Writing a letter to your child to be read after your death
Probably the toughest item to put in your Plan If is a letter or letters to your child(ren) to be read after you die. We have yet to meet anyone who achieved it dry-eyed. In our survey, of those who hadn't managed to write one yet, 20% hoped it wouldn’t be needed; 17% felt it was too upsetting to think about and 15% felt it was difficult to decide what to say. Yet we know that having such a letter can be an enormous comfort to a child and will always be treasured.
You don’t need to be a brilliant writer to write such a letter. The key things to include are:
- that you love them
- that you have been so privileged to be their parent
- that you are proud of them and know they will have an amazing future
- a recognition of some of their special qualities (kindness, perseverance, humour etc)
- regret that you won’t be around to see what happens
- and a bit more love…
It is also possible to record a piece to camera to be viewed after your death. There are several services providing this, including Record Me Now ; Dead Social and If I Should Die. This may be more appropriate if, for example, your child may not be able to read and/or understand your letter.
The writer Caitlin Moran wrote such a letter to one of her daughters in her column in the Times newspaper. Although written for publication, Caitlin includes all of the above, plus some really great advice. It is a brilliant read: there is a small extract below. The full article is here. Caitlin supports our Plan If campaign and she encourages all parents to have a go at composing a letter or a card for their children.
“…the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’
Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking.”
There is a poignant letter from his Mum, written before she died, that Billy reads in the film and stage show Billy Elliot, you can read it here.
You can read some other examples of letters written to be read after someone's death here.