Why the Perfect Greeting Card is a Myth

Life, and its hardships, are not cookie-cutter events.

learn more about Suzanne Robitaille

By Suzanne Robitaille

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This morning I received an email from online marketplace Etsy with the subject line, "Don't want Mother's Day emails?' I was given the option to opt out, a nice touch from a company that sells cards to a lot of women.

I know that Mother's Day can be a bittersweet holiday for many people who have lost their Moms. There are reminders everywhere—from the flower stands at Whole Foods to the brunch reservation ads on OpenTable.

When my mother-in-law was in her 20s and raising young children, she lost her mom. And 40-plus years later, it's still painful for her to view "Happy Mother's Day" cards. And though my grandmother died young from breast cancer, the thought never crossed my mind that my own mother might be mourning a bit on this day. She just smiled lovingly as my sister and I presented her with flowers, fake jewelry and breakfast in bed, year after year.

I started Wishbar to be a trusted friend to well-wishers who share a similar struggle—a blissful ignorance, even—around holidays, events, and times of loss and hardship. The reality is we often simply don't know what to do or say. You can come to Wishbar to get help choosing the right card and message, all approved by grief communications expert Dr. Jocelyn DeGroot. Then we handwrite, stamp and mail the card the same day.

At the outset, we're bringing convenience to the laborious task of finding, writing, stamping and mailing a greeting card. But Wishbar is something more. We're curating high-quality, modern paper and letterpress cards with the right sentiments to remove the friction from not knowing what to say in a difficult time. And unlike other sites, we use humans, not robots, to handwrite the cards.

Even Millennials like cards—especially the fancier specialty brands you can't find at the store. Approximately 6.5 million cards are bought every year, according to the Greeting Card Association. That tells me the dearth of non-celebratory Mother's Day cards is a glaring miss by mass market stationers who have long-standing customers across all ages.

Sentiments can go beyond cards, too. With a little bit of intelligence, we can make improvements to the blind gestures made under the pressure of time. I remember a few years ago when three deaths in my extended family in one week left me so perplexed I sent the same bouquet of expensive flowers with the same message. I wish I had better insight into how to comfort these bereaved families.

Related: Why Empathy Wins and Selling Doesn't

Sourcing cards for Wishbar has taught me something important. There's never going to be the perfect card. Life, and its hardships, are not cookie-cutter events. But we can get more personalized. We can design with empathy, knowing that life does not always follow a linear path of time-worn milestones.

For instance, last month a customer emailed me asking for help finding a sympathy card to send an acquaintance—a woman who had just lost her parents in a car accident. Across our collection, I can honestly say there was no card that could express the solemnness of this tragedy. It was unfit to say, "May the memories comfort you." There would be no "peace and blessings" for months to come. We settled on a card that somewhat suited, but I'd bet good money this woman received cards and gifts that seemed amiss, or even tasteless. To me, that's both a failure and an opportunity.

Related: Empathy, Not Metrics, Has the Power to Push Ideas Forward

So, I knew it wasn't going to be easy to find Mother's Day cards for someone who has lost their Mom: The phrase "Happy Mother's Day" is ubiquitous. I didn't know it was going to be impossible. Hours of calls and searching online turned up almost nothing.

Finally, I contacted Meg Sutton, owner of Belle & Union in San Antonio and explained my dilemma. We came up with a pretty bird-on-a-branch design for a Mother's Day tribute, which I call Minnie's Perch after my mother-in-law's mother, Herminia. We also designed a smaller bird for those Moms who have lost a child. These exclusive cards are available in our Cards for a Mom collection.

I don't plan to stop at Mother's Day. If Wishbar's role is to solve for the need to bring the right sentiments to bear, then we'll create solutions with like-minded partners until there's no longer a gap. Maybe the formats will change, but the outcome will be the same—a true match for each and every well-wisher.

This year on Mother's Day, I'll gratefully accept flowers and kisses from my kids. I may even get a handmade rainbow card with a perfectly authentic message. I will call my Mom. And I will keep in my thoughts those who cannot make the same earthly gestures. On May 9, I hope a beautiful bird arrives at their window to make them smile.

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Suzanne Robitaille

Founder of Wishbar

Suzanne is a journalist, author and entrepreneur who saw the need for a modern way to solve for the stress and awkwardness of sympathy expression. Her startup, Wishbar, provides advice and tools that guide well-wishers and connect them to what a family really needs during a time of loss or hardship.

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