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3 Reasons to Write a Forever Letter

Letters

Email. Text. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. With all the technological advances in communication, writing meaningful letters to connect with the people we care about has fallen by the wayside. One hundred and forty characters may work for communicating facts, necessary information, and quick expressions of love, but for many of us it's not enough. We feel somehow that the quality of our communication has diminished, that it is not as meaning-filled as it once was or as it can be. If this is an issue for you, consider writing a Forever Letter.

Let me be clear up front—a Forever Letter is not just a newsy note, an "I love you" letter, or a sharing of the day's doings. A Forever Letter is a heartfelt letter we write to the people who matter to us most—it's one of those special and memorable moments when we share our values, wisdom, appreciation, hopes, gratitude, and love, when we ask for forgiveness and forgive.

This may seem like a daunting task, especially if you're not a writer, but fear not. You don't have to be a writer to write a Forever Letter. You have only to be yourself. There are many reasons to write a Forever Letter. Here are three:

  1. Sometimes You Can Write What You Cannot Speak
    You want so much to say something to someone you love, but each time you try, you feel the words stick in your throat. You wonder if your critical tone will get in the way. Or you're afraid you'll get too emotional when you talk about a particularly sensitive issue and you're worried this may make the person to whom you're speaking uncomfortable. Or you just have trouble communicating with a person you love.

    In my book, The Forever Letter, I tell the story of Cora, who said that when she was in her teens she and her dad had trouble talking so she took to writing him letters and placing them in his suitcase before he went off on business trips. It worked. He always wrote from the road. Cora said that in their letters, they worked out a lot of issues.

    When you sit down to write a Forever Letter, you may find that what you want to communicate is easier communicated in writing, at least initially. Perhaps this initial written communication changes the landscape for how you communicate in person. It could be that the words on the page open the door for an in-person conversation.

  2. The Process of Writing Can Take You to The Heart of The Matter
    You start to write a speech or perhaps you're writing in your journal, and as you begin to write, you realize you're not writing about what you had thought you would write about, but you are writing about what you need to write. The very act of writing has taken you to a deeper place. You, the editor, are no longer in control. Your heart is.

    This happened to Janine, a spunky eighty-one-year-old. Janine had been a triathlete in her younger years and sported a bumper sticker on her car (a gift from one of her daughters) that said, "Still running." When she reflected on her writing experience at the end of the workshop I facilitated, Janine said that she came to understand her bumper sticker in this new light: she has been running so much in her life, she needs to stop running and be more present to her relationships.

    This can happen when you write a Forever Letter. A different way of thinking may emerge. Feelings may pour out that you didn't even know you had, and you may find yourself in a deeper, more honest place, seeing yourself as you truly are, not as the person you imagine yourself to be. Or, perhaps you find yourself seeing the person you're writing to as who that person really is, not as who you are imagining that person to be. This understanding is possible when we sit down to write with the intention of reflecting on ourselves, the person(s) we're writing to, and the relationship we share. If you're not sure where to begin, don't worry! The Forever Letter provides step-by-step guidance to get you going.

  3. A Loving Way to Ask for Forgiveness and to Forgive
    Something's been bothering you about a family member, friend, colleague, or teacher for years. It darkens your heart like a storm cloud. Is it you who needs to ask for forgiveness for something you said or did? Or, are you the one who needs to forgive? Perhaps it's a little of both. So, what do you do? You have options. You can continue to carry this darkness within or you can move toward the light of healing.

    A Forever Letter is a thoughtful way to move toward healing. It's often easier to ask for forgiveness or to forgive in a letter than it is in person. The writing process can often help us to understand the hurt and to process the past in a reflective way. We may even discover that before we can ask for forgiveness from another or forgive another we need to forgive ourselves first. Writing about forgiveness allows us the time to craft our words to say what we truly want them to say, to work on our tone, and to be sure our love shines through.

So, why write a Forever Letter? The three reasons just mentioned: sometimes you can write what you cannot speak; the process of writing can take you to the heart of the matter; and writing a Forever Letter is a loving way to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

So, let go your fears. Set time aside to write, and let The Forever Letter: Writing What You Believe for Those You Love serve as your writing companion.

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About Elana Zaiman

Elana Zaiman (Seattle, WA) is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. She's also a chaplain and a writer. Elana travels throughout the U.S. and Canada as a scholar-in-residence, speaker, and ...

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