Why Writing Posthumous Notes to your Children is Selfish

posthumous lettersI’m not going to win any friends with this post but there’s a trend I’ve noted of late that I find unhealthy. I just read yet another story in which a soon to be deceased person plans to write a long series of messages to their child.

This trend apparently took its cue from the movie P.S. I Love You.

I don’t doubt for a moment that Garth Callaghan has only the best intentions as he pens a note a day to his young daughter. He wants to express that he loves her and offer her advice as she moves on in life. He knows that he might die in the near future and wants to let his daughter know he loves and cares about her.

As well-intentioned as these notes are, I think they are ultimately selfish. They are about him and not his daughter. They are about his unwillingness to accept the fact that death might be imminent. He wants to remain alive and imagines he is doing so by writing these notes. I’ve not see P.S. I Love You but the premise, from what I can tell, is the same. That the dead husband has only the interests of his widow at heart. That he wants to help her move on with life. I’m certain this was exactly the result of his letters in the make-believe world of movies.

It’s my opinion a series of posthumous letters from a dead relative cannot possibly ease the loss but only exacerbate them. Constant reminders of your dead father, husband, wife, or dog cannot be good for a person’s mental well-being. Yes, it’s good to have memories, loving memories. I’m not even saying a long-farewell letter shouldn’t be written. I’m suggesting this constant barrage of letters telling a loved one how to act or how much you still love them, even after death, is purely selfish and not in the interest of your loved one.

I’m not questioning the motivation, just the action. If we want to tell someone we love them we should do it, now. If we want to give someone some advice, we should do so. This idea that I have all the answers and will continue to do so even from beyond the grave is delusional and selfish.

I know my opinion on this isn’t going to be popular. I don’t think Callaghan is intentionally doing harm.

Some people might argue that this very blog is all about Tom Liberman and not about the reader. They’d be right! It is about me. It’s my opinions. I’m expressing them because I think they should be heard. But have no doubt, this blog is selfish and it’s largely about me, me, me. I want you to read the blog, click the links to my books, and purchase them.

Before you lay into me about how wrong I am, I would like you to honestly answer one question. After that, do as you will.

If you were to write a bunch of letters or emails or whatever to a loved one to be delivered after your death; are you doing it for your loved one or are you doing it for you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

6 thoughts on “Why Writing Posthumous Notes to your Children is Selfish

  1. I wrote a series of letters to my kids a long time ago. I was working two jobs and didn’t see them often. Sure it was selfish, but writing is also selfless. Takes time to write! That sharing of time to communicate with someone in any way is selfish dependent entirely on intent. You, for instance, are trying to profit from your writings so that you will feel validated and enriched by it. As a father, I write to my kids so they will know something of my thoughts and experiences, parlaying that information into better life choices in the future. Unhealthy? No. Long after I am gone, those thoughts will still be available for my posterity. What they do with it is up to them

    In answer to your question: Yes

    • Thank you for the comment, Thomm.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with communicating with your children. It’s a good idea. Writing letters, talking, phoning, whatever.

      It doesn’t seem to me you are disagreeing with my blog, more making sure that I’m not castigating anyone who communicates with their children.

      What do you think about the idea I am expressing here. Writing a series of posthumous letters to be delivered at certain times to children is not a good idea?


  2. My father died about 25 years ago. Shortly before he died my oldest brother spent some time with him asking him questions about his early life and experiences. He encouraged him to elaborate and recorded what my father had to say. It isn’t a message from beyond the grave, it isn’t advice, or expressions of love and encouragement. Just stories told by an older man recalling his life. I haven’t listened to them often but I have listened and enjoyed them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I did a fine job of sprinkling my life with mistakes. Some minor some not so minor, but I had my life to live and I have no right to live someone else’s life for them vicariously while I’m alive or after I’m dead. They have the right to make their own mistakes and learn from them as best they can, so I have no advice to offer and would be hesitant to give it even if asked. There are very few things people can learn before they are ready to learn them. So yes, I agree messages from the grave are mostly selfish and mostly pointless. Wish them luck, tell them you loved them when you were here and leave it at that.

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