Greeting cards for the clueless

Emily McDowell developed stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 24. As she went through life dealing with it, she encountered what many people dealing with serious illness or personal tragedy face, the utter cluelessness of even well meaning people who somehow, with all the options available to them, manage to say exactly the wrong thing.

In order to help such people out, she has created a set of greeting cards to both amuse and enlighten. They are excellent and this one is my favorite.

clueless cards

One commenter on McDowell’s blog recounted her own experience with people who say this kind of thing.

I only had two early miscarriages and that was hard enough. I can imagine someone saying that things happen for a reason and asking acidly “And what do you think this reason might be? To see how much one person can cry?”.

One person told me that it was God’s will and I told her that God could kiss my ass. I would also have really appreciated one of these cards.

Many of the commenters to her blog indicated that this was their favorite card too, suggesting to me that this is one of the most common things that are said. This is puzzling. Why on Earth would you think that it would make someone feel better to tell them that they were specially picked out by a god (or the fates) to suffer? I think it all goes back to the Job story but even he did not seem particularly soothed by his friends’ suggestions that he must have somehow deserved it.


  1. says

    The same thing is happening this weekend with mother’s day and in June on father’s day.

    People who have endured bad parenting are made to feel guilty for not forgiving, criticized for ceasing contact without knowing the reasons why someone would. Women who can’t have children are made to feel like “failures” as human beings, labelled “barren” for not reproducing.

    It’s a lot like the far right and christmas: Anyone who doesn’t share the same sentiment and participate is treated as less of a human being, as if their right and desire not to participate were “offensive”. And they act as if those who choose not to participate are “preventing” everyone else from enjoying it.

    (See also: valentine’s day and those who do not have or want romantic relationships or marriage.)

  2. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    I posted a comment that got held for moderation. Just curious if it went through or not.


  3. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    The dog must have ate my homework then. TY for your response.

  4. Seeker2 says

    Years ago, I went through a period where a medical condition left me unable to eat food. Instead, I had a tube in my subclavian vein, and had to spend 15 hours a day connected to a big bag of nutrients and fluids that was pumped into my body via the tube. My body just couldn’t adjust to the nutrients, and I looked like I was gaunt and starved (and also had a tube taped to my chest that was visible through my shirts).

    People would invariably comment on how terrible I looked or how Frankenstein-like the feeding tube was and asked nosy questions. My go-to answer was, “I’m having a medical deal going on but I hope to be better soon”. I was ready to throat-punch the people who’d immediately follow it up with, “That’s okay!” (usually followed by something stupid like, “I had indigestion once from eating a bad burrito”). No, no; it’s NOT okay--I was freaking starving to death and looked like a freak, and how condescending of some stranger to try to one-up me on something I hadn’t brought up to begin with.

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