Sympathy

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Facts

  • Hallmark cards represent approximately 50 percent of all sympathy cards sold in the U.S.
  • Sympathy accounts for approximately 6 percent of all greeting cards sent for everyday (non-seasonal) purposes.
  • Approximately 90 percent of consumers who send sympathy cards are above the age of 40.
  • Since 1984, when Hallmark first offered pet sympathy cards, there has been a growing consumer demand for cards offering condolences for the loss of a pet, reflecting the fact that Americans often view pets as members of the family.
  • Hallmark began producing sympathy cards in the 1920s.

Product Features

  • Hallmark offers more than 200 sympathy cards in its main greeting card line, supplemented by other sympathy cards in its smaller, stand-alone card lines.
  • Most sympathy cards are general in tone and appropriate for a wide range of sending needs.
  • Other sympathy cards are intended to be appropriate for situations such as loss of a baby, military death, death of a mutual friend, loss of a spouse, sudden and unexpected death, loss of a family member, death by accidents, miscarriage, and loss of love (appropriate for unmarried or same-sex couples).
  • Hallmark also offers sympathy cards that recognize a loss after a lengthy illness, reflecting statistics showing that over half of all deaths are related to long-term illness.
  • The Hallmark VIDA card line for Hispanic consumers offers sympathy cards. These cards are available with religious and non-religious content and feature a variety of imagery such as crosses, Bibles and flowers. Specific sentiments such as loss of a parent, loss after a lengthy illness, or unexpected loss of a loved one, are also available.
  • Hallmark’s Mahogany card line for African-Americans has 17 sympathy cards, most of which are religious in content. Unique to the Mahogany line are “homegoing” cards, which refer to death as a “going home,” offering comfort to the bereaved by reminding them that their loved one is being welcomed home in heaven.
  • Tree of Life, Hallmark’s card line for Jewish consumers, also has a few sympathy cards reflecting the Jewish faith.
  • Hallmark’s sympathy cards have evolved over the years to reflect cultural changes, including a shift from behavior guided by formal rules of etiquette to behavior that’s more casual and empathetic. Reflecting these changes, Hallmark’s current sympathy offering has cards that are less religious, more spiritual; less formal, more casual; less idealistic, more authentic in tone. And because the grieving process extends long after the death of a loved one, Hallmark offers cards with an encouraging tone for ongoing grief support.
  • Hallmark.com offers more than 70 sympathy cards, including cards for general sympathy, in memoriam, loss of parent or child, miscarriage, loss of pet, remembrance cards, and "still thinking of you." Consumers can personalize the layout of some cards with a message, photo or a combination of the two. Hallmark.com will address, stamp and mail the cards ordered. The service is free; consumers pay for the postage.

Research

  • Hallmark invests resources and research into understanding the unique needs of those mourning the loss of someone they care about. Research shows that people want to reach out to friends, family and acquaintances who are experiencing bereavement, but often feel they don’t know what to say. The more difficult the situation, the more people turn to Hallmark for the right words.
  • At a 2012 conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling® (ADEC), the oldest interdisciplinary organization in the field of bereavement, attendees noted that ADEC members stress the fact that extended grief is very real. When someone suffers a significant loss, their grief can last for months or even years after the loss.
  • Recent Hallmark research has shown that many sympathy card consumers prefer short, sincere messages that sound like something they would personally say. Many consumers add that they avoid "wordy" cards, or cards that are "flowery," "syrupy" or "preachy."
  • Hallmark research also indicates that cards most in demand are those expressing comfort and hope, and that a sympathy card is more meaningful to the bereaved when it includes a personal note from the sender.

Product History

From the historical perspective, sympathy cards in the 19th century basically were announcements of a person's death – usually a flat, engraved card with the person's names and facts, according to Hallmark archivist and historian Sharman Roberts. "The cards were very somber looking, and you would have known the minute you received a sympathy card that the message was death," Roberts says. "All used lots of black – or maybe an engraved image of a mourner or tombstone. The envelopes were edged in black. There would be no mistaking the intent of the card."

History holds many famous letters written in sympathy. A striking example, found in literature today, is Abraham Lincoln's 1864 letter to a Mrs. Bixby, who had five sons in the Civil War. (Two of her sons gave their lives for their country.)

Hallmark began producing sympathy cards in the 1920s.

In Stores

A selection of sympathy cards are available at Hallmark Gold Crown® stores nationwide and wherever Hallmark products are sold. Use the store locator on Hallmark.com to find the nearest Hallmark Gold Crown store.

Fun Fact

Eighteen-year-old entrepreneur J.C. Hall founded Hallmark in 1910 with little more than two shoeboxes full of postcards. Read more about J.C. Hall.