The older I get the more I recognize that everything is always changing, including who is in your life.
You, like me, have probably experienced loss and grief many different times. Sometimes that loss is permanent, like the death of a loved one. And sometimes the loss comes a little more quietly with a change in place, situation, or life stage.
Your words matter
While always painful, losses can open our eyes to the importance of speaking your heart when people are still around to hear from you. That's why I am such a big believer in sending a heartfelt letter. While it may seem like a small gesture I know from experience a handwritten note has a big impact on the recipient.
Loss as an inspiration to express gratitude
As a response to a series of losses, one of my regular customers, Kristin, made a goal of sending one note of gratitude per day for an entire year. She wanted to express her appreciation for the friends and family who were still living.
I had a couple of conversations with her about this practice. When I asked her what inspired her to begin she explained "My inspiration was to thank the people in my life, as I lost 20 people close to me last year including my preacher, dad, uncle, [and] cousin. It is my year of gratitude."
Steps to writing a heartfelt letter
- Decide what kind of letter to write
- Choose the right card (or postcard!)
- Begin with a greeting
- Write the perfect message
- Choose the best closing
- Add some flair to the envelope
1. Decide what kind of letter to write
Deciding what kind of letter you're going to write before you begin will help your brain begin to organize your thoughts. The decision will likely influence what card or postcard you choose as well.
Write a thank you note
How did the person you are writing to make a difference in your life? Did they teach you something valuable? Did they make you feel loved and seen? How? Did they walk you through a difficult path in your life?
Share a story or memory from your shared past
Are you writing to a high school or college friend? Is there a funny moment you can share? Or maybe if you're writing to a grandparent, aunt, or uncle you can recall an activity you did together or a special place you went together.
Recalling funny moments can be just as precious. Was there a prank or mishap or misread recipe that went down in collective family lore? Share it from your own perspective.
Let your own milestones help you see loved ones in a new light
The appreciation I had for my own parents increased exponentially after I became a parent myself. The shift in perspective helped me see with fresh eyes all that they had done for me.
Let your own milestones – graduations, moves, home ownership, career changes, parenthood – guide your reflections.
Explain what a special person taught you
Sometimes a person has been a part of your life for many years and the lesson he or she taught you can't be encapsulated in a single story. You might have to share a series of stories. Better yet, share a series of attributes the person has taught be example with stories and actions to go with each.
Sharing a slice of daily life can be sweet
If you're writing to the same person regularly, it can be just as pleasant to chat about the small and lovely things in your daily life. When I write to grandparents, I try to write a few sentences about each person in the family.
If you're really intimidated, maybe you just want to commit to sending postcards? Postcards leave just enough room for a short and sweet note.
Don't make it hard!
2. Choose the right card (or postcard)
The message on the front of your card should match both the content of your letter and the relationship you have with the recipient. Sympathy notes and messages of congratulations just don't have the same vibe!
Our favorite card designs for:
- thank you notes
- love notes (and engagements, weddings, and anniversaries!)
And our best-selling Jude 1:2 blessing cards are good for pretty much any purpose!
3. Begin with a greeting
Believe it or not, this is an area where you can get creative too, especially for informal and friendly letters. If your note is of a more formal or professional nature, your best bet is stick with the standard "Dear. I've also been known to simply begin with the person's name followed by a comma.
If the tone of the letter is more informal and fun, I encourage you to try out an honorary title before or after the person's name. "The amazing and marvelous Martha" or "Mr. Benson, best math tutor in all the land."
The greeting is also a place where you can express great love and affection "My dearest Grandma" or "To Susan, the love of my life."
More phrases for starting a letter:
- Hi there,
- Good morning,
- Good afternoon,
4. Write the perfect message
This might seem like the most intimidating part but don't let your ink pen get sweaty! There are no grammar police hovering. Your handwriting and your spelling mistakes and the smudged ink all add to the charm, I promise. This is going to be an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter. It's already a treasure!
My best advice is to write like you would speak. Maybe even try speaking the words out loud if it helps you get into the flow.
If you make a mistake, simply cross that word out and continue on. No need to begin again.
5. Choose the best closing
Your parting words can be personalized beyond the standard and formal "sincerely." Your relationship with the person and the nature of the letter can and should inspire your closing.
Phrases for closing a letter:
- With love,
- With all my heart,
- With gratitude,
- Gratefully yours,
- Thank you!
- So honored to know you,
- With prayers,
- Prayers for…
- See you soon!
- Looking forward to…
- Stay well,
- Still smiling,
- Still laughing,
- With all the love for…
6. Add some flair to the envelope
I enjoy decorating the recipient's name. Sometimes, I write it in cursive with large loops sweeping right off the edge of the envelope. Or I might do block letter or bubble letters with different color markers. Sometimes I like to add a title above the name like "the marvelous" or "the amazing." A little doodle of a crown above that and the person will be smiling before they even open it!
I also love matching the mood or style of my mail with special postage stamps (have you seen the message monster stamps?). If there isn't a post office convenient to your weekly routines, feel free to order them online. Be warned though, for the newest designs you might need to visit your local post office.
If your letter or card happens to be more light-hearted in nature, then you have my full permission to glam up that envelope with stickers, doodles, or rubber stamps. Heck, the back of the envelope is fair game for an entire drawing by you (or your child!).
Want more letter writing tips?
I send out fantastic emails on Saturday mornings (not to brag!) and I really don't think you should miss them. One of my favorite things to share is writing prompts. I don't want anyone to be intimidated by a blank card ever again!
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