The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe For Those We Love

The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe For Those We Love

by Elana Zaiman
The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe For Those We Love

The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe For Those We Love

by Elana Zaiman


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A forever letter is a gift that will be read over and over again

Inspired by the centuries-old Jewish tradition of the ethical will, a forever letter is a perfect way to share your most precious possessions: your values, wisdom, and love with the people who matter to you most. And you don't have to do it alone. Through empowering stories, sample letters, and writing tips, author Elana Zaiman serves as your companion on this journey of self discovery and deepening relationships.

"I love this little book because it's about writing real letters, a lost art in our time. Even more important, it's about writing letters that matter to people who matter to us. What could be better than putting words to paper to tell people who we are and what we are becoming, and what it is that we cherish and value—thanking them for the way they helped point us toward our own North Star?"—Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak and A Hidden Wholeness

"Elana Zaiman has a mission: She loves connection, deep and personal, and wants others to experience the sweet joy she has lived of shared truth-telling. Her forever letter embodies the passing on of wisdom, humbling experience, dreams, and love from one person to another. It is a beautiful concept that all of us should embrace."—Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD, co-founder of the Gottman Institute and author of Ten Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780738752884
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
Publication date: 09/08/2017
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 916,951
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Elana Zaiman (Seattle, WA) is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. She's also a chaplain and a writer. Elana travels throughout the U.S. and Canada as a scholar-in-residence, speaker, and workshop facilitator. Her most sought-after topic: forever letters. Her venues: synagogues, churches, interfaith-gatherings, social service agencies, geriatric residencies, law firms, women's organizations, private salons, and elder-law, health-care, and financial and estate-planning conferences. Her writing has been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Sun, Post Road, The Beloit Fiction Journal, and other venues. Visit her online at

Table of Contents


Copyright Listing xi

A Note to Readers xiii

Introduction 1
The Power of Letters 1
Historical Inspiration 2
This Book and Its Intent 6
An Invitation 8

1: My Father's Forever Letter to His Children 9

2: Why Write a Forever Letter? 17
It's a Tangible, Lasting Gift 18
Sometimes We Can Write What We Cannot Speak 22
The Process of Writing Can Take Us to the Heart of the Matter 24
We Can Clarify Our Values and Live with Greater Intention 26
We Can Ask for Forgiveness and We Can Forgive 29
We Can Make Ourselves Known 38
We Can Come to Better Understand Ourselves and Our Relationships 42
We Can State Our Ultimate Truth 46
We Can Influence the Way We Will Be Remembered 48

3: Why We Resist 51
"I'm Not a Writer." 51
"I Have Nothing to Say." 52
"I've Lived My Values. My Family Knows Who I Am." 54
"I Want to Wait until the Person I'm Writing To Is Older." 55
"I Want to Wait until I'm Older." 56
"I'll Get to It Eventually." 56
"I'm Afraid I'll Say Something Damaging." 58
"I Don't Want to Think about Death. I'm Still Young. I Have Plenty of Time." 59

4: What Matters Most? 63
Live Your Truth 63
Give 67
Take Responsibility 71
Never Stop Asking Questions 73
Be Positive 76
Say, "I Believe in You." 79
Love 83
Show Compassion 86
Follow Your Dreams 89
Express Gratitude 91
Listen 93

5: How to Increase Our Chances of Being Heard 97
Be Present 98
Meet a Person Where That Person Is 101
Share Personal Experiences 105
Be Open, Be Vulnerable 108
State Hard Truths with Love 111
Add Quotes 114
Incorporate Stories 117
Bestow Blessings 120

6: What to Avoid 125
Favoritism 125
Commanding with the Pen 127
Telling Family Secrets 131
Encouraging Others to Live the Values We Never Lived 136
Lying to Others, Lying to Ourselves 137

7: Thoughts on the Writing Process 145
Be Open to Emotion 149
Show Up 150
Consider a Writing Partner 152

8: Writing Prompts 153
Sentence Completions 155
Questions 157
Techniques for Stirring It Up 159

9: Write and Edit Your Forever Letter 165
Let Go of Fear and Write 166
Our Words Need Time to Incubate 168
Edit: Reread, Rewrite, Reread (2x) 171
Seek Feedback 173
Presentation 174
Patience 174

Conclusion 177
Appendix A: A Brief History of the Ethical Will 179
Appendix B: A Forever Letter to My Son 187
Appendix C: Quick Notes for Writing Your Forever Letter 203
Sentence Completions 203
Questions 205
Gratitudes 209
Bibliography 213

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