By: OpenWhenGone.
Published: October 12. 2023.

What Emotions Do Posthumous Letters Bring? (And Why Write Them)

Receiving a posthumous letter can evoke a whirlwind of emotions, a profound mixture of sorrow, comfort, love, and sometimes, closure. Joy and the feeling of a continuous connection are some of the most beneficial subjects that such letters may bring. Initially, there's often a shock, a palpable jolt that travels through the recipient as they see the familiar language or name of the departed loved one. A peculiar blend of the past reaching into the present. In this article, we dive into how it feels to receive posthumous letters, why to write them, while we also bring direct stories from people who did receive one.


Receiving a Posthumous Letter

When someone processes the reality of getting a piece of someone who are no longer physically present, sadness often permeates, intertwining with the warm embrace of precious memories. The words written by the departed speak from another time, yet their voice can seem so vivid and near, making the experience bittersweet.

There is warmth, too, as the letter may bring back a sense of proximity and connection to the person lost. Their words, frozen in time, allow a unique form of communication that feels eerily present, despite being crafted in the past.

For some, the letter may provide a form of closure or comfort, delivering final words of love, apology, or wisdom that can be cherished and revisited. It may answer unasked questions or express unspoken sentiments, allowing the receiver a precious insight into the thoughts and feelings of their loved one. For others, it is a piece of joy that is left from the one who has passed, putting a smile on their face for the good memories they shared.

In essence, a posthumous letter acts as a bridge between realms of existence, a fleeting moment where the departed and the living can connect through the enduring power of written words. It's an emotional, often healing experience that serves to remind us of the eternal nature of love and memory. Naturally, it all comes down to the personality of the recipient and the message written from the deceased, yet in general, comfort and contemplation are often the end result.

Why write a posthumous letter?

Writing such can stem from various motivations, many deeply intertwined with our human needs for connection, closure, and legacy. Here are a few reasons why individuals might craft such a letter:

  • Expressing Unspoken Words: Often, there are things left unsaid during a lifetime, whether due to circumstance, emotional barriers, or unexpected events. A posthumous letter can serve as a vessel to convey those unspoken feelings, thoughts, and words to loved ones.
  • Offering Comfort: The writer might intend to provide solace to the recipients, helping them navigate through the grief and sorrow that accompany loss. Knowing that there is a message waiting for them, which carries the love and thoughts of the departed, may provide a form of emotional support.
  • Sharing Wisdom and Advice: Some individuals write posthumous letters to impart wisdom, advice, or guidance to their loved ones. This can be especially relevant for parents who might not be there to witness and guide their children through various life stages.
  • Closure: The process of writing a letter to be read posthumously can also be therapeutic for the writer, offering a form of closure and acceptance regarding their own mortality. It allows them a means to say farewell in their own words, on their own terms.
  • Creating a Memory: A letter allows the writer to leave behind a tangible piece of themselves, a memory that loved ones can revisit. It can serve as a comforting reminder that the love and connection shared endure beyond physical presence.
  • Facilitating Healing: A posthumous letter can aid the healing process for both the writer and the recipient. For the writer, articulating thoughts and emotions can be a cathartic process. For the recipient, receiving guidance, love, or even an apology from the departed can be pivotal in their grief journey.
  • Establishing Legacy: For some, writing a posthumous letter is a way to establish or continue their legacy. It might involve sharing stories, values, beliefs, and experiences that they hope will be passed down through generations.

In essence, a posthumous letter acts as a timeless communicator, connecting the past and the present, the departed and the living, through the power of words. It's a deeply personal, intimate act, often imbued with a profound understanding of the transient nature of life and the eternal quality of love and memory.

Stories from Recipients

We have selected a few stories based on our users and their community, about receiving a posthumous letter and the emotions it brings. Note that all names are not real due to personal content.

Britt, 42 - Thank you, Dad
"It was strange, y'know, getting a letter from Dad after... well, after he passed. My hands kinda shook as I opened it, and my heart? It was like it was in my throat, beating a million times a minute. His handwriting, so familiar and yet, it kinda hurt to see it - a good hurt, though, if that makes sense. His words were just so... him. All his warmth, his love, it was right there, in every single letter, every single word. It was a bit like hearing his voice again, and oh, how I've missed that sound. My eyes welled up, but there were smiles too, little chuckles through the tears as his jokes, his eternal lightness, danced between the lines. And something eased inside me, a tightness I didn't even realise was there until it began to soften. It was as if Dad, even in not being here, found a way to comfort me, to lend me strength from wherever he is now. It was love - pure, simple, unending Dad love, right there on the paper. And somehow, amidst the pain and loss, it felt like a part of him, just for a moment, was back with me again.

It's weird, isn't it? How words, just simple words on a page, can mean so much. How they can bridge the here and the not-here, how they can be a hug from someone... someone who's gone. And I'll treasure that letter, keep it safe, 'cause in a way, that piece of paper is a piece of him. And whenever I miss him, which is pretty much always, I can take it out and find my Dad there, between the lines, forever saying, 'I love you.'"

Bennet, 62 - Farewell my Son
"When I first saw the notification in my email, my heart just stopped for a bit. It was a message from my boy, my 30-year-old lad who... he isn't with us anymore. The first wave that hit me was sadness, a kind of pain that I can't put into words. But there was also this urgent need to see what he'd left for me, a digital letter, whatever that was. So I clicked on it, and there were his words, on the computer screen, bright and somehow full of life. My eyes did their share of watering, I'll tell you that, but there was something else, something more than the sting of missing him.

He talked about the good times, about our fishing trips and how I taught him to shave. He thanked me for being his dad, for the life we shared, and it was like I could hear his voice, feel him there with me. And a warmth kind of seeped through the sadness. The more I read, the more it shifted - the grief, the loss - it gave way to a kind of peace, a quiet joy that he'd left this for me. He shared stories and memories, and it was a comfort, a real comfort, to know how much he'd cherished our time together.

By the end, my tears were different, softer somehow. It was like he'd given me this gift, a final "I love you, Dad" wrapped up in memories and words, and it eased something in me. It's strange to think that an unexpected message could feel so precious, but it did. It was him reaching out, giving me something to hold onto, a way to say goodbye properly. It offered me closure, in a way, something I hadn't realised I needed until it was there, right in front of me, on the computer screen.

And for that, I'm just so grateful. So, so grateful."

Matt, 29 - A Group of a Lifetime
"Ever felt a warm summer breeze that brought along a million memories? That's what it felt like when we received a note from Jake, even though he's been watching us from the stars for a while now.

It all started with our unbreakable tradition: the summer lunch. Every year, no matter where life takes us, me and the gang, we'd come back to our little town, gather at my mom's backyard, eat and drink a beer or two.

A few years back, we all shared a letter with each other to be kept closed until... Well... A piece of him, forever preserved in ink and paper. With our plates filled with homemade pie and hearts filled with a tender longing for the friend gone too soon, we decided: this note was gonna be a part of our tradition. Why he was the one to go, in such an early age, is still not to believe.

So, every year, while opening the cans, we read Jake's note out loud. His words, always infused with an undeniable spark and boundless joy, felt like he was right there with us, laughing and sharing stories.

"Dear dreamers..."

His words, a gentle reminder to live fully, to embrace every moment, and to find joy in our togetherness, have become the anthem of our gatherings. It's like Jake is still with us, his spirit dancing in every sunbeam and swirling in the summer air, forever young, forever missed.

And as we read his words, a harmonious blend of happiness and heartache fills the space. We remember not just the friend we lost, but also the countless moments that forever bind us together: the adventures, the late-night talks, and the unwavering support through every high and low.

Jake's note doesn't end, not really. It continues in our stories, in the way we hold onto each other a little tighter, and in the way we've learned to find joy even in the absence. We eat, we talk, we remember, and for those few hours every summer, we're immortal, just like Jake's words, forever etched in our hearts.

So, here's to Jake, to summer lunches that taste like eternity, and to friendships that outlive the ticking of the clock. In our laughter, our stories, and our unwavering bonds, Jake lives on, and somehow, it feels like he never left.

Cheers, Matt"

Jacob, 48 - Most Important Message of My Life
"There were parts where I swear I could hear his laughter, light and liberating, cushioning the blow of the stark absence that followed each sentence. There were also words that were undoubtedly him, witticisms and gentle teases that broke and healed my heart in the same moment. I found sadness, yes, but there was also this bright spark of joy that buzzed through every syllable he'd penned. It was a reminder of love, pure and unfading, dancing between past and present. And his words, they drew smiles through my tears, carving out a space where he was vividly alive, speaking to me, to my soul. That letter, it felt like a serenade, an everlasting melody strung together by his love for me. It became a treasured beacon of our shared memories and undying connection, a bittersweet symphony that played the enduring notes of our love story. And in that emotional whirlwind, I found a semblance of peace, a soft, comforting echo of the love that will always linger within and around me."

Beatrice, 74 - Letter in a Box
"We were moving me out of the old house, and it was boxes everywhere. My daughter, Julie, she was with me, goin' through it all. And then, in this dusty old box from the attic, I find it - a letter from my Harold, God rest his soul.

My hands, they were shakin' somethin' fierce, but Julie, she held me steady. I could hardly bring myself to open it, knowing it was his handwriting. But I did, with Julie sittin' there beside me, holding my hand tight. Would you believe it, his words, they just sprung to life, right off that old paper. He wrote about our adventures, our love, our little inside jokes that no one else ever understood. It was as if he was right there, whispering sweet nothings into my ear, just like he used to. Oh, it brought tears, sure it did, but also this... this warmth. My heart, it felt light and heavy all at once. The letter must've been hidin' in that box for over 10 years, but it was like he knew, knew that I'd need it someday.

He wrote about how he wanted me to be happy, to keep laughing even when he was gone. And something about those words, that reassurance, it was like he was giving me permission, permission to be okay. So there we sat, me and Julie, crying and laughing, remembering this wonderful man who'd loved us both so fiercely. And I felt close to him, close to my Harold, in a way I hadn't in all these years without him. That letter, it was a gift, like one last "I love you" from beyond, one last hug from my dear husband. And it's given me a kind of peace, a gentle joy that nudges the pain just a bit to the side, makin' it easier to carry."

Tell us your Story

If you have a story to share, feel free to reach out to us. We may update the article from time to time with new tales. The story doesn't need to be long and perfectly written, as long as it contains a good message or conveys the emotions that you or your loved ones may have had when receiving the letter.