Too many of us take for granted the people who are most important in our lives. We know they’ll always be there for us, so we don’t take the time to let them know just how much we love and appreciate them. Yet those closest to us are often the ones who need to hear our encouraging words the most.
Even if we do verbally tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, sometimes these simple words spoken occasionally don’t fully express the extent of our love for them.
“Several years ago, after my mother passed on, I went through a particularly difficult time in my life for many reasons. I was blessed to have had a wonderfully close relationship with my mother, and we both had supported each other in many ways through the years. She had been an enormous source of emotional strength for me when I was raising my family of five and trying to juggle work and all the other home responsibilities.
“At the time of her passing, I was also going through a very difficult time within my family. I sought the assistance of a wonderful therapist, who helped me begin the healing process. I have always had difficulty communicating my thoughts to certain people in my life, as I have been afraid of hurting their feelings with what I had to say. Thankfully, this has been improving somewhat, but when Karen suggested a project to let our families know the depth of our feelings in the form of a letter, I was thrilled. The plan was to write our most sincere thoughts in letters and deliver them in February, for Valentine’s Day. Owing to my large family, it took quite a while for me to write them all.
“I can truly say it was a labor of love and true emotion. Each page was filled with the purest of my thoughts and feelings, particularly for my children. My letter to my husband combined my thoughts of all our positive contributions to our family life with the present state of our marriage and my concern for the future of our relationship. When the letters were complete, I felt as though I had purged my whole being. I cried, laughed, and smiled through them all.
“When I discussed this with my therapist, she calmly looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘These letters have done for you in one month what three years of our meetings together couldn’t even come close to! I see the look of peace in your face.’ She is right.
“My children read their letters with tears in their eyes and have placed them in safe places for the future. One of my daughters has been away at college and didn’t feel ‘strong enough’ yet to read it, as she knows she will want to come home right away.
“My youngest daughter, who is 15, told me she hopes she will be able to read it many times when she is very old. (I found her reading it in bed again the other night after she’d had a bad time with a close friend.)
“For my husband, the letter opened the opportunity for discussion of the status of our lives and the future. He actually was very moved to read my thoughts and fairly surprised to read the contents of the letter.
“I have since advised several friends of mine to do the same process when they are moved to do it. Karen is right: we often leave things unsaid for too long, and sometimes never get the opportunity in this lifetime to say what we truly feel. For now, I feel very accomplished after this life-altering experience.”
Tips for Writing a Gratitude Letter
This type of letter is very easy to write, because it is totally positive. Remember that the purpose of this letter is to make the recipient feel good. You may want to incorporate some or all of your answers to the following questions when you are writing your gratitude letter:
- How does this person make a difference in your life?
- What are some of the things you love or admire about this person?
- Why are you thankful that this person is in your life?
- What are the greatest qualities this person has?
- What are some past events that show the type of person he or she is?
- How do you feel when you are with this person?
- How has this person grown or changed for the better?
- Why are you proud of this person?
The list can go on and on. The whole idea is to let your loved ones know how you love and appreciate them and how your life is better because they are in it.
You may write this type of letter at any time—for a special occasion or holiday, or just because you want to let the recipients know how much they mean to you. I assure you that the letter will have a profound positive impact on the recipient, especially if it comes at a time when this person needs it the most.