The June 6 episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour brought with it a discussion of sympathy cards. Glen Weldon in particular has some strong opinions on this topic. You can listen here; it’s about 20 minutes into the program.
When someone we know dies, I think our first instinct is to head to Hallmark to the sympathy section. As Glen points out, the cards don’t have much variation; a soft picture of mountains or flowers along with some sentiments on memories, sadness, and moving on. The cards can quickly become cliche.
Is buying a sympathy card merely a box you check off when you hear of someone’s passing? Do you go to the store and pick out any old card, or do you try to find just the right card to express how you feel and add some personal, handwritten thoughts to it? Do you bypass the sympathy card altogether and instead send a handwritten note, flowers, or some other expression?
Minnesota Prairie Roots said:
I always send a card.
As a writer of greeting card verses, including sympathy, I will tell you that it is tough to come up with original words that are not cliche.
That would be difficult. I think we need some new ways to talk about death and grief in our culture so we don’t have to rely on old cliches.
LIsa Simons said:
I always send a sympathy card. Though I have some that I can use for anybody, especially for grandparents or those who have lived long, full lives, I do take care in finding cards that I think would be appropriate for the person who suffered the loss. I always write a handwritten note. I’ve also contributed money for plants or flowers as part of a group. Sometimes at work, I’ve given money for, say, a bench to be erected in someone’s honor, like the one in front of our school–a para lost her life in her 40s, I believe, to cancer.
I also buy sympathy cards, but I generally spend some time finding one that echoes the sentiments I want to express. I try to stay away from the overly cliched cards. Some of them are OK.