One of the ways my friend Jackie and I dealt with the crappy things in life was with gallows humor. It was the kind of stuff most people would drop their jaws over, but it really helped us cope with everything life had thrown at us. One of the things we'd joke about is how there weren't any greeting cards for what we were going through. No one makes cards for cancer and dead kids! So instead, we'd scratch out the slogans on store-bought cards and write in our own (inappropriate) words. It might have been strange, but I cherish those silly cards now that she's gone.
A couple months ago on Facebook, Jackie's sister linked to an amazing artist, Emily McDowell, who is now selling empathy cards. They are mostly for cancer, but a few are non-specific. They are realistic, humorous, and so, so perfect. I laughed and cried when I read them, because Jackie would have loved all of them. I hate that I can't send her any of them. I miss her and her contagious laugh so much.
It might sound crazy, but I think there is definitely room for realistic and humorous cards for parents who've lost children. I received tons of amazing cards after Madeline died, so I know how helpful and supportive it is to receive that mail. In a situation where no one really knows what to say, it's nice to let a card do the talking.
With that being said, these are my suggestions for child loss cards, a.k.a. Grieving Cards (with thanks and appreciation to Emily McDowell for the inspiration):
This lets the parents know the sender is a safe person to talk to, while the sender is indicating they will follow the parents' lead.
Please don't say, "It will be OK."
Jackie once wrote this to me on a card with a male model jumping out of a birthday cake.
A simple and loving way to tell the parents you love and remember their child.
Compliments are nice, but I'd trade them a million times over to get my girl back.
I really love my dog, too, but it's just not the same.
I've written about this before. I know it's meant as a weird sort of compliment, but don't say it. Just don't.
Our children should not go before us.
There is no timetable for grief, and it's nice to know there are people who understand that.
It's nice to know that someone understands how complex these normally happy days can be.
Jackie sent me a card with these words the first Mother's Day after Madeline died.
... and she sent one like this to Mike.
Remembering our children on their birthdays means the world to us.
When our hearts are in the right place, that's what matters.
To read more from Heather, visit The Spohrs Are Multiplying.