Writing a Forever Letter to Your Grandchild

Family Stories

Over the years, I have heard many stories about grandparents writing letters to their grandchildren. In these letters grandparents share stories, wisdom, love and gratitude, hopes, blessings, and reflections on their grandchildren as they grow from infancy, to toddlerhood, to adolescence and beyond.

One particular story comes to mind. A grandfather wrote a letter to his granddaughter on the day she was born and continued to write a letter to her on the same date every month — twelve letters a year. As other grandchildren were born, the grandfather continued the tradition. His letters to his grandchildren numbered over 200.

I call these letters — written to connect us with another human being and to deepen, heal, or uplift our relationships — Forever Letters.

We can all write them. Even if we are not writers. We need only be ourselves, write in our own voice, and share what matters most to us.

Here are three steps to writing a Forever Letter.

1. Plan in advance. 

  • Schedule at least two dedicated hours in your calendar to write. Decide on the place — perhaps a local tea or coffee shop or a favorite room in your home.
  • Consider bringing along a few photographs of the grandchild to whom you will write. Looking at the photos may help you bring that grandchild to mind in a more personal way.
  • If writing doesn’t come easily to you, imagine yourself talking with your grandchild over dinner, drinking coffee or a smoothie together, or taking a walk. Think about what you most want to say to this beloved being.

2. Show up to write.

  • Be there at the set time. Consider silencing your phone to allow you to focus only on the task. Start with “Dear ___” [insert the name of your grandchild]. Then write whatever comes to mind: stories, conversations, personal values, lessons you have learned in your life and lessons you have learned from your grandchild, why you love her, your hopes for him, unique characteristics you notice in her, something sweet or funny or meaningful she did.
  • I remember a time when my son was around 5 years old and we had just disembarked a ferry in Seattle. He saw a girl slightly older than him who appeared to be sad and he walked over to her and handed her his small stuffed elephant. I made sure he understood that if he gave it to her, he would not see it again. He did. When I wrote him a Forever Letter, I mentioned this act and how it showed a gift of compassion.
  • Write and keep writing. Do not stop to cross out, edit, or think about how you want to craft what you say — just write. Remember, this letter is a first draft.
  • At the end of the set time, place your letter in a folder. Over the next few weeks, write any other thoughts about that grandchild that come to mind. Add them to your folder. In about a month, take out all you have written and craft a letter to your grandchild. When you feel this letter is complete, set it aside for week or two, then take it out, and reread before sharing it. Be alert to the tone of the letter so that your letter lands with non-judgmental acceptance and love.
  • For additional writing prompts, ways to write so you are heard, sample letters and editing guidance, check out The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love.

3. Share the letter. 

  • Decide on the right time to give or mail your letter to your grandchild. If you are writing to more than one grandchild, you may want to save these letters and mail them out to each grandchild at the same time or you may want to designate an occasion, such as their birthday or one of your milestone birthdays to send each grandchild the letter. Or simply give or send your letter when it’s ready!
  • Do put it in an envelope. Address it in your handwriting. As to the letter itself, you can type it or write it. If your handwriting is hard to read, perhaps type. Add a few handwritten lines at the end. And save a copy.

What should you do when you’ve completed your first letter? Begin another letter to a grandchild, a child, a spouse, sibling, or dear friend.

I also hear stories from grandchildren themselves — the recipients — about how much these letters mean to them. So go on, jump right in!

Elana Zaiman, author of The Forever Letter, encourages us to deepen, heal, and uplift our relationships with the people who matter to us most. She is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. She serves as a scholar-in-residence, inspirational speaker, and workshop facilitator throughout North America.