When You Don't Know What To Say To Someone In Pain, These Words Will Work Just Fine

Words don't always come easy.

The greeting card aisle at everyone's local pharmacy tends to look like Easter and a circus hooked up, setting off a colorful explosion of glitter and rainbows.  

There's a greeting card for every occasion; birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, good news…

And the tough one: bad news.

But according to Emily McDowell, a Los Angeles-based designer, the standard "Get Well Soon" cards aren't appropriate when a loved one is unlikely to "get well" at all.

"Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they're already dead," McDowell writes on her website.

She was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma when she was 24 years old. Now, at 38, she has been in remission for over a decade. But the experience has stayed with her — particularly the disappointment she felt when those closest to her couldn't find the right words, so ended up saying nothing.

"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 writes. 

McDowell was inspired to give people the right words so she launched a series of "Empathy Cards." Except unlike the cards already on the market, these were bursting with honesty and love — and the words she longed to hear when she was sick.

"It's hard to make a big difference with a greeting card," she writes. "But I'm hoping these can make a small one."