Many of your clients eagerly anticipate the holidays, when “All is Merry and Bright,” and most financial professionals honor the season by sending out holiday greetings. Yet what if a client’s family member died this year?
It is true that for some people the holidays provide a welcome diversion of gatherings and social activities. Yet most grieving people are on a holiday roller coaster as emotions go up, down and all over the place. The void is inescapable when mistletoe hangs everywhere, Elvis is singing, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you,” mothers are lighting the candles on the menorah, and the family gathering holds a visibly empty chair. In the northern hemisphere, the shorter and darker days only emphasize the bleakness. It can be particularly difficult for people who receive cards addressed to their deceased loved one, or they receive phone calls from people who don’t yet know what happened.
Fortunately, you have an advantage because you already know whether a client lost a loved one. Yet, if you send a holiday card declaring happiness and joy, it lets them know you don’t understand at all. You join the rest of society in expecting them to paste on a smiley face and “be happy for the sake of the season.” Your card heads straight to the trash, never to be remembered.
Instead, you can choose to offer authenticity and genuine comfort. The first step is to select a card that does not say Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. Choose one that either has no words or that wishes peace or hope. Consider including a gift card for a cup of coffee, a movie, a massage or something else comforting. Then include a handwritten note inside. Here are some possibilities:
“Wishing you Happy Holidays at a time like this seems hollow. Instead, I wish you peace. I wish you healing. I wish you hope.”
“During the holiday season, [name]’s absence is sure to be painful. It may be made even worse because most of the 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 give you some ideas to go on so you can create personalized holiday cards that support your clients in ways that others don’t. They will notice, and they will deeply appreciate it.
Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professionals to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.