Health

When you don't know what to say

Published 3:42 AM ET, Thu January 19, 2017
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02 Empathy Cards Emily McDowell_analysisparalysis_ngc02 Empathy Cards Emily McDowell_analysisparalysis_ngc
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Emily McDowell took her approach to illustrating cards about empathy and has included them in her new book, coauthored with Kelsey Crowe, "There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love." This illustration shows the dilemma many people face when they realize that someone is in a tough situation or facing tragedy. Courtesy Emily McDowell
McDowell created cards and illustrations for "the relationships we have." She felt that the sympathy cards she received or encountered when trying to buy them for others didn't fit with the actual realities of situations people are facing. Courtesy Emily McDowell
Simple language, like saying "I'm sorry" can have the greatest impact, McDowell said. Courtesy Emily McDowell
McDowell was also motivated to use humor in her cards rather than hollow language. Hearing things like "everything happens for a reason" when she had cancer didn't seem helpful. Courtesy Emily McDowell
In misguided attempts at empathy, people often try to help by solving the problem however they can. But to the person on the receiving end, the helpful can feel overwhelming or insensitive, like the sentiment of this card implies. Courtesy Emily McDowell
Being honest and upfront is better than saying nothing at all, McDowell said. Courtesy Emily McDowell
Just because people are enduring a tough time doesn't mean that they have lost their sense of humor, McDowell said. Courtesy Emily McDowell
McDowell created cards for a variety of situations, including infertility. Courtesy Emily McDowell
Small and simple gestures can have the greatest impact, McDowell said. Courtesy Emily McDowell