Thirty-six years ago I separated from my first husband and sought a divorce. Thirty-six years ago I wrote letters to friends and family to tell them my “not-very-good” news. And thirty-six years ago those friends and families wrote me back in long, thoughtful letters, letting me know they loved and supported me through whatever troubles I was facing.
These are real letters, on paper, some written in pen or pencil and some typed on machines called typewriters. They are artifacts from the archeological dig of my house clearing; remnants of times past. As I read these letters, I look back on myself and my life through the eyes of others.
The letters are filled with words like “shock” and “sadness” and also “I’m sorry I didn’t understand what was going on.” They hold no acrimony or harshness, no ugliness, no taking of sides. They offer comfort and courage, and they express trust and confidence in me (thank you!). Most important, they include the writers’ fair and compassionate reflections. This is a chance to revisit history beyond my own faded memories.
Letters are gifts, a sharing of the self. Letters are recorded history, an invitation to see the world through an expanded lens. Letters carry life stories we once shared with others.
And maybe, if the letter you write is honest and loving (or honest and “tough loving,” as the need may be), maybe your letter will be saved. Then some day, the recipient might find it and remember something about her life and the good friends she’s had, and something about the incalculable worth of compassion and caring in the sorrowful transitions of life.
Why not write a letter today?
Letter Writing Prompts:
“Dear ______, I found myself thinking about you today when ______” (then keep writing)
“Dear ______, Remember letters? I decided to write today because ______” (then keep writing)
“Hello ______, I am remembering when you and I ______” (then keep writing)
“My dear ______, It’s been too long! I want to tell you ______” (then keep writing)
“Dear [put your own name here], I’ve been missing you! I really want to talk to you and let you know ______” (then keep writing)