Saturday, May 23, 2015

Butterfly Sympathy

Making sympathy cards is never easy, and I--like so many of you--prefer making them when I don't need them, keeping a variety of cards ready. It's hard to generate much creative enthusiasm when your heart is hurting.

When I was in my teens, my mom took me to the Hallmark store to buy a sympathy card for a friend. As I looked over the cards, mom told me to find something with just a few words and soft images. When, years later, I received a sympathy card that looked like a child's birthday card with a sympathy sentiment stuck on it, the truth of mom's advice hit me. (Moms are always right, aren't they?)

Now that I make my own cards, I try to use soft colors and simple statements of sympathy. The sentiment from Papertrey's Beautiful Butterflies is perfect not just for sympathy but for any "difficult time" someone might be experiencing. It works inside the card as well as on the front, too.

I always keep my handwritten comments inside as simple and short as possible, avoiding the empty platitudes or upsetting phrases that can add to people's suffering. As a Stephen Minister, I can assure you that saying "it was God's will" or "she's in a better place" is NOT helpful. Ever. Let the grieving persons come to these conclusions on their own, and then affirm them if/when they do. But don't be the first to say them. Fact is, there are NO words that really help, unless you can share a positive memory of the deceased. The blessing of a sympathy card is that you let the grieving know you are thinking of them, acknowledge and share their grief, and offer kindness and support.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

The colors here are Brilliance platinum planet, pearlescent beige, and pearlescent chocolate. I love how the curly antennae mimics the flourishes of the sentiment, and how the focal point is a stable triangle. Chocolate is softer than black would have been, but it's dark enough to anchor the design and create a very strong focal point. It's hard for your eye to move to the border, isn't it?

That shimmer works so well for butterflies!

So why create the border in the first place? Well, my thinking behind this card is that our loved ones leave this earth alone, but they go to join the saints who've gone before. (In the Methodist and other protestant traditions, all who go to God are saints.) The background here, shown only as a narrow border, represents those we see again, the hope of heaven and reunion, and butterflies are such a lovely representation of death and resurrection.

Maybe I'm being too English major about this, but it works for me.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Do you have any rules you follow while making sympathy cards? Have you ever received one that was particularly comforting or particularly hurtful?

stamps: Hero Arts Color Layering Butterflies, Papertrey Beautiful Butterflies
ink: Brilliance
paper: Papertrey
accessories: corner rounder, dimensionals


  1. Perfect subtle hues for a sympathy card

  2. Love the symbolism of the butterflies surrounding the newest one.
    I approach sympathy cards in a different direction. I make them as I need them so I am able to style the card to the recipient.I've tried making them 'ahead of time' and they just don't work for me for some unknown reason. I agree that platitudes don't work and found the most meaningful words I have received are the memories shared.
    Lu C

  3. I try to keep it simple and soft. But I will try the Pearlescent Beige option - love the look of the butterflies.

  4. I just had to make a sympathy card. I made a tiny mistake, and chose to cover it with a butterfly - partly because it was the right size, but also because of the symbolism - and then I added a few more... I agree with you about the wording. I usually keep it short - expressing our sympathy for the loss, and assuring them of our prayers. PLEASE don't ever assume that you know how the grieving feel either - my sister lost a 3 day-old baby, and someone told her that they knew how she was feeling - they'd just lost an 89-year-old aunt the week before...!

    1. We never can understand fully someone else's grief. How awful for your sister!

  5. What a beautiful card, Susan. I love the subtle colors and the symbolism of the individual and group of butterflies.

  6. I don't know why it's taken me so long to find your blog. It's perfect for me as a "new" and struggling cardmaker. I'm now happily reading back through your archives, and I had to pause and comment to acknowledge this beautiful card, and your reasoning behind the design. It's just perfect, and it made me cry.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!