Maria Shriver opens up about grief in powerful essay

The NBC News special anchor wrote about finding "stillness" and examining her grief after the death of her cousin's daughter this summer..

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Maria Shriver was sitting on a mountaintop in Utah last month when she found herself sobbing uncontrollably as she contemplated her grief over the losses in her life and her fears that a career filled with accomplishment still didn't feel like enough.

The NBC News special anchor and member of the Kennedy family writes eloquently about her profound experience of finding inner peace and embracing "stillness" in the latest edition of her "Sunday Paper" newsletter.

"My quiet mind allowed me to see myself as a survivor,'' she wrote. "It allowed me to realize that I was proud of myself for so many things. It allowed me to even realize that I love myself. Sitting there alone, I felt all that I am, instead of all that I am not. I felt it for perhaps the first time ever."

Shriver's planned time off in August began with tragedy when her cousin's daughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 22, was found dead on Aug. 1 at the family's compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, of causes that have not been disclosed.

It was the latest tragic loss in a family that has experienced many over the years, including the 1968 assassination of Hill's own grandfather, former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

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"I find it ironic that my August break started with a death,'' Shriver wrote. "I took it as an invitation to delve into what felt dead and lifeless inside of me. You see, we can all walk around seemingly alive but feel dead on the inside. We're all running around doing things that bring us no joy or meaning. We stay in jobs, relationships, or situations well past when we should, incorrectly believing that life doesn't have more in store for us.

"As I sat with my thoughts, I found myself furious at God for taking my cousin Courtney's only child away. It doesn't get any more brutal than that, as many parents know all too well."

Following her death, the mother of four traveled to Utah to visit one of her sons on Aug. 11 when she found herself crying as she experienced an inner stillness.

"It revealed to me that I was enough,'' Shriver told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on TODAY Tuesday. "It revealed to me that I was good. And it revealed a peace in me that I could see myself as a survivor, I could see myself as the hero of my own story.

"I always thought if I wrote a best-selling book, if I was the anchor of a show, if I produced a documentary, then I would feel enough. I think that's what the American dream tells you, if you can achieve kind of professional success, you'll feel good. And actually the feeling good, the "enoughness," is within you. I believe it's within you by divine right."

Shriver also lamented that Hill, who had written in the past about her struggles with mental illness, perhaps was never able to feel that inner stillness.

"I thought back to my cousin's daughter,'' she wrote in her newsletter. "I'm sure she would have been stunned to hear all the incredible things that were said at her funeral. It would have stopped her cold to realize how loved she was. I'm sure it would have been a huge relief for her to feel her worth. Yet, it was only in death that she found stillness."

Hill's death also made Shriver realize that she was not done with her own grief over past losses.

"I think what happens very often when you go to a funeral or when someone around you experiences a loss, your own loss pops up and you realize as I wrote in the piece that grief is not done with me,'' she said on TODAY. "In the last 10 years I lost my mother, my father, my uncle, my marriage, my whole identity, and I hadn't updated my narrative to who I am today.

"I think updating your narrative, seeing yourself as enough, not being so hard on yourself, not driving yourself, not being in the negative self-talk is so important because the world does that to you."

Shriver has vowed to live her life a little less hurried and to banish the negative thoughts that often made her feel no matter what she accomplished, from a best-selling book to an award-winning documentary, it was never enough.

"I've spent so much time trying to fix myself, only to now realize that I'm already whole,'' she wrote. "On that mountain, I came to realize that I was already lovable. I was already loved unconditionally by God and by myself."