I’m always curious on what to say to people who have gone through cancer – you’ll realise that I asked the same questions in my interview with Matilda Tristam earlier. I’m not the only one who has problems expressing my feelings as it turns out, because Emily McDowell knows all too well the embarrassment and waffling about that happens when you’re around someone with a serious illness.
From Emily’s website:
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.
Emily knows this personally as well, as she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24, and was given the all clear after 9 months of chemo and radiation. And through it all, it wasn’t the effect of the illness that made it difficult:
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.
So if you’re not sure what to say to loved ones who are facing a serious illness – send one of Emily’s card their way. They’re most likely facing an unknown future, and embracing change like never before. These cards help put together words that you would like to say but wouldn’t know how to, eliminating miscommunication and the dreaded I-don’t-know-what-to-say-so-I’ll-just-not-say-anything syndrome. Once that’s out of the way, you can then concentrate on caring for your loved one the way you know how.
See the complete range over at Emily’s website.