Depression was the unwanted “friend” of the Robert F. Kennedy granddaughter whose death at the family’s storied Cape Cod compound was being investigated Friday by police.
Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 22, a junior at Boston College, wrote frankly about her struggle with mental illness in a 2016 essay for the student newspaper at the Massachusetts prep school she had previously attended.
Hill revealed that the “deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest” she first felt in middle school had returned two weeks before her junior year at Deerfield Academy after “someone I knew and loved broke serious sexual boundaries with me.”
“I did the worst thing a victim can do, and I pretended it hadn’t happened,” she wrote in The Deerfield Scroll. “This all became too much, and I attempted to take my own life.”
Hill, who was one of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s 35 grandchildren, did not identify the “someone.” But her poignant words surfaced as the Kennedy family was forced, once again, to grapple with tragedy.
“Saoirse was fierce, both in her love for her family and yearning for justice,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. posted on Instagram. “A fearless adventurer, she inspired curiosity and daring in her friends. But her greatest gift was to find humor in everything and to give us all the gift of her laughter – and our own. The gaping hole that she leaves in our family is a wound too large to ever heal.”
A day earlier, 91-year-old Ethel Kennedy released a statement of her own. “The world is a little less beautiful today,” she said.
The New York Times, citing two people close to the family, reported that Hill died Thursday of an apparent overdose.
NBC News has not confirmed that report. But the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office issued a statement Friday confirming that Hill was found “unresponsive” on the property and that an autopsy has been performed.
“The cause and manner of death are pending the toxicology report,” Tara Miltimore of the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office said. “The matter remains under investigation by the Barnstable police and State Police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office.”
Hill was the daughter of Paul Hill and Courtney Kennedy, the fifth of the 11 children of Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and New York senator who was assassinated in 1968 as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination.
Hill, vice president of the College Democrats at Boston College, was drawn to public service as well as politics, her family said.
“Saoirse was passionately moved by the causes of human rights and women’s empowerment and found great joy in volunteer work, working alongside indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico,” the Kennedy family’s statement said. “We will love and miss her forever.”
In 2007, Hill made news at age 10 after she was allegedly the victim of an attempted kidnapping on Cape Cod, the Barnstable Police reported. She was walking home from a tennis court when a white van with two men inside pulled up beside her and asked her if she wanted a ride. She refused and ran home.
One man was smoking a cigar and the van did not have any markings on it, Barnstable police Sgt. Ben Baxter reported, according to The Boston Herald.
The Kennedys are no strangers to tragedy, and Hill’s death is likely to spur more talk about a so-called family curse.
President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated. His brother, Joseph, was killed in World War II, and their sister Kathleen Cavendish died in a plane crash in 1948.
The slain president’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., was killed in 1999 when the airplane he was flying crashed off Martha’s Vineyard into the Atlantic Ocean. His wife, Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law were on board and also died.