Not Just a Book Review: There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

I have been a huge fan of Emily McDowell’s empathy cards over recent years – and have, unfortunately, had cause to send them to a number of friends who’ve been going through tough times.  I then saw that Emily had written a book – along with her friend Kelsey Crowe – the title being pretty self explanatory!


I read the Amazon blurb and thought I’d pre order it for my Kindle some months ago.

“The creator of the viral hit “Empathy Cards” teams up with a compassion expert to produce a visually stunning and groundbreaking illustrated guide to help you increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to offer comfort and support when someone you know is in pain.

When someone you know is hurting, you want to let her know that you care. But many people don’t know what words to use—or are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This thoughtful, instructive guide, from empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting card maverick Emily McDowell, blends well-researched, actionable advice with the no-nonsense humor and the signature illustration style of McDowell’s immensely popular Empathy Cards, to help you feel confident in connecting with anyone experiencing grief, loss, illness, or any other difficult situation.

Written in a how-to, relatable, we’ve-all-been-that-deer-in-the-headlights kind of way, There Is No Good Card for This isn’t a spiritual treatise on how to make you a better person or a scientific argument about why compassion matters. It is a helpful illustrated guide to effective compassion that takes you, step by step by step, past the paralysis of thinking about someone in a difficult time to actually doing something (or nothing) with good judgment instead of fear.

There Is No Good Card for This features workbook exercises, sample dialogs, and real-life examples from Dr. Crowe’s research, including her popular “Empathy Bootcamps” that give people tools for building relationships when it really counts. Whether it’s a coworker whose mother has died, a neighbor whose husband has been in a car accident, or a friend who is seriously ill, There Is No Good Card for This teaches you how to be the best friend you can be to someone in need.”

I would like to think that I’m pretty empathetic anyway.  My husband would probably say you can forget the ’em’ with the amount I get upset about the situations friends and relatives find themselves in.  But I have sent cards (Ms McDowell’s, obviously!)  / made meals (in fact my sausage casserole – or rather one of the sausage casseroles from this cookbook – is now known as the village ‘cancer casserole’) / helped  out with childcare and other jobs – but still, it’s so hard to know what to say and do when family / friends / acquaintances are going through a tough time.

Then between pre ordering this, and it arriving on my Kindle, my Aunt and one of my best friends were diagnosed with cancer.  Rubbish.  So the book had even more resonance when I started to read it.

Now I should hold my hands up at this point and make a confession – the first chapter has quite a lot of activities to do that seem quite ‘American’ and in true British style (and because I was reading it in bed without a pen and paper and burning materials to hand) I kind of skipped over the activities (although read it thoroughly).  Maybe I should head back to them at some point………

A good chunk of it was about being a good listener – and it really made me stop and think.  I do listen – but I’m often also over processing at the same time and thinking about what I should respond.  I’m definitely planning for more silences in the future (in a good way!)

Another thing that resonated with me was about the Empathy Menu.  Saying that there are loads of different roles that you can fulfill when helping someone through a crisis – and you don’t have to personally do all of them.  I am a control freak, who likes to try and be all things to all things people.  I don’t need to be.  And I need to ‘put my own oxygen mask on first’.  Definite learning points for Libby!  It also reminded me of the empathy card I gave to my friend last week:


As she got to the bit that said ‘cleaning your place’ she laughed out loud and pointed out that she was the one with breast cancer, and I didn’t need to have a personality transplant – but then when she opened it I’d added the caveat inside that I’d send a cleaner round not do it myself!! #thethoughtthatcounts

Another thing that resonated was offering to help people.  As the book pointed out a generic ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’ whilst great in principle – is often not the most helpful thing. People going through a crisis don’t need to be worrying about what you could do for them.  You just need to do something.  I recall a friend whose son died last year saying exactly that – her brain was too full of what her child was going through to worry who could make what meal etc.  And when I had a much less significant crisis last summer when my husband hurt his thumb lots of people said ‘let us know if there’s anything we can do?’ – but she just said ‘I’m coming round now to tidy up for you’ and took charge, with my sister, of clearing up the empties (there were a lot!) and the general state of the house whilst I was at the hospital with my husband in surgery.

The book says it takes a whole village to care.  I am so pleased that the village we live in is so caring.  It seems to have had a run of crises over recent years – but every time, we villagers strap on our big girl pants and help each other out.  It makes me proud to call this little part of Worcestershire home.

I would recommend this book to anyone  – in fact I’d quite like to email the link to certain people, but they may not take it as it’s intended (or they may take it as intended and be offended!) – but most definitely worth a read.

Let’s just hope we don’t have too many more situations to apply it to in 2017……………






Guest Blog: What is strength?

Last year my lovely friend Emily wrote a Guest Blog. Today she sent me an email with what you’re about to read, and asked if I wanted to share it.  I couldn’t be more proud to share it with you all, and honoured that Em asked me to post it.

Lots of love to Emily – and Finlay. xx

What is strength?

An odd subject for a blog I grant you, but an issue that has been buzzing around my head just lately – begging to be addressed.  So here we go…

I like to think I am a fairly strong person.  Before children, when I was young, carefree and drinking wine with my work colleagues in various London bars, I used to think of strength as just physical.  Can I lift that heavy box?  Of course.  Can I re-arrange a conference room, moving various chairs and tables? Hell yes!  Can I renovate a dilapidated house, stripping wallpaper and knocking down walls?  No problemo!

Strength was measured by exertion.  My working hours were long, my social life packed.  I thought I was busy.  And then I had kids…

A 28 hour labour will make you reassess strength.  Now I discovered that any physical tiredness I once felt before kids was nothing compared to the intense toil of motherhood.  Sleepless nights, sore leaky boobs, the drain of the emotion that comes with being a mum. And the worry!  How many situations of impending doom can one person imagine?  What if he falls out of the open car window as we are driving along.  Hang on, have I even put him in the car?  What if a dog attacks him when we are at the local park?  And on, and on.  Endlessly.  Now strength was measured mentally.  Emotionally.  Could I get through another day without sobbing at a really intense episode of Bob the Builder?  Unlikely.  Sometimes Bob’s deadlines are really cutting it fine!

Life with children is fun, full and hectic!  Soft-play centres are my new drinking establishments of choice (often tea and a biscuit).  Football on a Sunday my new overtime.  My strength comes from my children, shuttling them to various activities, seeing them have a good time.  Life is pretty great.

But this last year has tested my strength even more.  Just twelve short months ago, a very close friend was dealt the most devastating of news.  Her gorgeous little boy, Finlay was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma Brain Tumour.  Fin has gone through brain surgery twice, has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a clinical trial.  He is about to embark on a second round of gruelling radiotherapy and he is, quite simply, my new hero.  My new definition of strength.

Because throughout this horrible journey, Fin has been truly amazing.  He is brave – overcoming his fear of cannulas; funny –  ‘Why can’t I eat white bread!?’;  and truly inspirational – he has raised over £35K including gift aid for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research and also broken a Guinness World Record!  And still he goes to school, trains for his black belt in karate and continues to be a kind and caring little boy. Oh, and did I mention the Pride of Britain nomination?  Put simply – He rocks!

Of course, there have been dark moments.  This is hell on earth and any parent’s worst nightmare, but during this most horrific of times there have also been moments of sheer beauty – ones that will be treasured forever.  Acts of kindness, generosity and friendship that have gone above and beyond.  People are good, and I have seen that goodness in abundance.

Just recently I asked my lovely Facebook friends to donate just £1 each to try and boost Fin’s fundraising to over the £30k mark.  And I was staggered at the response.  Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years donated.  Colleagues who don’t know Fin, but who know me, digging deep, helping him to smash his target! Thank you my lovely ones – your kindness is appreciated more than you know.  And this got me thinking again about strength and what it really means.

Because ultimately, more and more, I realise that strength comes from love.  I worked hard at my career, because I loved my job.  I got through a gruelling birth and the pitfalls of parenting because I love my children.  And our love for Finlay makes him strong.  And he is loved more than he will ever know.

There is still a long way to go for Fin on his journey.  Every day brings extreme highs and lows – like the worst rollercoaster in the entire world.  Ever.  But his amazing family will continue to fight for him, because they love him.  As friends, we will continue to support them, because we love them.  And if you are reading this, you can help too.  You can #fundthefight to help find a cure for horrible brain cancer, and make sure that no other family, no other lovely children like Fin, have to prove how amazingly strong they are.

You can donate any amount to Fin’s fund here and you can follow his journey on his Facebook page.

Thank you xxx