When Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s son, Willie, died at 11 years old in February 1862, they once again experienced what is called “the greatest tragedy.” Willie was their second son to die from an illness in childhood. The Lincolns were eager for solace and a place to grieve this loss when they moved to the Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. When describing their move, Mary Lincoln wrote, “When we are in sorrow, quiet is very necessary to us.”

The trauma of child loss shaped both Lincolns. It seeded new fears they carried until they died. It deepened the limits of their emotional and mental endurance. It changed the character and course of their lives. And, the stigma of grief transcends time and place as families continue to struggle under the societal pressures of mourning the death of children in modern society.

Reflections on Grief and Child Loss is a first of its kind exhibit that bridges the Lincolns’ ​experience of the death of their children with modern families whose children have died inexplicably or from illness, disease, physical and gun violence and identify themes and ideas to bring light to the experience of child loss across time and experience. The exhibit will remain open for at least two years.

Visit our Memoriam Page 


Purchase an Engraved Leaf

Donors have the opportunity to purchase engraved leaves to commemorate their loved ones; engraved leaves start at the Contributor level and are available in a limited quantity. All donors will have a vellum leaf placed in the exhibit and will have their loved ones honored on a memoriam page. The proceeds from all donations will be utilized to support future programming related to grief and loss that will run throughout the duration of the exhibit.

For sponsorship opportunities or to make a gift in memory of a loved one, please contact Director of Development, Jason Molihan, at jmolihan@lincolncottage.org or complete the contribution form below.


Memorial Gift: $100 – $499

Supporter: $500 – $1,499

  • All of the above
  • Invitations to exhibit opening celebration
  • Invitations to exhibit programming
  • Invitations to additional Cottage programs and special events

Contributor: $1,500 – $4,999

  • All of the above
  • One engraved leaf to sponsor or in memory of a loved one to be displayed in exhibit and/or keep (limited number of engraved leaves available)*
  • Recognition at exhibit
  • Recognition on annual donor board

Benefactor: $5,000+

  • All of the above
  • Two engraved leaves; one in memory of a loved one to be displayed in exhibit and one to sponsor (limited number of engraved leaves available)*
  • One private, premium tour experience per year exhibit is open (20 person limit)
  • Recognition at exhibit and exhibit promotional opportunities
  • Invitations to and recognition at exhibit programming

Exhibit on Grief Donation