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How and Why to Write An End of Life Letter to Loved Ones July 20, 2022

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Writing an end of life letter to the people you love might seem like a morbid task. Some might even think it’s a bad idea, to think about our own death in such concrete terms.

But writing an end of life letter, whether that’s an end of life letter to family or to beloved friends, can be an important part of a person’s transition. It can also be a gift to the people you love.

What Is An End of Life Letter?

You know that as a Pennsylvania funeral home, we are well versed in helping families navigate the difficult circumstance of death. So it might seem odd that we’re discussing things you can proactively do before you pass. But know that we do so with your best interests in mind.

The thing is, we never know when it might be our time. While some people pass after a long-fought battle with illness, others pass unexpectedly and sometimes suddenly. Thinking about things like an end of life letter and a When I Die File can give you peace of mind, even when you’re healthy and thriving.

Strictly speaking an end of life letter is a letter you write to a loved one when you know you are close to death. We’re taking liberties here with the strict definition, though, and including thoughts about writing to your loved ones in a formal way even if you’re not battling an illness or disease.

end of life letter, end of life letter to family, end of life letter template, funeral home, Bateman-Allen Funeral Home, funeral home brookhaven, funeral home Pennsylvania, funeral home delaware countyWhy Write An End of Life Letter?

This article, written by a physician, recounts their experience of being trusted by patients to talk about their greatest regrets as they grew closer to death. When this physician learned how difficult it was for some patients to express themselves, and how difficult it had always been, a new project was born.

As the physician recounted, so many people have difficulty expressing their feelings, especially those of love, gratitude, and respect. From this revelation came a project called the Stanford Letter Project.

One of the main reasons to write an end of life letter to your loved ones is so that you can be sure they know exactly how you feel, even if you’ve been unable to express your feelings previously. Telling a spouse how much you love and appreciate them, or a child how proud you are of them can leave a legacy they will treasure for the rest of their life.

Having your words in the form of a letter to keep and revisit after you’ve passed can help a loved one in their grieving process. It can help them remember the best times you shared. It might even divulge something new that they can celebrate or think about on their hardest days.

Of course, there is nothing that can completely relieve the grief that your loved ones will feel upon your passing. Our funeral home has worked with so many families through the years that we’ve seen generations come through the doors, and what we know is that there is no one way to grieve. We also know that grief isn’t linear, and that it can seem to “get better” only to return in a powerful, overwhelming way. In those cases, having your words to cling to can help them as they move through that journey.

End of Life Letter Samples

An end of life letter is a deeply personal, uniquely individual thing. There is no one “right” way to write one, nor is there a wrong way.

That said, there are some guidelines you might want to think about:

Include your loved one’s name. It might help to begin with a standard salutation, like “Dear (spouse’s name).”

Be specific. This is a private communication between you and a beloved. Don’t hold back for fear that others will see. Use the opportunity to tell them exactly what you love and appreciate about them. Include examples of favorite memories or quirks that you love about them. No detail is too small.

Don’t worry about length. There is no perfect length for an end of life letter. It can be whatever you want it to be, so it can be however long you want it to be. Simply write from your heart and say what’s important. That’s all that matters.

Write separate letters for each person. This is especially true if you’re leaving letters for children. Don’t write a group letter to all of your children. Instead, write personal letters to each child. If this is too taxing, keep the letters short. It’s not the word count that matters here, it’s the sentiment.

If you need templates or questions to guide you as you write an end of life letter to your loved ones, the Stanford Letter Project has three that might help: the What Matters Most Letter, the Letter Project Advanced Directive, and the Friends and Families Letter.  

How an End of Life Letter Can Ease Grieving

If you found this post as someone who is grieving the recent loss of a loved one, first know that we extend our deepest condolences and wish you peace. As a funeral home, we might be accustomed to talking about death and dying, but we’re also deeply moved by stories of loved ones and how deeply they are missed.

If you are grieving, it might help to write a letter to your loved one. Because grief looks different for everyone, and because we all grieve at a different pace, there is no one way to ease grief. But there is some research to suggest that writing about your grief can help.

In fact, studies have shown that writing about–and even confessing–your deepest emotions through writing can lead to improved immunity and increased feelings of happiness.

All of us at Bateman-Allen Funeral Home strive to make the inevitable grief that comes with the death of a loved one a bit less heavy to bear. If we can help you in a particular way, we’d love the chance to speak with you. Reach out at any time.