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“Treasure these few words till we’re together again. Keep all my love forever. P.S. I Love You

-John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Communication is vital in every aspect of our lives because we are innately social beings. Considering the vast array of technology at our disposal nowadays, we can find myriad ways to connect with one another. But before the wide use of telecommunications, handwritten letters were used almost exclusively. Love letters have never gone out of style. They carry with them the power to reach sweetly and significantly from one heart directly into the heart of a beloved other.

Perhaps the sweetest place on earth is when and where we feel seen, heard, and loved.

Why Love Letters Are Important

A love letter is like love itself. Both involve taking the risk to be vulnerable. We declare, commit, and express our desire, need and gratitude for the affections of another. We summon our courage to say, “You are so deeply important to me and I want to let you know it.”

In her book, Rising Strongsocial researcher, Brene Brown says that our ability to practice vulnerability is at the heart of living what she calls a “Whole Hearted Life.” She writes, “I believe that vulnerability- the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantees of outcome-is the only path to more love, belonging and joy.”

This vulnerability requires the courage to face down our internal critic that relentlessly cautions about the dangers of loving and professing our love. This toxic, shaming self-talk offers up unsolicited, defensive, erroneous advice such as, “Don’t be so emotional, you’ll be seen as weak;” “Whatever you do, don’t say ‘I love you’ first. If it isn’t returned, you’ll feel like a fool;” “It’s best to keep your feelings to yourself. That way you’ll have less chance of being rejected.”

It benefits us to identify these feelings as the voices of fear rather than the authentic voice of the heart. From a very young age, we are able to recognize that our joy, as well as our survival, is inextricably intertwined in our interdependence with others. As we practice listening to that trusted voice within us, we gain confidence in our ability to turn towards and embrace our innate worthiness-our right to love and be loved.

Writing a love letter is an act of validation for both the sender and the receiver. A love letter is a modest deposit that can reap exponential dividends. Our own sense of well-being and goodness is enlarged as we learn how to generously and sincerely acknowledge and invite the goodness of others. Sharing of oneself is paradoxically one of the most self-fulfilling and selfless things we can do.

Love Letters Aren’t Just For Romance

In his book, Love & Survival: 8 Pathways To Intimacy and HealthDr. Dean Ornish writes: “The experience of intimacy is available to anyone who has the courage to open his or her heart to another. Romantic intimacy is only one form and expression of intimacy.”

The origin of the word intimacy comes from the Latin root, Intimatus, which means “to make oneself known.” A love letter need not be exclusively reserved for romantic partners but can be written for anyone you love for the sole purpose of letting them know how much you truly care about them.

As short list of examples could include:

    • A note placed in your child’s school backpack or gym bag that says, “I’m so proud of you.”
    • A message for your significant other, written on the bathroom mirror, which says, “When I look at you, all I see is Love.”
    • A card placed on your daughter’s pillow, on her last night at home before leaving for college, that says, “Not one worry in sight. I’ll always be at the other end of the phone. I believe in you.”
    • A text message to a grieving friend that says, “I can hear your heart from here. I’m leaving the light on for you. Call me anytime, day or night.”
    • An email message to a colleague that says, “I’m so grateful to you for our ability to work so easily and clearly with one another. I look forward to coming to work every day and have learned so much from you. I want you to know how deeply I appreciate you and our collaboration.”

Love Letters Heal

In her book, For The Love Of Letters, A 21rst Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing, Samara O’Shea instructs, “Letters can and will affect the recipient, but what’s oftentimes greater (and more surprising) is the effect letters have on the writer-who may be coming face to face with his or her thoughts and feelings for the first time. Letters have been performing acts-both ordinary and extraordinary-for several hundred millennia.”

I See You

We hold so much in our hearts. Our worries and fears, our hopes and dreams, our losses and gains are all grist for the mill of our daily existence. But what fills the treasure chest of meaning and purpose for us always centers on those we love. Perhaps the sweetest place on earth is when and where we feel seen, heard, and loved. Whether it is in person or in memory, we are sustained by this reciprocal recognition.

Author O’Shea also offers a letter writing service. She writes, that of all the letter requests she received on her website, love letters are the highest in demand. She explains, “I expected apology letters to be number one or even breakup letters, but no, love letters conquer all. Admittedly, I was surprised yet ecstatic because it made me feel that all is well with the universe. There are plenty of people walking around in love and looking for new ways to say old things.”
British insurance company, Beagle Street, asked over one thousand people to vote on the greatest love letters ever written. Topping the list was the following frank and heartfelt note that music legend Johnny Cash wrote to his wife June Carter Cash on her 65th birthday:

“We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”

Go Ahead, Write It Down

In her book, How To Write Anything, Laura Brown writes, ‘I’ve been teaching writing for nearly 30 years to people of all ages. In that time, I’ve never met a person who “can’t write.” But I have met a lot of people who are intimidated by the writing process.”

Often we want to write down our feelings to another but we are unsure of how to do it. A love letter doesn’t have to be sappy and it doesn’t have to be a contender for a Pulitzer Prize. It’s simply an honest and direct reflection of what means the most to you. Think of it this way: a love letter is an embrace in written form, a hug in disguise.
Here are a few gentle tips to get started:

  • Don’t be in a hurry. Set aside some dedicated time. Push the pause button in your busy schedule in order to be still. Now, just listen to what your heart knows and feels.
  • Begin simply. Don’t make it complicated. Jot down a word, a phrase or an image of joy and connection that springs to mind regarding the loved one for whom your letter is intended.
  • Elaborate on what you love about them. Identify how your life is better because of them. Be specific and generous with your observations. Don’t censor your feelings. Give your heart permission to shed as much light as possible on the depth and breadth of your emotions.

My own 86- year- old father-in-law is an immigrant who has embraced English as his second language but has few, if any, writing skills. He has not allowed this to hold him back. In my birthday card this year, he wrote these words to me: “Hapy birtday. You my darter, no darter in law. Love so so so much, Tato.” When I read this, it went straight to my heart and made me smile through my tears. I’ll keep it forever.

Love Letters Live On

Our words can be powerful catalysts for change. The words “I love you” have been singularly responsible for the greatest degree of transformation and healing in people’s lives. Love letters speak a unique language of the heart that defies isolation. They remind us, that against all odds, beyond any imposed separation, we can and will live on in each other’s hearts.

What has writing or receiving a love letter meant to you?

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

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