celebrity. She would see photos of the two of them together and it would drive her nuts. I think, deep down, she had still harbored a belief they would get back together but it had recently become blindingly clear that wasn't to be."
"Robert still supported Mary and was there for her whenever he could be, but he had pretty much moved on," a source previously told the website. "He has been dating Cheryl Hines for a while now and they are very happy together."
RadarOnline.com reported that he attempted to help Mary through her troubles but "it was difficult for him to be around her."
Whether or not his alleged relationship with Cheryl Hines contributed to Mary Kennedy's strife, Kennedy Jr. insists that he attempted to help his wife, but that her depression was insurmountable.
"A lot of times I don't know how she made it through the day," the 58-year-old told The New York Times on Thursday. "She was in a lot of agony for a lot of her life."
His sister, Kerry, who was best friends with Mary, knew the harrowing inner turmoil Mary Kennedy faced.
"As so many people who suffer from mental health issues," Kerry told The NY Times, "she was unable to do the things that she desperately wanted to do, and she was fighting, fighting, fighting with every ounce of her being to beat back those demons."
Children Face a Rough Road
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mary Kennedy have four children together, all currently between the ages of 10 and 17. Many are concerned about how these four will cope. They certainly face a difficult grieving process in the aftermath of Mary Kennedy's suicide, mental health experts told ABC News.
"Initially, the biggest challenge for kids that deal with the suicide of a parent is taking in that news and all the information and circumstances surrounding the death," Jon Ebert, assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News.
Since children have a better understanding of suicide around the age of 12, Mary Kennedy's children will likely experience a range of complicated emotions.
"Children can differentiate between death and suicide well, and they usually interpret the suicide by saying that the parent was sick or ill," Dr. T. Byram Karasu, professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told ABC News. "They will usually blame the spouse. They will deny the loss and hate the spouse."
Ebert said that the Kennedy children will struggle with unanswered questions.
"It's important to clearly communicate to kids that their mom or dad was sick," he told ABC News. "Suicide is a symptom of depression, and it's a level of depression that is significant to the point that the person felt so helpless or hopeless that they took their own life."
"It's crucial for there to be a strong presence of family and community, such as people in schools or religious organizations, to support children after their loss."
Mary Kennedy's wake will take place Friday in the mansion she and Robert restored, a spokesperson for the Kennedy family told CNN. Her funeral is planned for Saturday morning at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader