We are in the holiday season, when many advisory firms send cards and gifts to all their clients. As you do so, though, remember that this is not the “most wonderful time of the year” for some of them. Perhaps a person they love died in the past year (or in the year before—the second holiday season is often just as emotional and difficult as the first, especially if the death happened in the latter part of the year or at holiday time.) Perhaps this is the first holiday post-divorce, or they received a serious diagnosis. Perhaps a family member is in the hospital or scheduled for major surgery. With all the potential for losses, you likely have several grieving clients with mixed emotions. It is vitally important to acknowledge their reality and let them know you care. That’s why every year I offer an array of different suggestions for what you can write in holiday cards.
Start with the card itself. Instead of sending the same “Happy” wishes to all clients, send cards that wish Peace, or that have a lovely scene on the front. Although it’s not required, it’s a nice touch to include a “comfort gift.” This could be:
- a mug with packets of hot cocoa
- a dinner delivered to their house when they don’t have the energy to go out or cook
- a gift certificate for a coffee shop, massage or spa day
- a “hospital care package” with snacks, bottled beverages and puzzle books
- a bottle of their favorite craft beer or wine
- a package of bath salts along with a scented candle
- a Christmas tree ornament with the name or picture of their deceased loved one on it
- any number of other things you believe would be comforting or renewing to those clients in their circumstances.
Here are some suggestions for card texts. Use them as is, modify or combine different ideas, or just use them as a springboard to write your own message.
- (If you gave them a bottle of their favorite beverage): We’re raising a glass together with you in memory of <name>. We will never forget him, especially at holiday time.
- In this holiday season, your experience may seem almost the exact opposite of what is happening around you and what others are expecting from you. I hope you can let go of those expectations and do what makes sense for you. In the whirlwind that surrounds you, rely on those who get it, and take the time you need for yourself. I’m here for you throughout this season and beyond.
- This holiday season, your family is finding your way through new configurations triggered by the divorce. It is no doubt a time of ups and downs as you let go of holidays past and build new traditions. We are right here in your corner through it all. To the extent that it’s possible in these days, we wish you more smiles than tears and moments of peace that comfort your spirit.
- The holidays are a tough time when the one you love cannot be here to share them. I hope the enclosed gift certificate for a massage provides a moment of respite from the craziness and helps to renew your spirit. I’m thinking of you and remembering with you, especially at this time of year.
- I won’t wish you a happy holiday. I wish you an honest holiday, where you’re free to feel whatever you’re feeling at the time without anyone else telling you otherwise. Do what seems right for you. I’m here to support you, stand beside you and help you keep moving forward, day by day.
- The death of a parent is sometimes compared to the cutting of a kite string, setting you adrift. We are here to help you navigate your continued flight through this world. For now, and especially in this holiday season as you learn to celebrate without their physical presence in your home, may you occasionally feel a familiar tug on your “kite” and know that you are never cut off from his/her love.
- For many grieving people, the anticipation of the holidays is worse than the days themselves. As you approach [Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or whatever holiday they celebrate], the best wisdom I’ve heard is to plan how you wish to mark the day. Some people want to be alone; others want to be with friends or family. Some want to be busy all day; others want quiet time to reflect, shed tears, and remember. Follow your own heart. However you choose to spend the days, know that we are here for you as you continue to navigate through milestone days and move into the future.
- May the tears over the absence of <name> be balanced by smiles as you gather with friends and family this holiday season to tell stories, reminisce, and remember the amazing gift that he/she was. We’re remembering with you.
As always, you set yourself apart when you recognize your clients’ losses and support them in ways that most others do not. They will notice, and they will appreciate it. It is the best gift you can give.
Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professions in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.