In a recent essay for Oprah Daily, first lady Dr. Jill Biden opened up about grief and healing as a family after the death of her stepson Beau Biden from cancer who died in 2015 from an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. In her poignant essay that serves as a message to others going through loss after a very difficult year, the first lady remembered the first Thanksgiving the family spent together after Beau’s death.
“The year before, our family had forgone our yearly Thanksgiving tradition. Nantucket was just another place to remind us of all that we had lost, like a photograph with Beau’s face cut out,” she wrote. “I knew how hard it would be to come back, but this year, the grandkids had asked. Thanksgiving was Nantucket. They missed the little shops, the ice cream parlor we always visited, the traditional Friday lunch. They wanted to watch the Christmas tree lighting and wander the cobblestone streets. They wanted to be together and feel normal again. So, Joe and I said yes.”
Dr. Biden has said that during Beau’s illness and cancer treatment she kept expecting him to get better. “All during his illness, I truly believed that he was going to live,” she told USA Today. “Up until the moment that he closed his eyes, and I just never gave up hope.”
After his death, she was devastated, writing in her memoir Where the Light Enters that she felt “like a piece of china that’s been glued back together again. The cracks may be imperceptible — but they’re there.”
She recalled the dark months after Beau’s death and leaning on her family for support and a sense of normalcy and how time passes even through the fog of grief. “The world turns, and each morning brings you gifts of the life that continues: coffee with the man who’s loved you through better and beyond worse,” she wrote in her essay. “Full dinner tables with flickering candles and long conversations; grandchildren who pull you back to yourself and your family, even when it’s the last thing you think you want.”
It’s a short essay, but her descriptions of how her husband pulled out checkers and Monopoly to play with the grandchildren, including Beau’s kids, say so much about how families heal and “move forward, day by day.”
“This is what I know for sure: At some point in our lives, we will all be broken and bruised — but we are not alone,” she wrote. “We find joy together. We persevere together. The morning always comes, and the seasons always change. We walk hand in hand through the twists and turns, and when we can’t walk, we let ourselves be carried by those we love.”