This summer I’m lucky to have my daughter here in Wellfleet with my husband, our pup, Murphy, and me. She’s an artist and a writer so she can do her work right here on our porch. I feel so lucky to have her here, as she is a joy.
But my other two kids are far away, one at school and the other in a summer job a thousand miles away.
And my parents will be staying in New York this summer – for the first time I will not spend time with them here in Wellfleet.
Just because these family members (and many of my friends) who I won’t get to see this summer are not here doesn’t mean I won’t get to connect with them. Sure I could text or even call (and I do both), but if I want to connect on a deeper level, I pull out pen and paper or more likely, my computer, and write them a letter.
Writing letters is a way of being there when you are far away.
I might write to one of my sons to say hello but also to support him as he decides which career path to take. Or I could write to my Dad to support him as he cares for my mom. Or to my niece, who is starting grad school, to encourage her and remind her how strong and competent she is.
And these letters are also great for people outside my family as well. I have written to friends, a mentor and the incredible Care Manager who helps my parents.
Letters are an amazing way to share gratitude with friends, colleagues, mentors and people who have shown you kindness. They are the best way I know to share empathy or remind the reader of their resilience during a struggle.
Unlike a text or a call, the reader gets to “hear” what you have to say when they’re ready. And they can read the letter again and again and feel your love and support. Sometimes people are not ready to talk or absorb what you’re saying, a letter gives them time to figure out when they’re ready.
There’s an art to writing a letter that connects – but you already know how to do it!
The art to these letters is storytelling.
We as humans are natural born storytellers, that’s how we connect. We have been telling our stories, the small ones and the big ones, for a long time. Sharing what you want to say though story makes the point in a way that your reader can feel and hear what you want to share.
The beauty of storytelling is that it can happen anywhere.
Can you recall a day from when you were a sophomore in college that you realized you were resilient? Would that be a powerful story to share with your 18-year-old son?
How about the way your roommate helped you through the Russian Lit class? Write to her and remind her of that story, remind her what a great teacher and friend she was and that you’re grateful.
Is your child about to start college, you can send them off with a letter of encouragement using stories from their life and your’s. You can read about the letter I left in my son’s room when I dropped him off for college here.
Recently I received a letter from a client who participated in one of my letter writing workshops. 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.
These letters have a lasting impact.
I’ve written to my daughter and son for their college graduations and to 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 other milestones, and I’ve written in times 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.
And, I love knowing that if they’re having a bad day they can pull out the letters and feel supported and loved.
I hope you grab a piece of paper (or your laptop) and write to that dear friend or a child or your spouse, a mentor or the barista who ALWAYS remembers you like your latte with soymilk and extra foam. I guarantee you’ll make their day.
Go ahead, try it out. I bet you’ll feel more connected to your reader as a result. Happy writing.
Letters last a lifetime and help you express just how much you care for the people in your life. 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.