What do you know about Abraham Lincoln? Probably what the rest of us were taught in school. He was a poor child who lived in a log cabin and loved to read books. He was our 16th president who fought to abolish slavery and was eventually assassinated. His nickname was “Honest Abe,” whose picture can be found on the penny. I know he is known for more than that, more important things, but you get the idea. Lincoln is also known for his heartfelt letters he wrote to grieving families of fallen soldiers while he was president. One famous letter was written to Mrs. Bixby.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln “
Another famous letter was written to a young girl who lost her father in battle.
It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.
Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.
Your sincere friend,
In his letter to Fanny, one line that stood out to me was, “I have had experience enough to know what I say.” What experiences did he have? If you are like me, you don’t know every detail about Abraham Lincoln. Unless you have done your research, you would have never known that Lincoln suffered from deep depression. You see, Lincoln knew what loss was. As a young child his family was touched by tragedy when his baby brother died. Although he was too young to understand the depths of such a tragedy, he would experience it first hand as an adult. Abraham and Mary Lincoln lost three of their four children, three of their four sons.
Their first son, Robert “Bob” Lincoln would be the only son to outlive his parents and grow to be eighty-two years old. Edward “Eddie” Lincoln, their second child, passed away before he turned four years old due to tuberculosis. The Lincoln’s third child William “Willie” Lincoln would pass away at the age of eleven from typhoid fever. It was the passing of Willie that would send Mrs. Lincoln into a tailspin of depression and broken mental state. There were many times people, including the president, would question her sanity after this loss. And finally, their fourth son, Thomas “Tad” Lincoln would die from tuberculosis at the age of eighteen. The Lincolns were all too familiar with loss and grief. The amount of pain and suffering they had to endure is unspeakable. So unspeakable, that you and I didn’t even know about it.
So this whole history lesson was to prove a point. There is so much we don’t know about people. Reality star Bethenny Frankel put it so well in her latest interview with Glamour Magazine, “Losing a baby is one of those experiences too many women mourn in silence.” Not only do women mourn in silence, but their husbands as well. Infant or child loss is such a taboo subject, no one speaks about it. Why can we talk about the death of a celebrity for months upon end, but the loss of a child is so hush-hush? Unless you do a little “research,” you would never know that the person you work with or the person who sits in front of you at church probably has experienced a loss. We don’t walk around with a sign around our neck, but instead carry a smile so you don’t know the pain and suffering we feel inside. More mothers and fathers need to speak up and tell their stories so that others might find healing and peace. Like our loved President Lincoln, he was able to use his loss and grief to reach out and comfort others. We need to break this epidemic of silence.