“People can’t have empathy”

G. Scott Graham
6 min readDec 12, 2022
Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

There have been a number of people in my life who have reacted negatively to these articles on grief. Their response is either to ghost me, gaslight me, or argue their grief myth with me. (It is obvious that they have not read the book, or else I would have been ghosted by all of them.)

It seems that with each new piece, I find yet another grief-related fallacy that I need to write about and publicly debunk.

A friend of mine, Kevin, contacted me after reading the Ashes-to-Ashes article.

Kevin clearly did not like my rebuke of the clueless who wanted to know of the “healing” impact of the trip and, worse, those who wished me to have a fun time on my adventure.

Our conversation went like this:

Kevin: “You know, no one can understand what you are going through.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Kevin: “They don’t know what you are going through because they haven’t had a loss like you have. That’s why they are called sympathy cards and not empathy cards.”

I was dumbfounded. Kevin, after all, is a close friend. He has been with me and heard me speak and write about grief over the past few years (though I don’t think he has read the book).

There are a couple of myths to unravel here; the first is sympathy cards, and the second is empathy.

Sympathy Cards

Sympathy cards are fucking useless. Do you want to know why people send sympathy cards? They serve only to make the SENDER feel good about themselves (“I sent a sympathy card”). They are completely useless for the recipient. Nothing. This whole social norm we have of sending cards and flowers is just some recent scheme to get your money. Here are some tidbits for you to chew on: It wasn’t until the 1920s that Hallmark even started manufacturing sympathy cards. The global greeting card market is expected to reach $13.4 billion by 2027. Sympathy accounts for almost 6 percent of all greeting cards sent for non-seasonal purposes. Do the math 6 percent of $13.4 billion is $804 million. This does not count the amount of money made from the number of people who, like Pavlov’s dog, feel compelled to send a “Thank You” card to every person who sends them a sympathy card.

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G. Scott Graham

G. Scott Graham is an author, a career coach, a business coach, and a psychedelic support coach in Boston, Massachusetts. http://BostonBusiness.Coach