05/08/2015 02:24 pm ET Updated May 08, 2015

Honest Empathy Cards Are A Refreshing Alternative To Hallmark

Emily McDowell

We may not want to admit it, but even the most well-meaning of sympathy cards we give to loved one with a serious illness can land like a total dud.

For artist Emily McDowell, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24, the experience inspired her to create a new collection of insightful, fiercely honest "empathy cards" that make finding the right words in sensitive situations a little easier. "I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering," McDowell explains in a recent blog post.

She goes on:

"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.

The collection currently has 10 cards, but McDowell plans to expand on that number soon, she wrote.

"I think Empathy Cards are the most important things I’ve designed so far, and they’re some of my personal favorites," McDowell wrote. "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."

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