A schoolgirl’s heartwarming tribute to her late grandparents has inspired the installation of memorial postboxes across the UK, giving bereaved families a touching new way to remember their loved ones.
The ‘letters to heaven’ initiative is the brainchild of 10-year-old Matilda Handy from Arnold, Nottinghamshire, who thought of the idea after her grandparents passed away.
Matilda’s grandmother, who died in 2017, was a post office worker. Matilda’s mother, Leanne Handy, said, “My mum worked in a post office for 25 years in our local community and it just seemed fitting for her.
“Matilda was so used to being around postboxes and letters and always wanted to send mama one.
“People find real comfort in sending something, whether it’s a child drawing a picture or an older person sending something to their loved ones. The art of writing something helps with the process.”
Matilda’s grandfather sadly passed away just before the launch of the first memorial postbox.
“It’s been hard because my grandad passed away in November 2022, so it definitely did help me,” Matilda said. “It’s just a very nice way to express my feelings and send a letter to my grandparents to say how much I love them.”
Mrs Handy approached the Gedling Crematorium where she works with Matilda’s idea, which led to a letters to heaven postbox being installed in the crematorium just before Christmas.
“We wanted to unveil it at Christmas. We wanted to make sure it was the right time,” Mrs Handy said.
The initiative has proven popular with locals and over 100 letters have been posted at Gedling. The postboxes are now set to be installed at 40 other sites across England, Scotland, and Wales.
Westerleigh Group, the leading developer and operator of crematoria and cemeteries in the UK, received positive feedback from their first memorial postbox and plan to install postboxes at all its sites by the end of the year.
“Matilda was the first person to put a message in our memorial postbox at Gedling last December,” Mrs Handy said.
“We had no idea then that one year later there would be a memorial postbox at every one of Westerleigh Group’s sites, bringing comfort to people all over the country.”
The group estimates that approximately 3,000 letters, cards, and messages have been posted through the mailboxes to date.
Site manager at Gedling Crematorium, Giulia McDonough, said, “Like all Westerleigh Group’s sites, it’s our aim to have a very positive presence within our local communities.
“I’m delighted that the letters to heaven postbox seems to have captured the imagination and interest of many people.”
The initiative has now spread across the globe, helping people all over the world work through their grief in a creative way.
“I’m so thankful that our postboxes are able to help not just my friends, family, and I but people all over the UK and as far away as Australia,” Matilda said.
Debbie Smith, CEO of Westerleigh Group, said, “The legacy of Matilda’s idea is helping to bring comfort to thousands of bereaved people around the country and beyond.
“Our boxes are available all year round for people to post cards for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day—whenever they wish. They are for absolutely anyone who feels they may draw some comfort from using them.”
In March 2023, Matilda was invited to Downing Street to collect a Points of Light award presented by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on International Women’s Day.
Matilda has also received a British Citizen Youth Award Medal of Honour which she was presented with at the Palace of Westminster.
Matthew Brook, head of memorialisation at Westerleigh Group, said, “Matilda’s postbox has touched the hearts of so many bereaved people across the country.
“Priding ourselves on serving our communities with exceptional care, we’re delighted to be installing similar postboxes across all Westerleigh Group crematoria and helping many others who are grieving the loss of their loved ones in a similar way.
“We look forward to welcoming more people to our beautiful crematoria grounds and finding comfort in placing their letters to loved ones in a postbox.”
Matilda has been featured on the BBC One Show, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, and Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4, where she spoke about the letters to heaven initiative.
Matilda has even written to King Charles inviting him to install a memorial postbox at Buckingham Palace to remember loved ones such as the late Queen, Prince Phillip, and Princess Diana.
Reflecting on the impact of the letters to heaven project, Mrs Handy said, “We can walk through our local town and people will stop us and say how beautiful it is. Matilda’s teacher told everyone how amazing it is. If it can help her, it can help a lot of other people.”
Click here to find out more about Westerleigh Group’s memorial postboxes.