Week 33: Write a letter of appreciation

A particularly personal thanks

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Handwritten letters, these days, are so rare as to immediately increase their significance. Handwritten cards seem ok - you can buy a lovely card and write thoughts to be given on any ‘special’ day. But letters are more formal, more nostalgic, more full of promise and intensity of meaning.

I spent many days pondering who to write a letter to. I didn’t want to write a letter to my husband as I feel it would be more poignant to speak my words of gratitude to him face to face with the intense eye- contact sometimes lacking in long-term relationships.

I also rejected my mum. Mum and I have a bond that others may find bizarre: in many ways motherhood in its more emotional forms has always been out of her reach. There are many things that make caring for her difficult - unresolved and unspoken frustrations from my childhood and early adulthood. A counsellor once suggested writing a letter to her – not to send – but to clarify my emotions and reinforce the wonderful aspects of her personality that at times I find difficult to always remember. Why then not write that letter now? Because I have come to learn that reviewing past events in lots of detail is often, for me, not the way to go. It is the present that I am dealing with, and when this once strong fighter of a woman is now vulnerable and much more mellow, let’s just be grateful for that and enjoy the time we have left.

Finally, I decided against writing to a friend: my close friends would have found it weird and a bit ‘affected’. Again, face to face would be best.

I knew the choice for me had to be special given the personal and special nature of the task. I chose to write a letter that I will, hopefully, send at a time in the future that feels right. I chose a half-sister, Susan, that I have not met since I was 14 years old – 32 years ago. In the mess of my childhood, I saw her every other Saturday. She is about 17 years older than me and understood more than anyone what was going on. She was artistic, into wonderful music and let me wear make-up and high heels when I wasn’t allowed! She was the one who found out where I was living in my early twenties to let me know dad had died. She then didn’t judge me when I didn’t go to his funeral.

I lost touch with her as I went through my twenties, mainly due to the awful sense of family ‘allegiances’ that can occur through divorce. When mum dies though, I will hopefully meet up with Susan again. Her artistic genes have flowed to my middle daughter and I would love to hear them chat about art.

Before this task I hadn’t thought about Susan for a while. I wanted to choose someone I really appreciate, and I so appreciate her. The letter of thanks has been written with a beautiful new fountain pen and it will stay in a special place until the next phase of our family life can mean that I can hopefully give it to her in person.


Mother, wife, daughter, teacher...

Firmly stuck in the 'sandwich generation' category, I am 46 years old and looking to shake things up a bit! I am a teacher, which I love - but it takes over your life! A mother of three - two daughters, 16 and 15, a son aged 11. Wife to Simon for 19 years. Carer for rather eccentric mum, aged 89.


Go to the profile of Vanessa
about 5 years ago
I hope when the time comes for you to send the letter it brings another layer of joy into your life. Susan sounds like a wonderful person (just like you)! Thank you for an inspiring post that shored up my bravery for a daunting challenge.
Go to the profile of Fiona Dolben
about 5 years ago
I love the honesty of this blog it really tugged at my heartstrings. FAMILY is always complicated. I do hope you meet up again with your half sister she sounds wonderful and that the letter is received in the manner it was given. I just want to give you a hug!
Go to the profile of Jacqui
about 5 years ago
Vanessa and Fi thank you. Families are complicated! Think it is good to open up to this sometimes - although not all the time! I enjoyed this experiment. It reminded me of a lovely person. Lots of love.