The new empathy cards from Emily McDowell are winging their way to me from across the pond and should be for sale the week commencing 11 May.
These cards definitely fulfill a need. Most of us struggle to find the right words in the face of a friend or loved one’s major health crisis, whether it’s cancer, chronic illness, mental illness, or anything else. It’s a really tough problem; someone we love needs our support more than ever, but we don’t have the right language for it.
This collection of empathy cards for serious illness fulfils the need for better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering. “Get well soon” cards don’t make sense when someone might not. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they’re already dead. A “fuck cancer” card is a nice sentiment, but Emily says "when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better. And I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most “cancer cards” focus on".
With Empathy Cards, the goal is to help people connect with each other through truth and insight, which is one of the founding principles of this brand and for the recipients of these cards to feel seen, understood, and loved.
Emily says “The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being erroneously called “sir” by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realising it.”
In our increasingly digital world, when it comes to someone in crisis, greeting cards have never been more relevant or appropriate. A card resonates in a way that email and text can’t. It’s a personal, simple, tangible way to be present for someone struggling with illness.
It’s not often that you look at a greeting card and think, “The world needs this,” but in this case, I really believe that’s true.