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Unread 12-04-2017, 03:56 PM   #1
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Default Death in the family during the holidays

My brother-in-law is very ill and not expected to live for very long. Days. I found this out just as I was sending out Holiday cards - so I pulled the one for him and his wife, and also the cards for my nieces. I expect to be sending out sympathy cards, instead. Should I send out the Holiday cards with a subdued message - or not? And any ideas of what the "subdued message" would be?

You guys are always here for me and I sure do appreciate it.
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Unread 12-04-2017, 05:00 PM   #2
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Firstly, I'm so sorry for the terrible news and for the loss *hugs*.

I think this is something that can go either way. Some people will appreciate a sense of normalcy - particularly when the children are younger and have a lot to process. Others won't want to think about the holidays at all.

I think it would be nice to send a holiday card, anyway and let them decide how and when they want to open it. Maybe a special one with a calming winter scene and wishes for a peaceful holiday? Adding a holiday sentiment on the envelope will also help, so they'll know this is a holiday card before opening it.
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Unread 12-04-2017, 05:05 PM   #3
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My uncle, more like an older brother, died yesterday after a three week diagnosis of cancer. I am sending a sympathy card today and a Christmas card later next week. Truly a sudden loss of a wonderful man.
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Unread 12-04-2017, 05:19 PM   #4
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I would send a Christmas card even if you end up sending a sympathy card, too. On the Christmas card, you might say "thinking of you during this Christmas season." Or if they are Christians maybe something like remembering the Birth of Christ - keeping is more subdued.
My reason - we are not promised tomorrow and our lives could end at anytime. I agree with Elle about keeping a sense of normalcy.
I am so sorry for news and impending loss.
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Unread 12-04-2017, 05:24 PM   #5
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I'm sorry this is happening to your family too. Several years ago my husband's uncle passed away just before Christmas. I still can't bring myself to send a "Merry Christmas" card to his wife so I just send a pretty winter card with no sentiment and I write a little note instead.
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Unread 12-04-2017, 05:54 PM   #6
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I also think you should still send a card. In fact, I would suggest sending it immediately so he has a chance to see it. I would write a more subdued message, acknowledging the fact that this is a difficult celebration perhaps but take the opportunity to share how much he means to the family/you. It’s important not to pretend “it” doesn’t exist, and isn’t it nice to think he could sense your regard for him, instead of giving those thoughts at a funeral...

Just my 2 cents. My thoughts are with you, there is no good time for loss but Christmas is particularly hard .
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Unread 12-04-2017, 06:39 PM   #7
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Cathy and Jeanne - my heart aches for you! Like cardmaker2 said, there's never a good time for a loss, but this is definitely a more difficult time than most. I hope that as the season progresses that it will be peaceful and full of hope for you both.

Cathy - I would send a seasonal card sooner and a sympathy card later, as has already been suggested. As far as what to say, that's kind of a stumper. You know the people involved well enough to have some idea of their sensibilities, so let that guide you.

One thing that I know from experience is that even the most awkward sentiments are better than silence. Silence is too easy to interpret as lack of caring, and that is not the case at all, obviously.
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Unread 12-05-2017, 12:06 AM   #8
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Cathy I am so sorry.

I have been on both sides of this. I always send a pretty Winter theme card with a note of love. For me I didn't appreciate the Christmas cards. It was too fresh and raw. A person in mourning can not think or handle emotions very well. I appreciated notes that were sent to me letting me know I was loved and cared about. Even after all these years I still don't really like Christmas cards. I love my notes. I know a few of my loved ones feel the same way.
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Unread 12-05-2017, 04:24 AM   #9
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DeeAnn said what was around the edges of my brain, but wouldn't solidify enough for me to articulate... "Fresh and raw" applies to a lot of negative states, not just mourning, and I've been there at Christmas, as well - for the better part of twenty years, truth be told. Notes of love and support would have made a huge difference, I'm sure. Happily, the past five or six years I've actually liked Christmas again... I didn't mean to make this about me at all, just trying to second DeeAnn's thoughts and support...
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Unread 12-05-2017, 08:59 AM   #10
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I've learned that people look forward to our handmade cards much more than any other kind.......send your Xmas wishes now.........it will brighten a difficult time for everyone.
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Unread 12-05-2017, 09:44 AM   #11
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The nice thing about a handmade card is that it can be customized. I probably wouldn’t want to include words like “Merry.” I think the ideas for quiet winter scenes that aren’t too desolate are good. The message inside is the important thing. Having been widowed in my 20’s I learned early how hard that first Christmas without a loved one is. Anything you can send with a message of caring will be so appreciated. Kind family and friends are everything at these times. All those little gestures combined keep you going.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 04:02 AM   #12
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I agree with making the card more of a winterish card and including a personal note inside - add a memory you might have of the deceased. We just received a card from new friends who recently found out my mother-in-law passed away - even though she died in June, we LOVED getting their card - so even if you feel you need to wait until after the holidays, please send a card!
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Unread 12-06-2017, 04:38 AM   #13
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Oh boy. That is a hard one. Not only is this year going to be harsh but the years to come may be tainted. My mom passed in Nov a couple weeks before I would send out Christmas cards. My deepest sympathies.

To show how much I was NOT thinking at that time, I put the death announcement in the Christmas cards. Unbelievable. "Merry Christmas, my mom is dead" Not literally, but still. I just could not pull myself together to send separate notices which I also said and the Christmas cards were already made. All one can hope is that people realize based on how you are normally. I really appreciated the love that came back to me. And I realized some people mailed before getting my card. I told this story just so people know that you can do crazy things at such times-you would not be alone.

So many different responses shows this is not an easy answer. So many have lost someone close in time to a holiday.

What Sue said about silence resonated with me. I would avoid that.

I think I would either
Send the Christmas right now and and say you hope they are able to have a small personal gathering to make a special memory for the nieces. And then send a separate sympathy card. You are not ignoring the elephant in the room and you are sending a positive thought.

Or wait and just send a sympathy card as you have said it is imminent. Acknowledge you appreciate how hard it is this time of year with the world in a celebration state around them and you are there if they need to talk.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 06:05 AM   #14
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I'd go with what several suggested - send a warm winter greetings card, but not a Merry Christmas type, since they don't have "merry" right now.

Like Elle said, it could go either way. But a personalized winter themed card would be safe and caring, and is the type some people send this time of year anyway, especially if they have friends or family of different religions or no religion. It wouldn't stand out as odd.

I'm so sorry about your brother-in-law.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 06:08 AM   #15
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Make and send a christmas card. How many times have we all found out later that a handmade card meant everything to someone, we just never know. Even within the family it will be a treasure to some and not to others but if it is "everything" to just one of them then it would be worth it to me.

What has been said before about noticing those who send cards and those who don't is very true. I definitely noticed who cared enough and who didn't.


FYI, I hate snow & cold weather so a winter themed card would not do it for me, sorry y'all but ick. Always try to "know" your audience when making a card. A faith based birth of Jesus card would mean much to me and may very well be a better option for them while they are struggling with the "why is this happening question".




a request too: could we start saying "thinking of you" or "I'm here for you" cards instead of "sympathy". To me that kind of card isn't needed yet.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 07:17 AM   #16
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Good point, Stacy. Maybe "seasonal" would be a better word. And I so agree that sympathy is premature. Of course we can't know if someone doesn't like cardinals (how could they not!) or penguins or snow or flowers, for that matter, so we do our best and hope for the best, since blank cards are not an option. Or there'd be no SCS.

As for religious cards, I think knowing the recipients' beliefs is key, and if not known, send non-religious. For the sender to send what reflects their own beliefs rather than the recipients can feel insensitive, and the last thing anyone would want is for the recipient to feel that who they are doesn't matter. But I'm side-tracking, and assume this is not the case for Cathy.

Last edited by bjeans; 12-06-2017 at 07:23 AM..
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Unread 12-06-2017, 07:25 AM   #17
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I'm sorry to hear about your Brother-in-law, Cathy.

Lots of wise words about sending cards in these difficult situations and I agree that you should send one. And it's not only when loss occurs at Christmas, but also someone's first Christmas without a loved one - those 'firsts' after someone has died which are so difficult for the family to cope with. If a winter scene or religious theme isn't suitable, snowflakes are gentle and peaceful or I'm sure other seasonal motifs will be appropriate without seeming too merry. 'With love at Christmas' is one of my favourite go-to sentiments in these situations, along with 'Thinking of you at Christmas or 'You're in my thoughts at Christmas'. Further down the line, 'Christmas wishes' also doesn't push the Merry side of things onto people when it's too soon after their loss.

I know this may not be the case for your family, but there have been times when the loved one has survived longer than the doctors may think, in which case you'd have wished you'd sent the card for him to see.

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Unread 12-06-2017, 08:06 AM   #18
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Thank you so much for this discussion! My brother in law passed away on the first. I also pulled my sisters card, as it was addressed to both of them. I am sending both a sympathy card and a Christmas card and thank you for the idea of leaving a couple of weeks between. Since making cards is what I do, I think that it would be strange to them to not get cards from me.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 08:07 AM   #19
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This just happened to me as well. My dear cousin just lost his son and I am devastated. I too made sure their Christmas card was different. It is simple in design on the front and the sentiment inside is one of the two following.

"May the peace and beauty of the season remain with you throughout the coming year."


"May the blessings of Peace, Hope and Love be your gifts this Christmas and throughout the coming year."
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Unread 12-06-2017, 08:33 AM   #20
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When a dear family friend's husband died a couple of months before Christmas, I knew it would not be a "merry" or "happy" Christmas for our friend so I sent a CAS card in Christmas colours and used "just a note" as the sentiment. It seemed more appropriate than a traditional "Merry Christmas" card. If you want to see it, here's my card:

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Unread 12-06-2017, 03:17 PM   #21
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We lost my brother in law in May, the card to my SIL will have a Thinking of You sentiment, as well as the cards I will send to their children. I intend to use a snowy cottage scene.
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Unread 12-06-2017, 07:45 PM   #22
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My mom passed away two years ago in September. Many people knew she was nearing the end and sent kind notes both by email and snail mail and we loved to read them to her. Even when we weren't sure that she was aware of it anymore, it still was wonderful to us to hear how much my mom meant to others. My dad received all kinds of Christmas cards that year, and I don't think it mattered much to him what the card said as much as the kind notes that people added acknowledging his loss.
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Unread 12-07-2017, 01:38 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wavejumper View Post
To show how much I was NOT thinking at that time, I put the death announcement in the Christmas cards. Unbelievable. "Merry Christmas, my mom is dead" Not literally, but still. I just could not pull myself together to send separate notices which I also said and the Christmas cards were already made. All one can hope is that people realize based on how you are normally. I really appreciated the love that came back to me. And I realized some people mailed before getting my card. I told this story just so people know that you can do crazy things at such times-you would not be alone.
CathyH- Wondering how you and your family are doing. We are all here for you.

Hugs wavejumper! I am sorry about your Mom. I hope you can laugh now at how you sent the cards. I thought it was funny the way you told your story. I hope your Mom is looking down laughing too.

When I couldn't send cards I still did. I could only sign them. I felt so guilty because I had a lot of elderly family who looked forward to my cards. My Mom wrote the letters and sent them in her cards. Unluckily, I don't have the best Mom but I am grateful she did that for me. Everyone was so beautiful. I only had one rude person. You know that is a good thing because you know who is crossed off your Christmas card list for next year.

I was thinking of this thread today. I have to send cards and I am literally, having anxiety about it. I got my first card and shut down. I learned that PTSD is worse around the holidays for so many. The numbers are so high. I just wanted to write that for anybody reading this thread who are going through that or those who might be wondering how to send cards for those who struggle with the holidays.
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Unread 12-07-2017, 06:22 AM   #24
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My FIL passed this year and there was much debate about his whether his name should being included or not on a thank you card my son was sending out. In the end he addressed the envelope Grandma and Grandpa because he had been at the graduation this year and had encouraged my son during his years at college. When my MIL recieved the card she was glad it had been sent to both of them because it made her feel closer to him.


As far as sending a religious cards, the Op specifically said Christmas card. Do people send actual Christmas cards to non christians? I would not and as they are family I'm pretty sure she knows their beliefs anyway.


Hugs DeeAnn, mega long notes/letters are not a requirement of sending out cards. The simple act of making a card will let everyone know you thought of and care about them.
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Unread 12-07-2017, 07:10 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stampin stacy View Post
My FIL passed this year and there was much debate about his whether his name should being included or not on a thank you card my son was sending out. In the end he addressed the envelope Grandma and Grandpa because he had been at the graduation this year and had encouraged my son during his years at college. When my MIL recieved the card she was glad it had been sent to both of them because it made her feel closer to him.

As far as sending a religious cards, the Op specifically said Christmas card. Do people send actual Christmas cards to non christians? I would not and as they are family I'm pretty sure she knows their beliefs anyway.

Hugs DeeAnn, mega long notes/letters are not a requirement of sending out cards. The simple act of making a card will let everyone know you thought of and care about them.
Yes, people send Christmas cards to non Christians. Some people think Christmas has become completely non-sectarian so all people would celebrate it. Our veterinarian even sends a religious card, and we live in a densely populated area with many beliefs represented. It's interesting.


Btw, I was speaking in general about knowing the beliefs of the recipient so had mentioned I had sidetracked. My mind can be hard to rein in so my apologies if insensitive, given the subject.
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Unread 12-07-2017, 08:09 PM   #26
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DeeAnn...thanks. It is 20 years this year. Feels like yesterday. Probably because I still live in the same place as I did with her so I keep expecting her to walk into the room. But not in a painful way anymore.

Not so much funny as shake my head and roll my eyes now. Some people were not happy with me-it took them off guard and upset them.
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Unread 12-07-2017, 11:55 PM   #27
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Stacy- I am so sorry about your FIL.

Yes, people do send Christmas cards to Non-Christians. I got my first one this week. It doesn't bother me. I know I am more laid back about those things than most people. Most of my Non-Christian friends are too. My Jewish friends side eye it a bit but they are like "Well, it is nice they included us in their thoughts" kind of thing. I have a friend who practices Buddhism. He geeks out over Christmas cards. He adores them.

Thanks for the sweet words Stacy. I didn't even make the cards that year. I bought them at the Dollar Tree. I bought my cards this year at the Dollar Tree too.

Really, I am kind of going through what our Cathy H is going through. Cathy, I am hoping you and your family are ok.

A lot of my family is in the hurricane and fire ravaged areas. I can't send them cards. What I am suppose to say "Merry Christmas you lost your house!"

wavejumper- Hugs! I would not have been upset with you. I would have thought you were really stressed and upset. I would've been there for you. I am sorry your family did that to you. I know they must have been upset, but still.
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Unread 12-08-2017, 05:58 AM   #28
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Thanks one day at a time right


Quote:
Yes, people send Christmas cards to non Christians
Wow, I had no idea.
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Unread 12-08-2017, 06:12 AM   #29
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Most of my family is non-Christian at this point, but we love the secular holiday and celebrate it with a tree, stockings, gifts, get-togethers and CARDS! I make all 75 of the cards I send different. I always use a non secular theme for the images. Some go to friends that are Christian, with the biggest difference being the greeting. My Jewish friends get a holiday card with an appropriate Hanukkah greeting. This holiday was originally a Pagan holiday to celebrate the Winter Solstice, so non-Christians are just returning it to more of it's original state.
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Unread 12-08-2017, 08:00 AM   #30
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I second what Jeanne3579 said - Christmas is for many of us a non-religious holiday, a time for getting together with family and friends and sharing food, gifts, companionship. I make Christmas cards with non-religious themes - reindeer, Santa, snowmen, etc. have nothing to do with Christian beliefs, and Christmas trees and holly are symbols of the original Pagan holiday. For my practicing Christian friends, I make cards with Nativity scenes. Peace sentiments and doves are also a great theme for both religious and secular friends.
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Unread 12-08-2017, 08:24 AM   #31
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This is another one of those million dollar threads with great, non syrupy advice, and good humor! Wavejumper above mentioned sensitivity around the holiday for years after, and maybe always. Many of us have lost dear friends and relatives around the holidays. I have, and while the season isn't ruined after years pass, it becomes more inward than cheery. The problem for the OP is somehow to acknowledge this without anticipating the death. Tricky but the advice here is great, whichever the OP chooses to follow.

Yes, non Christians like to receive Christmas cards. Also Christians like to receive Hanukkah cards. I have sent Hanukkah cards to Christians in mixed marriages and to Christians interested in inter-religious dialogue, and I've sent Christmas cards to Buddhists and Athiests. No one objects. People generally like to receive real mail these days!
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Unread 12-08-2017, 01:21 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Louisa May View Post
This is another one of those million dollar threads with great, non syrupy advice, and good humor! Wavejumper above mentioned sensitivity around the holiday for years after, and maybe always. Many of us have lost dear friends and relatives around the holidays. I have, and while the season isn't ruined after years pass, it becomes more inward than cheery. The problem for the OP is somehow to acknowledge this without anticipating the death. Tricky but the advice here is great, whichever the OP chooses to follow.

Yes, non Christians like to receive Christmas cards. Also Christians like to receive Hanukkah cards. I have sent Hanukkah cards to Christians in mixed marriages and to Christians interested in inter-religious dialogue, and I've sent Christmas cards to Buddhists and Athiests. No one objects. People generally like to receive real mail these days!
I'm reminded of a thread from past years discussing "xmas" vs "Christmas" and the indignation generated. My thought is that ANY kind of well-wishes from ANY source should be viewed as "thanks for thinking of me", rather than using it as a soapbox moment, but maybe that's just me. Regardless - I have a friend who is a VERY committed atheist, and she celebrates Christmas with more cheer and spirit and loving kindness and generosity than anyone else I know, cards included!

This has been another very thought-provoking thread, and illustrates once again what a loving, caring community we belong to. I always come away with new things to ponder and a sense of gratitude...
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Unread 12-08-2017, 01:35 PM   #33
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I think knowing your audience/recipient is a safe and kind way to go, since one size does not fit all. (And speaking of sizes, my mind goes right to how I've been eating ...) Some people would love a card celebrating a holiday that isn't theirs, and others wouldn't and both are understandable within the context of their lives, and kind of neat in their own way, since our differences make us richer?

Last edited by bjeans; 12-08-2017 at 04:51 PM..
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Unread 12-08-2017, 02:35 PM   #34
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Well, I have to thank all of you who posted. This topic obviously hit a nerve. You women have such wisdom and are helping me so much. I wish I could hug all of you!!!! Sorry to all of you who mentioned losses. I agree with Sue, silence is not an option.

Thank you all again
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