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Tips and Tricks: Cards for Hospice Patients

April 9, 2013
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Cards For Hospice Patients

Some of you may have noticed that GCU has created  new categories under Occasions > Goodbye/Farewell > Hospice/End of Life/Final Goodbye. These are for greeting cards designed to send to a patient in hospice care, a loved one with a terminal condition who has accepted they are dying.

Artists who want to design cards for this new category should be aware of a few things. Here are some tips to help you create the right atmosphere and tone and set the right message for this most difficult subject.

  • Choose Your Color Palettes Wisely: This isn’t going to be a cheerful note or a positive message. This card is intended to help someone say goodbye to a person they care about, so avoid too bright,  “in your face” colors, but don’t be funereal, either. Stick to softer and/or more neutral hues. Some good choices  would be woody greens, taupes, blues, lavenders, ivories, dark reds. Darker grays/black might be too somber.
  • Choose Your Designs Wisely: I’m going to be frank – always keep in mind the recipient is dying, but they aren’t dead yet. Do not use white lilies, gravestones, cemeteries, or any other death and/or funeral related visuals. Avoid jarring, busy, frenetic designs. Keep it simple.
  • Choose Your Words Wisely: Avoid gallows humor – that may come off as insensitive. Let the sender decide if the recipient would appreciate a joke. Craft your verse in a conversational manner, as if you (the sender) were speaking directly to the recipient. Speak from the heart. More on this subject below.

Probably the most important aspect of any card is the verse, the message inside. While you’re pondering what to say inside your card, keep this in mind – people who are dying want to know:

  • They are loved
  • They are missed
  • They haven’t been forgotten or abandoned
  • They’ll always be remembered

Put yourself in the sender’s place. If someone you love was dying, what would you say to them? That’s going to be your best starting point. Or try “Thinking of you” or “Praying for you” as a place to begin.

  • Don’t focus on sickness – the patient’s had enough of that already.
  • Don’t use religious messages like, “it’s God’s will.” Avoid “hellfire and brimstone” type verses or trying to convert the unbelievers. Scripture is okay provided you focus on comforting the recipient, not bullying or frightening them with religion. If you aren’t sure, ask your pastor or priest for advice. They can usually give good suggestions.
  • Don’t use the past tense too much – “I love you” as opposed to “I loved you” or “I miss you” instead of “I missed you.” Past tense is for those who have already left us. Stick to the present whenever possible.
  • Don’t be too formal. A couple of casual, heartfelt sentences will mean a lot more than a formally drafted paragraph.
  • Don’t say things like “feel better soon” or “this too shall pass.”

To design for this category, just speak in a loving, caring, comforting way. And always know you’re helping someone connect to a dying loved one, so remain sensitive to the occasion.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2013 10:52 am

    Thank you Corrie. I really think my pending approval hospice card incorporated all of these tips. I hope I was able to create a caring design and convey a sensitive message. Critique Clinic here I come!

  2. April 9, 2013 5:05 pm

    Thanks Corrie for the tips and a little levity on such a sad subject. I just had a friend die in a Hospice the beginning of this month so the timing is perfect to start thinking of cards for this category.

  3. April 9, 2013 7:26 pm

    Here is some background on this collection of cards and a family who was in need and felt Hallmark’s offering fell short:
    http://www.kcur.org/post/addressing-death-and-dyingthrough-greeting-card

    • April 9, 2013 7:46 pm

      Thanks for the link Mindy. There’s also a related link from the article about children facing terminal illness.

  4. naquaiya permalink
    April 13, 2013 3:09 pm

    Good post Corrie. Needed to be said. The podcast was interesting too because this has been around for a long time and nobody is giving it the attention it deserves or addressing it correctly because it’s uncomfortable. But it’s a part of life we all have to face. It’s exciting to think that GCU and my card could make a difference. I’m going to do some designing.

  5. nancysnook58 permalink
    May 2, 2013 7:04 am

    Thanks for the post! My F-I-L was in Hospice last May and passed away and I know what its like to be there not knowing what to say…

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