Abraham Lincoln wrote some touching words to console people in grief. No stranger to grief himself, Abraham Lincoln suffered after the deaths of his younger brother, mother, and older sister. Abraham Lincoln was estranged from his father, who died without seeing his grandchildren.
Lincoln felt the full depths of grief. He wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” (He wrote this in his grief at the end of his relationship with Mary, whom he later married.)
I sought out Lincoln’s words because my friend Jennifer emailed me one day that her sister had had a fall, and I wished her a speedy recovery. The next day, my friend emailed me that her sister was dead. Dead! One day in the prime of her life, a few days later, dead.
I so wished I had a magic wand to console her! So I looked up Abraham Lincoln’s words of condolence. It was 1862, and the war’s carnage had taken many young lives in their prime.
Here is Abraham Lincoln’s touching condolence letter to 22-year-old Fanny McCullough, the daughter of a long-time friend:
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,
Lincoln tried to console others who were suffering. Here is what he wrote to console his best friend, Joshua Speed, “Remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again.”
Here is another condolence letter Abraham Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Bixby, a widow who had lost sons in the Civil War.
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,
I hope these words help inspire you to reach out to those in grief. Words alone cannot lift the burden of grief. But your caring words, your loving presence, and your willingness to listen are invaluable. Prayers help, too. No one should walk alone through the valley of the shadow of death.
I’m going to end this blog with some insightful words from another politician, whose words capture the heart of my experience as a young widow. Sir Winston Churchill said, “We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”
This article appears courtesy of EverydayHealth.com