Often considered a forgotten art, the act of letter writing can be transformative and healing—even without sending it.
Letters were the most common way we communicated with each other for centuries. With technology and so many other ways of sharing thoughts, it seems to have virtually disappeared. Juliet Madison, author of The Secret Letters Project, encourages readers to return to the art of letter writing, even if you don’t intend to send the letter. In this colorful journal, she offers prompts and suggestions for how to approach letter writing as a mode of making peace or coming to a place of greater understanding and appreciation for the people and events in your life.
Write a letter to yourself
Taking the time to write a letter to yourself offers a chance for you to practice being your own best friend. We have a tendency to be quite hard on ourselves, and to treat ourselves in a way we would never treat someone else. When you write to yourself about your best qualities, your biggest wins, and the greatest challenges you have overcome, you get to see yourself in way that honors your gifts and talents rather than focusing on everything you do wrong.
Another way to write to yourself is with a thirty-day self-love challenge. Madison suggests starting by developing a list of every possible positive attribute you would consider to be true—at least part of the time—for you. For thirty days, choose one or two of these and write a love note to yourself that includes those qualities. When you have a down day, look at these love notes and read them as an affirmation of your best qualities.
Write a letter to a relationship that has soured
So often when relationships end, we are left with so many things we would like to have said or done. We are left with many competing emotions. As a way to close the door on past relationships so that you can move on, it is helpful to express these thoughts in writing. Madison suggests spending time thinking about all aspects of the relationship, both the good and the bad. Then, she offers a template for writing the letter:
Thank the person for their part in the journey.
Write down anything you wish to express, stating the emotions you felt/feel.
Write down what you learned and what you are grateful for.
State that you are giving yourself and them closure and you are now ready to move on.
Madison does not recommend sending this letter to the person you are writing it to, unless you deeply believe they would benefit from it. Instead, consider emptying any lingering thoughts, emotions or things left unsaid into the letter, and then “releasing it in some way, so it signifies an ending and a new beginning and helps to give you closure.”
Write a letter to your health condition
Most people want to distance themselves, as much as possible, from any illness. However, Madison writes, “many who have experienced significant illness can attest to the power of also looking at it in a positive light and seeing what it has taught you or is teaching you.” Choosing the perspective that there is something to be learned from an illness is empowering, and let’s the mind wander into the possibilities of a positive takeaway.
Madison suggests that releasing your frustrations is an important step in your letter, followed by examining how you got the illness. Express what it has taught you and what you are taking away as lessons from the illness. Finally, write down where you intend your journey to go. If you need to accept some part of the illness, see if you can make peace with that idea. Write a goodbye to your illness if you are letting it go for good. She suggests that you may want to keep your letter, or you may be ready to release it by burning it, or intentionally tearing it up and throwing it away.
Our ability to come to terms with the markers of our lives depends so much on how we can express our feelings about them. By writing the letter, and sharing it—or not—we can come to a better understanding of how we have grown or changed from that important experience. We can make peace with our life, and in the process, heal our heart.