Empathy Cards For Serious Illness
Today we’re launching something new. They’re called Empathy Cards, and they’re designed to give to people with a serious illness. I’ve been working on the idea for these cards for a long time, and this project is really important to me.
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.
I created this collection of empathy cards for serious illness because I believe we need some 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 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, my goal is to help people connect with each other through truth and insight, which is one of the founding principles of this brand. I want the recipients of these cards to feel seen, understood, and loved.
As a cancer survivor, I have a very personal stake in this game. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24. After 9 months of chemo and radiation, I went into remission and have been incredibly fortunate to be cancer-free since.
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 realizing 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.
As a result of my own experiences as a patient, friend, and caregiver, I’ve wanted to create this collection for a long time. I considered including these cards in the initial launch of my wholesale line two years ago, but I decided it would be more impactful to wait until we’d built a bigger platform and made a bit of a name with the brand. We’re launching this series with 8 cards, and we’ll be adding more with each new release.
I think Empathy Cards are the most important things I’ve designed so far, and they’re some of my personal favorites. 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.
If these resonate with you, I’d love your help in getting them out into the world. I’ve never asked you guys to share our stuff before, but I’m asking now, because I want to connect these with as many folks as possible who could use them.
As a small thank you, everyone who posts one of these cards on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter with the hashtags #empathycards and #emilymcdowell will be entered to win one of two $100 gift certificates to our online shop. You can use any of the images in this post or on my instagram feed (@emilymcdowell_), or grab images from the shop. Two winners will be announced on Monday, May 11th, a week from today.
Also! If you have a contact at an illness/research organization, in the media, a blogger, etc., who you think might be interested in featuring these or working with us, please email Sara, our head of marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to donate cards, too — our main goal is just to get these in front of the people who need them. It’s hard to make a big difference with a greeting card, but I’m hoping these can make a small one.
Thank you so much for your help and your support. You guys are the best.