When You Just Can’t Write a Thank You Note

I have always been a thank you note writer. I firmly believe that snail mail is magical, and the art of thank you note writing is alive and well. In fact, when we were married in 2012, I wrote over 400 thank you notes to all of our nearest and dearest. I enjoyed reliving the anticipation, the celebration, and the prospect of Quinton and my future together. 

When we delivered our son, Maxwell, in 2015, I had thank you notes made with stamps to match. I have one framed in my house for proof of that special time. 

I’ve written thank you notes to my parents, our fertility specialist, our grass cutters, and I’ve even written a thank you note for a thank you note. I enjoy writing them. It is my automatic response to compassion, kindness, and thoughtfulness. I know the trouble it takes to go out of the way and the least I can do is send a thank you note for 49 cents. 

In the last nine months, we have received more support and compassion than we did for our wedding, our high school and college graduations, and everything in between. We delivered our Theodore too soon in February and had to give him back to God. When we got home from the hospital, our home was filled with cards, flowers, food, and wine. People all over the country have prayed for us. The care people have had for us has legitimately helped us to survive. Our village has sustained us.

Yet, I have not written one single thank you note.

Of course I have thanked people behind tear-filled eyes, but I have not had the ability to sit down to even begin a thank you note. I do not want to pour emotions out of my ink pen. I do not want to relive any part of this nightmare. Truthfully, writing one single thank you note would make this whole thing that much more real. When I sat down on the sofa for the first time not pregnant after losing Theo, I asked my mama:

“How do I write any of these people thank you notes?” 

I truly do not think that any member of our village expected or expects a thank you note. I know that people are caring for us from their hearts. Some just love us and have loved us for years, while others do not even really know us but have experienced pain in their own lives. The inability to write a thank you note is not exclusive to loss, or even the loss of a child. When something awful happens in your life, whatever that may be, sometimes the best you can do in a day is brush your teeth or even shower. So writing a thank you note could derail the slightest of progress. It requires way too much energy when energy has to be spent on survival. Writing a thank you note for something happy, like a wedding or delivering a healthy and happy baby, often gives energy. Thank you notes out of pain are the polar opposite. 

I have just recently begun reading books and listening to podcasts that people suggested to us after our loss. One of those books is called Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sheryl, the COO of Facebook, lost her husband, Dave, suddenly a few years ago. Option B is about developing resilience and getting acquainted with the new version of yourself after loss. In an early chapter, Sheryl references the Footprints Poem that so many Christians are familiar with. She says that from her perspective, she saw the single set of footprints as a symbol of their friends and family who were walking behind them to catch her and her children if they fell. 

So, while I have not been able to write a single thank you note, please let this stand as an open thank you note to each and every person who has walked behind us waiting to catch us over the last nine months. 

To each and every person who has hit their knees in prayer for us, for our marriage, our Max, our healing, and our prayer for a Rainbow, thank you. 

To the high school friends who sent flowers and special books even though I have not spoken to them in over ten years, thank you

To my soul sisters who dropped off chocolate, wine, and serenity tea at my doorstep the day we arrived home from the hospital knowing we would not want to see anyone, thank you

To my mama friends across the country, my village, who cried with me, virtually hugged me, and sent us sweet Theo momentos, thank you.

To the friends who mention Theo’s name often and do not flinch when we bring him up, thank you

To my New Orleans friends who drove in with gummy bears and would do it again if I asked tomorrow, thank you

To my college roommate who checks in on us almost monthly even though we have lost touch, thank you

To the many friends who  just message with “thinking of you,” thank you.

To my new mama bestie who made it her life mission to get me out of the house by bribing me with Target, Costco, and coffee, thank you.

To our Maddie’s Footprints family, you just get it. Thank you.

To my brother, for flying across the country to decipher the medical jargon and attend Theo’s funeral, thank you. You will never know how much your presence meant to us … especially to me. 

To our parents for physically and emotionally holding us up, thank you. 

To my husband’s firm for being so completely understanding and supportive smack dab in the middle of tax season, thank you. 

To those who have hugged us and only let go when we were ready, thank you. 

To our precious neighbor friends who have let us snuggle their baby born a month after Theo like she is our own, thank you. 

To our Ju, for honoring our Theo with literal boots on the ground in Disney, thank you

To Jack’s mama, for always being a text message, phone call, or Facetime away, you have helped me through some of my darkest times and have cured so much loneliness. I will love you forever. Thank you.

To those who have cried right along with us, thank you.

To those who supported, walked, virtually walked, ran, and cheered us on for the Maddie’s Footprints 5k, you will forever be part of us, thank you

To the Heatherlys, for bringing your whole dang family here to participate in the 5k, even though we know you were really just here to hug our necks, thank you

And finally, to my husband, I know that this has been the hardest year of our lives. Thank you for holding me through every single tear. If we had to go through this, I am so beyond grateful to go through it with you. I have never loved you more. Thank you. 

We love you all. Our growth is your growth. Our healing is your healing. We would not be here without you. 

For more on Theo and loss: 

Songs for Weathering the Storm

The Worst Loss I Have Ever Experienced



Rebecca Autin
Rebecca is an attorney by day and a toddler wrangler by night. She is a product of divorced parents and grew up in both Thibodaux and Franklin, Louisiana. Rebecca attended Loyola University of New Orleans and Southern University Law Center. Rebecca married her high school bestie in 2012. Quinton and Rebecca went through months of infertility before giving birth to Maxwell Lincoln in 2015. In 2016, they were surprised by a baby boy due in June 2017. But, in February 2017, they suffered with incompetent cervix and delivered sweet Theodore Paul too soon. In October 2018, after an incredibly difficult pregnancy, a cerclage, and a whole bunch of bedrest, Fitzgerald Joseph was born -- a happy, healthy, and perfect rainbow. If you can't find Rebecca, you can summon her with pot of freshly brewed coffee or look for her in Target or behind the kitchen island where she is hiding from her kids with a very generous pour of red.


  1. Your bravery to speak on loss, in its most pure form, speaks volumes of your character and strength. Even if at times, you don’t feel it. You are strong, and I commend you for speaking honestly, on a topic that most would hide from. There are levels to loss. It isn’t black and white. There are many shades of grey in between. Some are heavy tones of dark cloud grey, others are only slightly tinted. But, every part of your life, and general outlook, can change in a single day. I appreciate your transparency in speaking on all the shades. The full eclipse, and the faint. Very well-written article, Rebecca.


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