Life is filled with special moments – your daughter turns 18, your son graduates from college, you dad turns 80, your boss retires. And often we head to the store and pick out a nice card and write a few lines, “Happy Birthday,” “Congratulations,” “Thank you for being a great mentor.”
These gestures are important and meaningful. But what if you could do more?
What if you could use your words to make the other person feel how you want them to feel? That they are loved, cherished, admired and supported. That they helped you in a critical way or that you’re grateful for their support.
Share with them why they are so special to you, what you love or admire about them, or how they have impacted your life in a positive way. Show why you’re truly grateful for them.
Letters Are Amazing Gifts for Major Transitions
When my dad turned 90, each of his grandchildren, children (and our spouses), my mom and cousins, each wrote “Pa” a letter. The prompts I shared for inspiration were:
- What about Pa do you love and admire most and why?
- How has he helped you along the way?
- What has been his impact on you?
- Why do you love him?
Tell him through stories.
The letters were all different. Some included art work. One was in the form of a crossword puzzle (honoring my dad’s daily habit of completing the NY Times crossword before going to work). One was in verse, and many were in beautiful prose. But they had one thing in common: each used stories from the writer’s life with Pa to show him what they wanted him to know.
Each letter was unique and represented the individual’s personality and relationship. Together they painted a picture of a man who is admired and love. The collection of letters left no doubt in Pa’s mind that he has a positive impact on each of us.
My dad is not the sentimental type, but he told me that the book of letters was the best gift he ever received. The book’s worn cover is evidence that it’s been read often.
You Don’t Have to Wait for a Big Birthday to Write
I started writing these kinds of letters to my kids when they were teens. Sometimes there was just not enough time between sports, homework, work and life to share in person all that I wanted them to know. But through writing I could share and they could read when they felt they had time and were ready to hear what I had to say.
I wrote how I felt about them, to pass along family stories and wisdom, to share love and gratitude, to encourage them, especially when they were far from home in college or camp or on a gap year.
I’ve written to my daughter and son for their college graduations, my youngest before he went on a gap year and for his first day of college. I’ve written to them on their birthdays or for milestones and also when they’ve struggled to remind them of their own strengths and resilience.
The main thing I learned from writing these kind of letters to my kids is that the letters had a lasting impact. My words were there to support them through good AND hard experiences and showed them my deep love and admiration. I have written many letters to my kids since, to support them, share values, stories and love. And our relationships are stronger and our connections deeper as a result.
And, I love knowing that if they’re having a bad day they can pull out the letters and feel supported and loved.
Letters Are Not Only for Family
Letters are an amazing way to share gratitude with friends, colleagues, mentors and people who have shown you kindness.
Recently I received a letter from a client who participated in a workshop I ran. She told me she signed up with no real expectation other than curiosity, but learning how to write stories and turn them into letters has allowed her to reconnect with old friends and with her first mentor who set her on her road to career success. It was a joyful letter celebrating connection with people who matter to her. Her letter made me smile.
How Reading These Letters Make Your Reader Feel
I know how it feels to receive a letter like the ones we wrote to Pa because my husband and kids have written them to me. Their letters show me that they know me to my core, and reflect back to me the special times we have shared. I treasure these letters. And I know whomever you write to will as well.
Letters last a lifetime and help you express just how much you care for the people in your life, even yourself. If you aren’t sure where to start, I invite you to grab a copy of Deepening Connections with Legacy Letters where I show you how to craft one from the heart.