May 29th, 2012
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Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at an event organized by
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Vice President Joe Biden emotionally extended a helping hand to military families last Friday by sharing how he endured the death of his wife and daughter and revealed that at that time his grief took him to a place where he understood for the first time how people can consider suicide to be a viable option.

Whether you agree with Biden’s politics or not, his remarks were striking and intimate.

Grief and how it feels is not a subject you expect a vice president to speak about publicly.  The death of someone close can be a life-changing experience and when public figures discuss their experiences with grief, it is always a positive thing.  It helps others to know they are not alone in their thoughts and actions and creates a public dialogue about grieving and its emotional journey.

Speaking before an audience of military families who had lost loved ones in combat, Biden talked about the telephone call he received in 1972 informing him that his wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, had died in a car accident and that his two sons, Hunter and Beau, were also severely injured in the accident with a tractor-trailer.

With cameras rolling and a full pool of reporters, Biden said, “And just like you guys know by the tone of a phone call — you just knew, didn’t you?  You knew when they walked up the path.  You knew when the call came.  You knew.  You just felt it in your bones something bad had happened.  And I knew.  I don’t know how I knew.  But the call said my wife was dead, my daughter was dead, and I wasn’t sure how my sons were going to make it.”

“For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” Biden intimately recalled.  He explained how it felt to be in depth of despair but also told the military families that this feeling is not permanent.

Grief is a natural process, a natural fundemental emotion and it is a process.  People grieve because they are deprived of a loved one and their sense of loss is profound.  But Biden also told them how he found hope and that in their time of bereavement there is still hope for each family even though it may not feel like that today.

“I’m telling you it will come,” Biden said.

Here is a link to the short CNN video and story about Biden’s remarks:


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