When someone you care about gets seriously ill, it's almost impossible to find the right words to say to let him know you care. Generic messages in greetings cards feel insincere at best, and completely cringe-worthy at worst.
But LA-based designer Emily McDowell hopes to change all that. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 24 and underwent nine months of chemo and radiation before going into remission.
Having experienced first hand the way nobody around her knew what to say, she has created a range of unashamedly honest empathy cards featuring the messages she wishes she'd received when she was seriously ill.
"The most difficult part of my illness wasn't losing my hair, or being erroneously called 'sir' by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo," McDowell explains on her website's blog. "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."
She explains that she created this range of empathy cards for serious illness because she believes we're in desperate need of "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," she continues. "A 'fuck cancer' card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better."
With her range of BS-free empathy cards, McDowell's mission is to "help people connect with each other through truth and insight...I want the recipients of these cards to feel seen, understood, and loved."
Judging from the warning that pops up when you open the website about small delays "due to unexpectedly high order volume," it looks like her mission is succeeding.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Mnior edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors.