As traumatized as the nation was in the wake of the president's assassination, the shock and horror eventually faded from the public's psyche. Despite the lingering sense that the president's murder presaged a wind of change, life went on. But for Jackie, the loss only grew as the daily reality of her husband's absence deepened. The Camelot myth she went to such pains to promote was a kind of wish fulfillment — the longed-for life and legacy she had imagined she and Jack would have left if they had been given the time. Plus, it was important to Jackie that her children grow up believing the best about their father.
But the composed, brave image she had projected in the immediate aftermath of the assassination crumbled behind closed doors. Jackie expressed her sense of helplessness and futility to friends. She suffered grievous bouts of weeping and compulsively bit her nails. Family members and others lent as much support as she would allow. Bobby Kennedy became a surrogate father to Caroline and John Jr. Jackie's mother and sister visited her almost daily and kept her company in the evenings. The Johnsons invited her to dinner, but the thought of going back to the White House was too painful for Jackie, so she declined. After her appearance on national television to thank the public for their cards, letters, and general outpouring of support, Jackie would rarely ever speak publicly about herself.
SHE SAID …
“Sometimes I wake in the morning, eager to tell him something, and he's not there. Nearly every religion teaches there's an afterlife, and I cling to that hope. Those three years in the White House were really the happiest time for us, the closest, and now it's all gone. Now there is nothing.”
Partly out of compassion and partly self-serving, Jackie had her choice of professional opportunities. President Johnson offered her the position of Ambassador to France. Some Democrats floated the idea of her running for political office. Had she wanted it, a newspaper column or television show was hers for the taking. Jackie rejected every suggestion and offer. She was too emotionally distracted to focus on anything but raising her children and protecting her husband's image.
Jack's will stipulated that his estate be divided into two trusts, one to be shared by his children, the other to go to Jackie. Her annual income from the trust was $200,000 — or the equivalent of $1.29 million today. Jackie should have been able to live very comfortably and not worry about money for the rest of her life. But her restlessness in the months and years following Jack's death often found release in the form of shopping. While she spent lavishly on herself, she also became frugal with her employees. She reportedly refused to pay overtime to her personal attendant, and she declined to give her secretary, Mary Gallagher, a raise, even though her $12,000 salary came out of the $50,000 given by the government. Jackie also dismissed Jack's longtime personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, who had worked for Kennedy since 1953 and was helping gather and organize material for the Kennedy library.
After the assassination, Congress voted to pay for all funeral expenses and allotted Jackie a $50,000 budget for staff and office expenses for the next two years. She was also granted free postage privileges and a year of Secret Service protection. She was also entitled to a $10,000 annual widow's pension for life or until she remarried.
Seemingly unable to settle herself, Jackie was constantly on the move, traveling to Europe on ski trips or cruises in the Mediterranean. Back home, she fluttered back and forth between Georgetown and Hyannis Port. Through it all the media — and the public — followed her every action.