When you think about your friends and family, you probably appreciate how much they mean to you and all the joy they’ve brought to your life. But how often do you tell them how you feel? If you’re like most people, probably not often enough. 

Consider this — if you knew the world was ending tomorrow, what would you share with them before it’s too late? Most of us don’t know how much time we might have left, and until we’re faced with a specific timeline or situation that makes us face our mortality, we aren’t great at sharing our feelings with others. Of course, it would be ideal if we all shared our feelings now (and often), but that might not be possible for everyone. Because of this, many people like to create future messages and letters for loved ones after death as they plan for their end of life to ensure their loved ones know just how much they’ve meant to them. 

In this article, we’ll explain future messages, talk about how to send one and what you can include, and offer some practical tips for planning your future messages after death. 

Reasons to create a future message for after death

There are many great reasons for creating messages for your loved ones to receive in the future upon your death. A future message can help comfort the bereaved and let them know how much you care for them. Creating future messages can bring you peace, knowing you’ve left nothing unsaid. Some reasons people choose to create future messages are: 

  • You need to communicate their last wishes. A written letter or video documenting exactly what a person wants for their funeral or to explain their will helps ensure there will be no misunderstandings.
  • You aren’t good at in-person communication. Many people have a hard time expressing their feelings. Writing a letter or recording a message gives them time to think and edit until they feel like they are sharing exactly what they mean to say. 
  • You want to leave a loved one something special to keep close. Having a letter to read or a video to watch whenever they need to hear your words can be a great comfort to your loved ones. This memento will be special not only in the initial stages of grief, but for the rest of a person’s life.
  • You’d like to share advice or messages they aren’t ready for yet. Maybe you have things to say to your kids, but they are too young or emotionally immature to grasp the meaning. Or, maybe you want to comfort your partner on the first anniversary after your death. Creating messages to be opened or played on specific dates can help you communicate even after you are gone. 

Who should receive a message after death?

Create a future message for anyone who is important to you. Here are some people you may want to leave messages for:

  • Spouse/partner
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Extended family
  • Acquaintances who’ve impacted your life

Types of after-death messages

The format for your future messages after death will depend on what feels right to you. There are some more common formats to use but feel free to use this time to express your creativity and do what feels authentic to who you are and what you want to share. 

Traditional ways to leave a future message

  • Written: either by hand or typed, depending on your preference. If you type your letters and print them out, be sure to sign them. Seeing a sample of your handwriting, even if only a signature, may be special for the recipient. Leaving letters after death will give your loved ones something to read any time they want to feel like you’re still with them.
  • Audio: create audio files of messages to loved ones. This can be done on a cell phone, computer app or software, or an old-fashioned tape recorder. Audio is a good choice if you don’t feel comfortable being on video. 
  • Video: capture your message on video via phone, computer, or camcorder. Seeing your face and hearing your voice will help your loved ones feel connected after you are gone.

Creative ways to leave a future message

  • Digital time capsule: This is a fun way to leave a future message for loved ones. You can be a combination of all of the above to create a time capsule or just focus on one platform. A time capsule allows you to include photos and mementos of events and experiences with recordings of your voice or captions to share the ways they impacted your life. 
  • Ethical will: A step beyond writing a letter, an ethical will is a way to share your memories, advice, and hopes and dreams with future generations. Different from a legal will, this document doesn’t have to follow any rules and can include anything you want to pass on to your loved ones.

How to send a message to be received after death

There are many ways to leave a message to be received after your death. In some cases, you may want to appoint an executor to deliver them for you — whether in-person, through the mail, or digitally. In addition, there are apps available today that allow you to record messages, and they will deliver them for you. A quick internet search will show a variety of options available.

Here are other ways to send messages to loved ones after your death:

  • Write letters and leave them in a place where they’ll be easily found or instruct the executor of your estate to distribute for you. A good place to keep these letters is with your end-of-life documents.
  • Set up an email account and write letters in draft mode. Attach audio or video clips if you have them. Most email providers offer a plug-in that allows you to pre-schedule emails to be sent on certain dates, like anniversaries or birthdays. You can also give the username and password to an executor who can log in and send the emails upon your death. 
  • Leave a hard drive or credentials to a digital platform with someone who can distribute the messages on your behalf. 

What to talk about in a message after death

The message you leave for one person may be very different from what you leave someone else. Subjects you may want to cover in your future messages could include:

  • Your personal stories and memories
  • Hopes you have for the message recipient 
  • End-of-life information about accounts or other instructions
  • Medical history for children to reference as needed
  • Words of comfort
  • Wisdom and advice
  • Offering or asking for forgiveness

Creating the message you want to leave behind may seem intimidating, but don’t overthink it. Be honest, be concise, and be yourself. Your loved ones will cherish your words, and the thoughtfulness of how you shared them, for years to come. 

Read more: Expressing sympathy for the death of a loved one