For six years, I had heard about and read about the practice of writing a letter to a deceased loved one, and not mailing it. According to grief experts, writing a letter helps you to heal. Writing the letter also helps you to let go. Bob Deits, author of Life After Loss, says this is the most difficult letter you will ever write, and it demands your best.

I agreed with his points and, though I was impressed with his wisdom, I did not write THE LETTER.

This idea had become a giant billboard in my mind, with the words THE LETTER printed in red, for red alert. In a website article, psychotherapist Alexandra Kennedy lists the purpose and elements of this letter. “Writing a letter is a powerful way to reconnect with loved one after he or she has died,” she explains. She thinks this letter might include some of the things you miss, or regret, or things you have learned.

Helpful as her suggestions are, I did not write THE LETTER.

Some grief experts recommend hand-writing the letter on your best stationery. When I was younger, I used to have good handwriting, curvy letters that represented the Palmer Method. I can still see the green, cursive letters on posters that went along a classroom wall. But arthritis changed my handwriting, so I figured I would write THE LETTER on the computer.

While this was an easy solution, a quick solution, but I did not write THE LETTER.

Other grief experts recommend putting the letter or letters away for a while, then taking them out, and reading them aloud. I thought this was a good idea. Since I am a professional writer, I often read my prose aloud. And so, like all of the other ideas I had read about, reading my letter aloud was something I was willing to do.

Logic did not win out, however, and I still did not write THE LETTER.

During the past month, I have been working on a book about growing from grief. Like all of the grief resources I have written, it is a book I never planned to write. This book came as a complete surprise. I wrote the outline in two days and started the manuscript on the third. Words came so quickly I could barely keep up with them. I realized one chapter needed THE LETTER, my actual letter to my deceased adult daughter. And I was scared.

Would I be able to do this? Would I break down and sob? Would I go backwards on the recovery path? The only way to answer these questions was to sit down and write. In the night, my subconscious mind kept writing and re-writing THE LETTER. The next morning, I sat down at the computer and poured out my soul in words. Searching for words was not a problem and they came quickly. So did the tears streaming down my face.

There. I had done it. I had written THE LETTER, and it is now part of my book. I did not go backwards on the recovery path, I went forwards. Writing the letter was easy because I have been doing my grief work ever since my daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. It is a good letter, a healing letter, and I am glad I wrote it. If you have been worrying about writing THE LETTER I hope you will sit down and do it.

Writing the letter will make you feel better.



Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

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