New Empathy Cards

Seven New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell makes fantastic stationery of all kinds, focused on telling the truth about life. Today, she released seven new empathy cards to help people who are suffering from illness or grief…

“When you are very sick, or someone close to you has died, it’s really lonely,” she told me on the phone. “The irony that I found is that not many greeting cards spoke to those situations. There are a million and one for your birthday. But when you really need a card — and a card can be really, really helpful when you’re going through super terrible — there were very few that I personally related to. The cancer cards that existed when I had cancer always seemed to be written by someone at Hallmark who got an assignment to write a cancer card. It seems like what someone would THINK would be good for someone with cancer, but actually wasn’t.”

Seven New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Seven New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Seven New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

New Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

The cards above came out today, but Emily released her first eight empathy cards last May — cards that talked about cancer and illness the way she would have wanted when she’d had lymphoma at 24 years old. They immediately went viral. “I was blown away by the global level of response,” she said. “This issue wasn’t just a cultural issue, but a human issue. We got more than 15,000 emails from people sharing their stories.” Below are the eight cards from last spring, if you’d like to see…

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Empathy Cards by Emily McDowell

Thank you so much, Emily, for all you do. And sending a big hug to anyone who is fighting a hard battle right now. xoxo

P.S. How to write a condolence card, and the power of empathy.

  1. These are great! Says just what I’ve thought a few times during my “journey”. My cancer buddies will love these!

  2. Hi Emily,
    I’m sorry you went through tough stuff yourself. You certainly know the terrain.
    These are great! They’re exactly what I look for when anyone in my tribe is in deep. They’re also what I want when the shit fairy visits my place!
    Where are they available for sale please? I’m in Sydney, NSW, Australia.

  3. Blossom says...

    Thinking of you
    Keep your positive attitude.
    Be happy and laugh if you can

  4. Patrice says...

    I love all the sayi gs has the write words on what to say if your are lost on what to say great.

  5. Imperia Scott says...

    what a great way to say I love you and I am there for you, this lady says the right thing, and I will be very happy to buy a set if they should come on the market here in W.A.
    thank you lovely lady. I was feeling a little down but these cards put a smile on my husband’s and my faces

  6. Kathryn says...

    I love these cards. I just bought the ” punch you in the face / everything happens for a reason” one just to have when the need arises. As someone who has lost both of their parents, I have been on the receiving end of so many trite sayings that are so empty. Sometimes you just want to hear – I’m sorry. I’m thinking about you. But a bit of humour helps too. I hope she keeps making these – they are great.

  7. annie B says...

    Love these!!! I am 3 chemos down and everything tastes disgusting!!! Plus my daughter is getting married next week and I broke my foot. Do you have a card for I am bald, feel like crap, am wearing a boot and my only daughter is getting married!!! Just had to vent!! My son sent me this link after I told him all of the interesting cards I get like… I am so sorry… my grandmother fought cancer for twenty years… really??? And I was hoping I would be done1

  8. Judi Davis says...

    Many thanks from another survivor who still has a hard time with the right words. Yours are perfect!!!!!

  9. I love the honesty in these cards (as well as their artistry). When I lost a child several years ago, I received many cards. The only one I really remember is the one that said ‘This isn’t okay. There was no purpose. This sucks’. I remember thinking to myself how much I appreciate my friend sending the card to me and giving me the space to grieve. Thank YOU for providing me a vehicle to give my loved ones space in the future.

  10. Your Worst Nightmare says...

    Hi Emily, Stage IV (yes, that’s end-stage—no stage V, no encore) Metastatic BC here with chemo failures abounding, in three of four major organs and lymphnodes, and if I had a nickel for every time some MOFO said most of that shyte to me I’d be a ba-gatrillionerrss. Latest ignorant comment: “You have Metastatic BC? I thought the lady on the “Little People” had that, and now she’s all better”. Yeah, I’m a survivor, all-rightee: Of the Pink-Ribbon HELL month of clashing early-stage egos and smug self-righteousness of my “sistahs” and a culture who believe that what has happened to me is my fault and if they just eat vegan, pray to Jesus, meditate, be grateful, and think lofty pink thoughts, it will never happen to them. Thanks for the laughs.

  11. I love her cards. I wish someone had gotten me one while I was going through chemo. Maybe when I have that awful reconstruction surgery that’s coming up!!!! Emily really speaks to what is on our minds when we are struggling with life.

  12. Sharon says...

    One of my dearest friends sent me 38 notes, one to open following each of my radiation treatments for breast cancer. The notes contained uplifting quotes, memories of time together, fun and easy recipes, movie and book suggestions, and a tea bag or two. These 38 loving gestures were one of the greatest gifts of my life. Love the cards, thanks for featuring them.

  13. Janelle says...

    these are so great. I just lost my dad and would have appreciated something like this. Buying them to have on hand, because you know, life.

  14. Ceridwen says...

    My mum has very recently been diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a really tough couple of weeks for her especially and our family although we have rallied together so strongly. It can be hard when you know people are trying hard to be kind and helpful but don’t nail it. I know I’ve been that person. Those empathy cards are brilliant. The best. Thank you for a wonderful post.

  15. These are so fantastic. I have a close family friend who was recently diagnosed with the same cancer my mom passed away from a few years ago. Sending cards is just one thing I can do from afar, but I often find myself staring at a rack of cards in Target, either wondering if I’ve already purchased a card that works, OR thinking that the options I’m left with are terrible or super sappy.

    Definitely going to order a few for the upcoming months as she fights this terrible disease.

  16. I LOVE her work. I love a handwritten card, and these are great for those times when you’re like “this just sucks and I’m here for you”. Thank you for posting about her! She rocks!

  17. Georgia says...

    Not being familiar with Emily I was all prepared for these to be well-intentioned but a bit schmaltzy but danged if she didn’t get it just right. These are amazing. I shouldn’t have doubted!

  18. Elisa says...

    I’ve been a big fan of Emily’s for a long time now. It’s been amazing to watch her success explode (deservedly so!) and to see her work mature. These cards are profound.

  19. Terri says...

    These are fabulous!

  20. Kim says...

    Thank you for these. I have an incurable disease, so I very much enjoyed them. It’s so refreshing to see a note that is both genuine and understanding.

    It’s amazing how often people tell me about “cures” they’ve read about on the internet…or how their one day of pain helps them understand what I’m going through. I know these people are trying to be supportive, but it’s hard to constantly hear these types of comments. These cards have a much better approach.

  21. G says...

    I don’t know how to express it very well, but there is something special about the way you write, you know. You touch on sensitive topics with so much tact and balance, and above all else, sincerity. And sometimes, somehow, with a dash of light humour too. :) Thank you.

    • Katie says...

      Nailed it, G. So true.

  22. Emily McDowell’s talent and insight is truly amazing. Thank you for featuring these beautifully honest and empathic cards from her. XO

  23. ashley b says...

    gah, as someone who has bouts of sadness, the burden one really speaks to me. here’s hoping we all have great friends who don’t make us feel like one when we’re suffering….

  24. These cards are so flippin great! There’s no better way to describe them. Emily keeps it real! So many times people say the wrong thing or don’t say anything at all because we do not know what to say (myself included). I’ll never forget my neighbor’s personal note after my late miscarriage. She is the only person who did it right a la Emily style.

    xo Lendy

  25. sandy says...

    I am grinning from ear to ear! I have metastatic breast cancer and people are completely at a loss as what to say to me. The good news is I’m responding well to chemo- I am on it “forever” and that is a good thing. I feel great most days, how about a card about the word “battle” or “fight.” UGH!

    Finally, honest and real cards to describe honest and real life problems!

    • I’m stage 2B. I hate it when people say “battle” or “fight” as well. These cards keep it real.

  26. Sometimes the words just don’t come together for what your heart is trying to say. It is almost always the receiver who listens to the heart songs and forms the words to give back to those who need to hear it. Beautiful cards with real messages. Bravo! XO

  27. I love these cards. They are so funny and honest. Thank you for sharing!

  28. bisbee says...

    I’ve ordered Emily’s cards several times…thankfully, I haven’t had to order any of these, but it’s wonderful to know they are available.

  29. Elle says...

    I love these, they are beautiful! I appreciate all the posts on grief, pain, struggle and loss. I wish I’d known these things when I was in my teens. I really didn’t know how to be a good friend to the people in my life who were struggling with tragic loss and cancer and there were quite a few at that time.

    I would love to see what she can do with divorce as her topic! That’s another one where people often don’t know what to say or they say exactly the wrong thing!

    I had people sit me down and run through all the things they observed in my marriage that they thought were bad ideas and how they knew better at the time but didn’t tell. People told me “it’s for the best” to which I would respond “there is nothing ‘for the best’ about suddenly up and leaving your wife and baby!” They told me with glowing smiles that “he just needs to find his soul!”, “marriage is more a woman’s responsibility than a man’s” and on and on.

    I learned that if you hadn’t been through a terrible heart break of your own at some point, you probably had no clue. I also learned that if you had but you love Dr. Laura, you still have no clue.

    • Blandine says...

      Oh gosh, those comments sound absolutely awful ! You must have bitten your tongue through those conversations!

  30. I love these! But here’s hoping I don’t need to use or receive these for a very, very long time!

  31. I had heard about these before and think these are amazing and so needed! having been through some tough times when it comes to my health, i have heard it all and finally some one comes out and speaks the truth – much appreciated! and they are so pretty as well!

  32. Oh I love these! I think my favourite is “sorry I haven’t been in touch…” but , they’re all so real life! I’ve found myself saying ‘everything happens for reason’ or similar before now and it all just sounds so….insincere! Illness is crappy, cancer is bloody awful and I think these are great…not trying to make anyone feel better about the situation, just acknowledging the rubbishness of it all and the offering whatever help they can, love them!

  33. sUSE says...

    There are a couple I need to send to myself and pretend they are from a couple of people who meant well but blew it.

  34. These are amazing!!! Many congrats to Emily and thanks for the post!

  35. Lena says...

    My best friend died of cancer two years ago and on the way home from her memorial service the Wolf Parade song Dear Daughters and Sons… Came in randomly and the line ‘God doesn’t always have the best goddamn plans’ has stuck with me ever since.
    These cards are the best. I feel like I should buy every one to have available for when God doesn’t have the best goddamn plans.

  36. I really like her message within these cards. Especially since it’s so challenging on what to say during times like this. Her cards have a real sense of humanity that I think is missing from the hallmark cards. Thanks for sharing! x Tali

  37. Kristin says...

    as someone who understands having cancer and the grief of losing a very closed loved one..these cards are wonderful..funny and honest. I need to get some!

  38. S says...

    I really appreciate how honest and real you have been about grief, loss, and hard times on your site, Joanna. It’s all a part of life, and of being a friend, even if its a part we don’t like to acknowledge. I lost my dad very suddenly in a tragic accident a couple of months ago, was blown away by how much all the cards meant to me (I loved the interview you did with Lucy on this subject). Personally, one of the hardest pieces of grieving is worrying about being a burden on friends, family and my husband (we married only a month after my dad’s loss, as planned). It’s just not a tidy or quick experience. So the “You’re not a burden, you’re a human” really hits home. I might just get it for myself.

  39. Christi says...

    As a therapist, I LOVE these cards. Perfect.

  40. Really love the light-hearted but exceptionally true nature of these cards.

  41. Jessica says...

    What a perfectly timed post. I just found out bad news about a friend – went straight to the site to buy several of these cards as pick-me-ups for this friend.

  42. these are all so so powerful and perfect. i loved the first ones and these new ones are great. i especially love the one that says “i’m sorry i haven’t been in touch, i didn’t know what to say”. i think that one is true for more people that would like to admit it.

  43. These are awesome! I love that the sentiments are “real” and not trying to over compensate for not knowing what to say in these situations. Thank you so much for sharing!

  44. Amy says...

    I’m ordering a couple today! I have a friend who is losing her mom to a rare neurological disease (she will pass away most likely this month) just as my friend had a new baby boy. New life enters the world as another leaves. It’s so sad and I want to be there for her and I feel like she will appreciate a real card like one of these.
    My sister also lost her mother in law just months prior to her baby being born so she never got to meet her granddaughter. It’s heartbreaking and these cards remind us that the pain of losing someone will never go away. I want to remind her with a card that I am still here.

  45. Fran says...

    Simply brilliant.

  46. jaclyn says...

    I think these are fantastic and I loved the first batch when I saw them earlier this year.

    I do want to advise people to think about the recipient of the card before going this route however. My mother-in-law is currently battling her second round of breast cancer and she wholeheartedly and PASSIONATELY believes with all her might that God really does have a plan for her and that everything does happen for a reason and that her experience IS a journey….so just be cautious of whether these cards’ messages are really appropriate for the person you’re thinking about.

    But the ultimate point still rings true, don’t be afraid to reach out….in whatever capacity suits you.

    • Blandine says...

      I agree, I loved the cards but one part of me was wondering how some of them might be received. For example, the one about the lemons

    • Christine says...

      You sound like a very thoughtful person. Good advice.

  47. Thank you for sharing these, it’s a tough to find a card that isn’t garbage!

  48. Tasha says...

    these cards are great! The fact they actually say what you would is all you really want a card to do! And I would have appreciated many and probably will appreciate them in years to come. Wink wink ;)

  49. jeannie says...

    These are totally on the mark! I love the top one and the one about watching trashy TV. All of them, actually. Thank you, Emily. Brilliant!

  50. I agree, absolutely long overdue! I’m also a fan of her “There is nobody else I’d rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to” card. It was a perfect valentine.

  51. Ali says...

    These are amazing! I often struggle with what to say or do for people who are suffering, but nothing seems “right” so the default becomes silence. So good to see there can be kindness with humor as a way of expression that isn’t so sterile. I need to buy the “I’m sorry I didn’t know what to say” card for a few people in my life…

  52. Angela says...

    These are wonderful! What a great idea.

  53. Susana Silva says...

    Joanna, thank you again! How thoughtful and beautiful this is. Your posts REALLY make me believe in humankind.


  54. I love these. So beautifully written. Thanks for sharing!

    Sarah x

  55. Sarah says...

    Having just finished 6 weeks of radiation that was much harder than I ever expected it to be, I would have loved cards like these. Perfect, especially the one about God being a bad planner. Also, if you don’t know what to say- say that, don’t default to one of the cliches.