Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

I think I have letters to write


Years ago my Dad said he could tell where he was in the life cycle by the tone of the family Christmas letters we received. Back in the early days people were starting out and talked about new babies, new jobs. Then suddenly kids were graduating and getting married and starting jobs themselves. Grandchildren began arriving. Eventually his friends started retiring, traveling, dealing with health issues. News of death was beginning to appear in holiday letters the last years of his life.

I think about that a lot as I see it reflected in the Christmas cards I receive each year. People I went to school with are grandparents now. And more and more hints that life doesn’t last forever are popping up in those yearly letters.

But it’s more than the annual holiday letter that provide clues about mortality. Social media, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest keep us up to date with people we might never have stayed connected with prior to the internet. We hear about life events almost instantly. We offer congratulations and condolences and support from a keyboard. And while I appreciate the connections I feel an old fashioned responsibility to send something more, especially when condolences are required.

So I have letters to write.

Today is the funeral of a blogger friend’s dad. Early next week a friend from high school will be burying her own dad. The two men died on the same day; I learned of their deaths while on the internet. At Christmas I learned that a coworker died last year. I hadn’t known he was sick and I want to write his widow who I never met. And last week I read online that the father of kids I used to babysit has died. His widow still lives in the house down the street from my old home. Though the children are grown, probably with kids of their own, I feel a need to let them know I’m thinking of them.

Somehow it doesn’t seem enough to just say ‘sorry for your loss’ in a Facebook post. Yet I’ve done it that way too. A friend from the dog training community lost both her parents in September last year, and all my communication was in the form of emails and Facebook posts and private messaging. Is that enough? Does that provide a more immediate support? Has the world moved on from handwritten letters that arrive with a stamp?

Or do I have letters to write?

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

22 thoughts on “I think I have letters to write

  1. hey! nice to read about your inner journey of reflections over your Christmas cards.

    i passed your link on the food without refrigeration to RVSue’s blog and gave you credit. she is going to read it after she moves camp.

    i love seeing Katie Girl so beautiful in the snow. take care!


  2. I’m with you, Dawn. While I love the immediacy of social media, sometimes things deserve a real, handwritten letter. Things like death. There, you can share some memories, send heartfelt condolences, all the things that mean so much to someone undergoing grief. I know the cards and letters we received after my dad’s death still mean so much — and it’s nice to have a “permanent record” to traipse through again and again.


    • I still have the condolence letters sent to me when Mom and Dad died. They are in a shoe box up on a closet shelf and I haven’t read them in 11 years…but I know they are there and that alone provides comfort.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For me, it’s the “I’m thinking of you”, the hugs, virtual or otherwise, that matter the most. Whether it comes via social media, email, or snail mail is secondary.


  4. I haven’t experienced close, personal grief since the dawn of Facebook and other social media, although I have a niece who is very ill with cancer. We communicate by e-mail but I have a handwritten letter to send to her because I feel there is something different in a letter. It is the energy required in handwriting, a slowing down, almost like a touch. Then there’s the ability to hold the letter in your hand. It just feels more permanent to me. I think you have letters to write, Dawn.


    • My close, personal grief also occurred prior to most social media…so I wonder how it might have been different. I probably would have printed off the emails and added them to my shoe box full of letters of condolence.


  5. Letter writing is a dying art. Sad.

    My father wrote his mother a letter every week from the moment he left home, right until she died. He encouraged me to write her at least once a month. How she cherished those letters.

    My husband and I have all the letters we wrote each other while he was in the middle east. They are all gritty from the desert sand. We never read them, but it’s nice to know they are still there in a sandy box if we ever want to.

    I toy with shutting down my facebook account all the time, and see what it’s like to live life disconnected. Would it be better or worse? I’m leaning toward better right now. I bet I’d write more letters.


    • My mom wrote to her mom every week too, like your dad did. And I used to write to my mom every week, until email became so prevalent. I think the paper letters meant more to her.

      I’m glad you have your husband’s letters. That is very special.

      I don’t know if I could disconnect. Would be an interesting experiment. Want to try? Only if we promise to reconnect in the future! 🙂 I’d miss you and the boys.


  6. I think it depends on the sentiment, the sender, and the recipient. But I think if you think you have letters to write, then you have letters to write. You do have some lovely cards to write them on at least 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These days it is hard to know which is the best way to offer sympathy or support – social media or letter – the sentiment is the same and I wonder if it is just because we are older that we think the ‘old way’ has more meaning. In a way too – social media makes it so much harder not to face our own mortality – every day online we are constantly reminded of how short life is – there seems to be so many deaths, accidents and so on – online.


  8. As much as life has changed and the speed of life has increased, the need for human touch has remained the same…That letter my mom and my grandmother sent on all occasions still resonates far more than social media or even the phone.


  9. When my great Aunt died I packed away several boxes of all old letters. My grandparents, and my mom and her sibs were all avid letter writers. Even the men. I had no idea what I would do with them (and I am NOT a saver) but I sorted them by writer and read a lot of them that my grandparents wrote.

    Recently, my uncle died (my Mom’s oldest brother) and his only daughter, as can be imagined, is heartsick. Feeling her grief, I knew why I had saved those letters. I pulled out all the one’s her dad had written and packed them up and sent them to her. It is a safe send because the letters were written to a rather proper aunt–weather, updates about travels, military service, mostly happy family news, in some cases negotiations for a few bucks or a loan to buy something special. No shockers. Naturally, she was thrilled and while she isn’t ready to read them all right now, she has a journal of her father’s past written in his voice.

    I haven’t read all my Mom’s letters either and hopefully won’t for a long time but I am glad I have them. And I now plan to copy and circulate a few written by my grandparents. I don’t think I will start letter writing and now my family mostly e-mails –but I have a file of family emails that make me smile.


    • That’s a wonderful story Katybeth. I’m glad you saved the letters. And I think it’s cool you’ll copy some and send them out to family. It’s amazing to read a letter from someone you loved, years after they’re no longer around to write more.


  10. I think it will be nice for you to write the letters. I know when we lost my MIL last year the things that came later, after the immediacy were the most touching for my OH. You can’t beat something you can hold and see and keep to look back on once the hurt has eased a little.


  11. Sending a handwritten note or a letter that touches someone’s heart is still the best way to connect, Dawn.


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