It is time to send out holiday greetings to clients, but how should advisors handle sending out cards to those who have lost family members this year?

For them, receiving “happy holidays” salutations may be a painful reminder of their recent loss.

Advisors who sends cards wishing happiness are signaling that they treat their clients generically. It may even make clients think that their advisors don’t understand at all and are joining the rest of society in expecting them to paste on a smiley face and be happy for the sake of the season. 

Either way, the card heads straight to the trash.


Instead, advisors can offer authenticity and genuine comfort, distinguishing themselves and helping clients at the same time.

The first step is to choose a card that doesn’t say “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” etc. Choose one that either has no words or that wishes peace or hope, and then include a handwritten note inside.

Here is one possibility: “Wishing you happy holidays at a time like this seems hollow. Instead, I wish you peace. I wish you healing. I wish you hope.”

Consider including a gift card for a cup of coffee, a movie, a massage or something else comforting with a note that says, “During the holiday season, [name]’s absence is sure to be painful. It may be made even worse because most people around you will be afraid to say [his/her] name for fear of making you sad. I know I can’t make that void disappear, but I hope you can at least catch a moment of respite with the enclosed gift card. I am thinking of you and remembering [name], especially now.”

Another option: “The holidays will bring a mix of emotions as you remember the happy times with [name] and yet mourn [his/her] absence. I hope you can allow yourself to experience it in your own way, acknowledging the happy and the sad, so you can come out on the other side with greater hope and peace. I’ll call you soon to check in and see how it’s going.”

Or: “During this holiday time, I wish you moments of lightness in the midst of the pain. I wish you companionship of beloved people in the midst of the loneliness. I wish you healing as you learn to survive these days. Most of all, I wish you peace.”

Or: “You may find that few people understand what you experience during this holiday season. Try to be patient with yourself and others, as you find your way through the ups and downs it will surely bring. In the meantime, do what seems right to you, and take care of yourself. Concentrate on what is most important, and know that I am here for you.”

This should provide some ideas to create personalized holiday cards that support grieving clients in ways that others don’t. Clients will take notice, and they will deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness.

Amy Florian is chief executive of Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Corgenius Inc., which teaches professionals how to deal with grieving clients.

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