Sympathy cards

Note: Sorry if you saw this without the images.  I have no idea what WordPress is doing but it kicked me back to an autosave from before I added the cards.  I hope you can back to see them if they weren’t here the first time!

I had a comment/request last week on my blog asking about sympathy cards.  The poster, like many of us, me included, struggles with these sorts of cards.  And it got me thinking about sympathy cards in general so I thought I would make a post about them.  Do please keep in mind this is only MY opinion, and what I tend to use as guidelines based on my own experiences – you may completely disagree!  Fair enough.

For me there are some things that WORK for a sympathy card, and some things that most certainly do NOT work.

What works:

  • muted and neutral colours (browns, creams, earth tones)
  • simple styles
  • simple sentiments
  • understated embellishments

What does NOT work (again, for ME)

  • bright, cheery colours
  • glitter or bling
  • OTT ribbon or flowers

I’ve thought about it, and what it all boils down to for me is this: your card is not meant to “cheer up” the person you are sending it to – given they have, in all probability,  lost someone very close to them, no card is ever going to do that and trying to make one that does is pointless.  It’s likely they will barely register the beauty of the card to begin with.  Bright a cheery colours, gorgeous and over embellished cards, glitter and diamante or OTT flowers all have a place on greeting cards of almost every other type, but the MOST you can hope for in a sympathy card is to let the person know you are thinking of them, that you acknowledge their loss and their sadness, and that you hope they will feel even slightly comforted by that.

As to sentiments, my thought is that, unless you KNOW that the person will be comforted by mention of religion, avoid it.  At one point in my life, after the death of our son shortly after his birth from a heart defect, I received a huge number of sympathy cards.  And in my fragile emotional state, two sorts were likely to set me off, either in tears or in rage – the ones that said my baby boy was an “angel” in heaven or ones that made mention of taking comfort in God and his divine wisdom.  I am not religious.  I took zero comfort from people telling me that my baby, who should have been with ME, was an angel in heaven.  I can look back on that now and acknowledge that it WAS my raw emotional state that caused that, but even so, at the time, is was almost more than I could bear. So my guiding principle is to use simple, heartfelt sentiments that convey my sympathy without offering platitudes or the illusion that there is a “silver lining” to the darkness the person may be living through. If I were a religious person, and the person the card was for was a church friend, or one I KNEW had religion in their life, I might pick a religious sentiment because I would expect it to give them comfort. But not unless I KNEW and shared their beliefs.  I tend to use things like:

  • Sharing in your sorrow
  • With Sympathy ( or With Deepest Sympathy)
  • Thinking of you
  • There are simply no words…
  • I’m here for you

For style, I guess I tend towards the simplest ideas – a neutral colour card base, a chunk of some slightly more interesting patterned paper, a decorative border of some kind, and/or a strip of solid cardstock.  Thin ribbon or twine rather than big, blowsy bows and organic images like leaves, trees, vines, etc.  The fonts I keep to simple or slightly pretty, but nothing too retro or comic or playful.  Ajile is one of my favourites as, for me, it hits the right note of simple, pretty, a little flowing without being too OTT. I would certainly stay away from blues and pinks for a lost child, as it would be too much of a reminder of shower and congratulations cards.  With those principles in mind, here are a few samples I made to add to my stockpile of cards that I might need in a hurry:

I am well aware that not everyone will share these views, especially on the use of religious sentiments, but I feel strongly, from experience, that when someone is grieving, the doctor’s creed of “First, do no harm” is essential.  The very last thing you ever want is for a card you send to cause upset.  I say it again – unless you KNOW the person will be comforted by your sentiment, keep it simple and heartfelt.  There is nothing more than With (Deepest) Sympathy needed probably 98% of the time.

So I hope that helps someone the next time they are faced with the need for a sympathy card,  They are the least fun sorts of cards to make, but, sadly, too often the ones you might feel a need to send, even if you aren’t a “card” person.