Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people's lives.
—Dr. Robert Emmons, Researcher on Gratitude
Tell us your story...
- His Letters Survived a Hurricane by an anonymous contributor
- A Memorable, Thanks-Filled Birthday Celebration by Corrine Escobar Griffiths
- Unforgettable to a Mom with Alzheimer's by Larry James
- A Better World... One Letter at a Time by Cherilyn Collins
- Honoring His Memory During the Holidays by Alice J. Wisler
- The Gift of Heartfelt Letters by Linda Luke
- Scented Letters Evoke Fond Memories by Tanya Patterson
- A Wedding Gift to the Bride and Groom's Parents by Lynette M. Smith
- Heartfelt Letters for Comfort, Healing, and Love by Fawn O'Connor
- Mending a Broken Friendship by an anonymous contributor
- An Open Letter of Thanks to Her Ego by Angela Lussier
- The Best Gift of All by Dave Dunn
- Preserving My Grandfather's 1940 Love Letters by Margot Note
- Other Inspiring Letter-Writing Stories (Links)
My son used to have the worst fits over having to write thank-you notes, but he wrote them. And in addition to the thank-you cards, he learned to write letters.
One of my friends passed away a few years ago and in her treasured collection were some of those notes and letters. Those little thank-you cards and letters were saved for more than twenty years and even survived Hurricane Rita. A lot of things were left behind, but she picked up those letters and ran with them.
That's how much a letter can mean to someone.
For my 60th birthday party, I wanted to invite people I hadn’t seen in decades, not just to celebrate my birthday, but for me to thank them for their part in making me who I am. My elementary school friends came, as did junior high and high school friends; girls who were in my Girl Scout troop, church friends from when we lived in Utah as well as here in Yorba Linda; my teacher co-workers and principal; and, of course, my family.
I wrote each person a letter stating how their influence on my life made me a better person or set me on a path towards greatness. It all started with my parents, of course, but then it was my girlfriend in sixth grade who said I should play the clarinet. If she hadn’t talked me into that, I wouldn’t have been in band in high school, where I met a fellow who got me interested in the Mormon Church. Due to that I was baptized, and I went off to BYU, where I met my husband. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have my three beautiful and talented daughters, my three sons-in-law, and my five grandchildren.
We are touched by so many people in our lives. These people with whom we interact help us take paths we might not have taken without them. Of course, we must be careful to make sure those paths are honorable ones, and I am so very thankful that my path was.
All my guests were touched by receiving these letters; they also appreciated my inserting, on each letter, a photograph of the person with me. I have so much to be thankful for in this life, and this was just one way I could express my gratitude to those who made a difference in my life.
—Corinne Escobar Griffiths,
A Cappella Publishing
My mother had Alzheimer's. About a year before she died, I wrote my mother a letter telling her how much I loved her and told her I was sorry for all the things I did when I was a little kid. Although there were times when as I stood before her she did not recognize me as her son, my father told me that she read the letter I wrote almost every day (as if it had just arrived) and told everyone it was from her son.
—Larry James, Relationship Blog:
Many years ago, when I first moved out on my own, I became unhappy with a furniture-delivery service and told my Mother I was going to write a letter to complain. She told me it was a “good life practice” to write two complimentary letters every time I wrote one negative one. So I always have.
Years later, Dr. Wayne Dyer said that a gratitude letter makes everyone involved feel good: the writer, the letter’s recipient, and anyone else who reads the letter.
So thanks to my mother's grand wisdom and Wayne Dyer’s encouragement, I am making the world a little bit better, one letter at a time.
Although it seems that in our society today we neglect the art of letter writing, I've found writing letters to my deceased son therapeutic. By writing, I feel connected to him during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at New Year's. In my letters, I tell him what other family members are doing, how much we miss him, a few things I have learned about grief, and end each letter with love, a big hug, and a kiss.
Sometimes my letters ask for forgiveness. Some paragraphs stress how much I appreciated him for going through cancer treatments and being brave at the young ages of three and four. I like to add a few lines about a memory of him during a holiday, like the time he kept taking the Santa figurine off the neighbor's Christmas tree and putting it in his pocket. He had a joke book he carried around, so often I'll recall one of those jokes and put that in my letter. As I write, I usually cry, but they are healing tears. Sometimes I laugh and cry at the same time.
Letter writing helps me cope during the season. When I write to my son, I incorporate him into our holidays. Instead of feeling like he is removed, I feel his inclusion in our festivities. He is not forgotten; the memories and love are forever present.
—Alice J. Wisler, Author, Speaker, and
Writing Instructor, AliceWisler.com
Excerpts from the http://lifecoachlinda.com/gift-heartfelt-letters/ blog; reprinted with permission.
One of the things I loved about my friend Sybil who recently passed was her love of bringing people together for food and stimulating conversation. She loved to listen and bask in the warmth of being surrounded by interesting friends.
As she was losing her ability to speak, she would type letters to us. I came across a few recently, and they were full of amusing observations and appreciation for the people around her. I could almost here her chuckling between the lines. Eventually, she lost her ability to type, and the letters she received from friends and family became a new source of joy. She would have me read them to her over and over again.
As time passed and her disease progressed, the letters and visits from friends came less often and she felt more isolated. It was hard to watch her lose those connections to the outside world, and I realized how valuable a simple letter could be. Since then, I have written several letters from the heart. As I wrote them I would be flooded with memories and appreciation for the person I was writing to. Their responses were incredible. They would cry. I would cry. And, I realized the gifts of those letters were not just for the recipients, but for me as well.
Who can you write a heartfelt letter of appreciation to? I encourage you to give it a try. You will find it is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
I love to write scented letters and surprise my family with them. You know, tuck one with my favorite scent in my hubby’s pants pocket or work shirt while he isn’t looking, so that he’s greeted with a little surprise later in the day. Something short and sweet, that puts a smile on his face. I love to surprise my boys with little cinnamon-scented letters, to remind them of the oatmeal cookies we bake together on rainy days. I put the letters in a packed lunch for a field trip, or by their pillow when they wake in the morning, telling them how blessed I am, that God chose me to be their mother.
Our oldest son (who is 12) has picked up on this and in return surprises us with random letters every now and then, and I know it’s something he’ll carry into his marriage and do with his wife.
—Tanya Patterson, Scentsable Living
When our son Byron married Rachael on November 22, 2008, instead of buying gifts for their parents to commemorate the occasion, they created lasting memories that touched our hearts. They each wrote a loving letter to their own parents, describing not only their fondest childhood memories but also the values, life lessons, and ideals they would bring to their marriage.
At the wedding rehearsal dinner, the two of them formally presented these beautifully framed letters to my husband and me, and to Rachael's parents. Everyone was deeply moved when the best man and maid of honor read the letters aloud as Byron and Rachael stood beside their parents. Whenever I read our son's letter, even today, I feel just as moved as when it was first presented. My husband and I display our letter in a place of honor in our home, and we will always treasure this loving memento from our son--it has been so much more meaningful than a purchased gift ever could have been.
The thoughtfulness behind these letters had more broad-based consequences as well: They inspired me to write and publish my 2009 series of four marriage-themed, Good Ways to Write a Treasured Letter tips booklets; my 2012 comprehensive reference book, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special; and my six How to Write a Heartfelt Letter of Appreciation themed guides based on the book.
When we moved to California in 1971, we left behind our good friends, Neal and Sue. Since phone service was not what it is today, I wrote to Sue often. Later they moved to California, and regrettably after about eight years divorced. Sue became somewhat of a recluse. Therefore, I wrote her letters. About 10 years ago, she decided to move back to Illinois to be close to her family. She did not tell us, or even her ex-husband, that she had cancer, and we were devastated to hear this from her family later. When she moved, I received a huge package in the mail. Much to my surprise, in it were all the letters I had written her over the 20-year period we’d corresponded. She always wrote all her letters by hand, so they were considerably shorter than my typed ones. I always felt like I was chatting with her, so mine would go on and on. I started to read some of these letters, but it became too painful, as Sue had passed shortly after she moved back to Illinois. I have to hope the letters we exchanged gave her some comfort and a sense of still being connected.
People can also give themselves comfort through letter writing in time of great pain and suffering. When my husband died suddenly in 1997, I was devastated. The anguish of being unable to tell him how much I loved him, or even to say goodbye, weighed heavily on my heart. I would talk to myself and to him over and over again, but finally the idea of writing him a letter came to mind. It was a long letter, with lots of tears (naturally), but I did feel a small sense of relief. I printed out the letter and put it in his file. Many times I would take the letter out and read it again. The relief became more profound each time I read it, until one day I didn’t have to do it anymore. This past year, six lovely friends have each gone through the pain of a spouse’s making the transition into the spirit world. Guess it must be the time of our lives, but it’s difficult to handle. I have suggested to each of them that they write a letter. I know some of them have done so, and found it helpful.
My precious sister turned 80 on April 20, 2013. I bought her a gift and a special card and sent them off to Wyoming. The very next day, I thought, “The card was beautiful, but it didn’t really say what I want her to know.” So I started a letter to her. It gave me the opportunity to really tell her how much her love, affection, and undying support has meant to me all these years and how much I love her. We were two and three when our mother died, and our father disappeared. We were taken in by our mother’s sister, who loved and cared for us as if we were her own. However, my only sister and I always had a special bond. It seemed like she felt she had to take our mother’s place. She always protected me, and she was there to listen and listen and listen. After my husband, Bill, died, she kept my soul alive when it so wanted to die too. She has been the true north on the compass of my life. I wanted her to know how I feel about her. There isn’t a card on the market that could say this.
The past few years I’ve starting writing letters for birthdays, anniversaries, get well wishes, etc. Not only has it been cost effective (nice cards are $5 to $8), but everyone seems to appreciate it so much more than a purchased card. I encourage everyone to give this some consideration.
Growing up in junior high and high school, I had a girlfriend who was like a sister to me. We did everything together, spent time at each other’s homes, went on family trips together, and were the closest of friends. This special friendship continued for years. We were truly part of each other’s families. Then something happened that separated us. We had a grave misunderstanding, and we didn’t work it out. Both of us got married within a month of each other. And both of us moved to other states. Our relationship was dormant for a couple of years.
This separation broke my heart. The last thing I wanted was for this special friendship to die. I don’t remember how I tracked down my friend’s address—probably from her mom—and I wrote her a letter. I apologized for my part in our disagreement—and told her how much she meant to me. I let her know how much I wanted to restore the relationship we had always enjoyed.
The good news is that this letter opened the door to reestablish our friendship. That letter was written nearly forty years ago! We picked back up right where we left off—as though no time and no separation had ever existed. We are still very close friends today. We don’t see each other often (we live thousands of miles apart), or even talk frequently, but when we do, it’s as though we saw each other just yesterday! We still share special memories that we’ve treasured throughout a friendship that has endured for more than forty-five years.
I will be forever grateful that I wrote the letter—and took the step that opened the door to mend our broken relationship.
Cathartic does not even begin to describe how it feels to actually call out your ego on paper and then cut it down while you count the ways you deceived it. I was run by my ego for years and it wasn’t until I learned that I’m in control of what I do with it that things started to change.
Writing a letter to my ego and thanking it for what it has taught me (for better or for worse), brought to light how far I have come and how much courage I have. Giving myself permission to acknowledge my power in a letter like this has helped me see that I am capable of much more than I thought. It has also showed me that sharing my own struggles can be very empowering and inspiring for others.
After sharing this letter via my email newsletter list, I received more responses than any other post I’ve written. Ever. I’ve learned that sharing the parts of ourselves that don’t seem attractive can actually be the best tool for leadership and motivating others. I can’t wait to write a letter like this again next year and see what comes of it!
—Angela Lussier, Founder,
Do+Make Business District
Life is exceptionally sad when we feel that we have nothing to give. Two weeks before Christmas in the prison where I teach self-help classes we talk about writing. Once the students see that the arrival of their letter will signal they are sorry, are turning their life around, are worthy of continued patience and love, the barrier to writing comes down. Rather than a long list of apologies they can write a very short letter about their feelings.
Then we talk about how they can turn their letters into keepers, by showing their emotions in ways that reveal their empathy for their loved ones.
We then leave them with a large selection of cards, stamps, paper and envelopes. Rarely have they ever thought of or had the opportunity to write such letters.
After Christmas they are excited to share their success stories. The responses they get always exceeded their expectations. All those who participate feel that their letters signaled a turning point in their relationship. We then make personalize writing supplies available so that they can write often.
For the parents; we leave pre-stamped post cards on which they can send loving sentiments to their kids. When a parent and child are denied contact with each other, a collection of cards sent weekly to a third party (for postmarking), will prove that their child has been in their heart all along.
—Dave Dunn, GetLifeRight.com
The beginning of spring makes me want to clean and organize my home. Along with my work helping individuals and organizations harness their history, I also organize my family and personal archives.
A couple years ago, around this time, my uncle sent me love letters that my paternal grandfather wrote to my grandmother. From January to June 1940, my grandparents corresponded with each other until they were married. I only have the letters that my grandfather sent my grandmother, which have been chronologically organized and preserved in acid-free enclosures, using the methods I discuss in detail in my book, Creating Family Archives: A Step-by-Step Guide to Saving Your Memories for Future Generations.
I digitized, transcribed, and researched the letters, as well as digitized old photos, in a blog series: Grandpa's Love Letters. I published each post on the date of the letter, so I could experience what the letters were like in real time. It was such a fun project, and I've been re-reading the posts lately.
The first letter, dated June 19, 1940, concerns planning their wedding. Grandpa was working in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Grandma was living in Paterson, New Jersey. He advises that they will need $125 for the wedding. He signs off, "I remain as ever your upcoming groom and lover." How wonderful!
—Margot Note, Margot Note Consulting LLC
Teacher writes 130 personalized card-style letters of appreciation to her students, in hopes of preventing teen suicides. "The Fight Against Teen Suicide Begins in the Classroom," presented by Brittni Darras at TEDxMileHigh, August 11, 2017.
Ren Benson of York, UK, inspired by the online community, The Motherload, leaves handwritten supportive letters for new mums to find, to let them know they're not alone. "Woman Leaves Letters of Support for Other New Mothers," BBC News, August 19, 2017.