What Drove Mary Kennedy to Suicide?

05/23/2012 at 08:00 AM EDT

Mary Kennedy's Suicide: Inside Story
Mary Kennedy


In the week since Mary Kennedy's shocking suicide on May 16, dueling versions have emerged about what caused Robert F. Kennedy's wife to hang herself in a barn on her Bedford, N.Y., estate at age 52. 


On May 18, two days after his estranged wife died, RFK Jr. told funeral mourners that Mary suffered from "demons." "There's nobody who bore what she bore," said Kennedy, 58. "She was in agony for five years." 



 It was a point also made by his sister, Kerry Kennedy, who spoke about her friend's lifelong struggle with depression. 





 But many of Mary's friends and loved ones took offense to the Kennedys' comments. "Mary did not have a history of depression," says a close friend. "She became a troubled person because of the divorce." 




The split from RFK Jr., says the friend, "sent her down the hole." The couple's ongoing and escalating battle over custody of their four kids – Conor, 17, Kyra, 16, Fin, 14, and Aidan, 10 – was also extremely difficult for Mary.

"There was great pressure on her to conceivably agree to a situation where she wouldn't be able to see them for some period of time," says the close friend. "She couldn't take it."

As the rift deepens, a friend who knew both Mary and RFK Jr., says of her death: "Alcohol, depression and hanging may be the mechanics of it, but her heart slowed beating and began to numb. In the end, I think she died of a broken heart."

Reporting by SHARON COTLIAR

For exclusive new details about the bitter family feud, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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