A few months after US president John F Kennedy's assassination, his wife Jacqueline told a priest that she had thought about suicide as a way to escape desolation and rejoin her husband.
The revelation came from a diary made available Thursday in a highly controversial decision by the Georgetown University in Washington.
The diary belonged to Rev Richard T McSorley, a theology professor at Georgetown who died last year. He gave his papers to the university's main library.
McSorley briefly counselled Jacqueline at the request of Robert F Kennedy, the late president's brother. The Jesuit priest is the main source for a recounting of Jacqueline's spiritual crisis in a new book on the Kennedy family by Newsday reporter Thomas Maier.
At Maier's suggestion, the university permitted the excerpts and four letters from Jacqueline to McSorley to be viewed by a few reporters on Thursday.
In his diary, McSorley describes how the widow questioned him about the spiritual implications of committing suicide. "Do you think that God would separate me from my husband if I killed myself?" McSorley recalls her asking, according to his diary entry of April 28, 1964. "I feel as though I am going out of my mind at times. Wouldn't God understand that I just want to be with him?"
McSorley wrote he told Jacqueline that her children needed her and that he reminded her of the catholic faith's belief in resurrection, which meant that she eventually would be reunited with the slain president.
According to an entry on May 20, 1964, Jacqueline assured him that she was not really contemplating suicide. "I know I'll never do it. I know it's wrong. It's just a way out."
The typewritten diary also contains McSorley's recollection of Jacqueline's regret that she had not been able to say goodbye to her husband and not done more to make him happy.
"I was melancholy after the death of our baby and I stayed... away longer than I needed to," the diary quotes her as saying, referring to the August 1963 death of the couple's prematurely born son, Patrick. "I could have made his life so much happier, especially for the last few weeks. I could have tried harder to get over my melancholy."
For a time, she also felt unable to help her children because of her despondency, according to the diary. "I'm bleeding inside."
Maier told the Washington Post that McSorley kept the diary because he "clearly had an eye toward history", but he noted that the priest "didn't reveal any of these confidences" until Jacqueline died in 1994.