Biden, America’s designated mourner, shares personal lessons on grief
Joe Biden was just 29 years old when he suddenly lost his first wife, Neilia, and their young daughter, Naomi, in a car crash in 1972.
In 2015, another of Biden’s children, his 46-year-old son Beau, who had been following in his father’s political footsteps, died of brain cancer.
Throughout his political career, Biden has spoken openly about those losses. Today, as president, he did so again, faced with a national tragedy whose scale is hard to fathom: 500,000 people dead from coronavirus in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
In a brief address today, Biden spoke directly and vividly from his own experience of grief, talking about what it is like to be able to be with your loved one when they die, what it is like to be far away, and about the survivor’s guilt that the living carry with them.
He described the additional burden of not being able to take part in the normal rituals of mourning, as the dangers of infection have made normal funerals and memorial services impossible.
Biden kept his remarks focused on the experience of grief, and the necessity, for individuals and for the nation, of taking time to grieve, rather than becoming numb to the mounting losses all around them.
Americans are still reckoning with how political incompetence, racism, partisan divisions and widespread lies and conspiracy theories about coronavirus have worsened the toll of a deadly global pandemic. The president spoke only briefly to this larger political context of America’s half a million dead, saying, “We must end the politics of misinformation.”