How to Write Your Own Obituary

Have you ever thought about how your obituary might read? There are probably certain parts of your story that you hope the world will remember – and maybe some you would rather not broadcast. Some people like eulogy obituaries (the wordy, vulnerable, humorous types), whereas others want just the facts. Other considerations: should your cause of death be a secret? Do you want certain family members omitted from the rememberances? Do you have a particular skill or trait that you hope people will recall? What about the photo(s)—do you want to be remembered at a certain age, or as you were in your final days?

If you firmly do NOT want an obituary – do the right people know that?

A typical obituary has three parts: the beginning, which states basic facts about the decedent; the middle, which talks about the person’s life; and the end, which covers those left behind.

Unfortunately, many times the people left to write the obituary may not know the details of the decedent’s life. And they may be so overcome with grief that they just aren’t able to do much. Furthermore, not everyone is a good writer.

Some people find it very gratifying to go through the process of writing their own obituary. It allows them to reflect on their lives and think about what they consider important. It’s an opportunity to shape the final story and share it with others. You may find peace of mind that you have said what you wanted to say.

You can start by reading the obituaries in your local newspapers or online. Make notes of the ones you like. Figure out what it is you like about them – is there a certain tone or style that speaks to you?

Most obituaries are short, say 200-500 words, because they cost money to publish. However, that may not be long enough to express the things you want to express. It’s generally easier to include more in your drafts, then make it more concise in later drafts.

Some writing prompts that may help you get started:

• What has life meant to you?
• What is your favorite memory?
• What are you most proud of?
• What are your best character traits?
• What legacy are you leaving behind?
• How would you like your memory honored?

If you’re not interested in writing your own obituary, at least consider making noting of some of the key facts that someone can use to help shape the final draft. These are also details that are generally required to obtain a death certificate. Here are some key fields:

  • Full Name Date of Birth
  • Birthplace Residence
  • Were you in Armed Services?
  • Married □ Married, but separated □ Widowed □ Divorced □ Never Married □ Unknown □ Registered Domestic Partner □
  • Surviving Spouse/Partner Name (include maiden name)
  • Father’s Name (first, middle, last)
  • Mother’s Name (Prior to 1st marriage: first, middle, last)
  • Names of Children
  • Other family or friends you would like referenced
  • Education Information (which schools, degrees earned)
  • Race Ancestry (French/English/etc.)
  • Usual Occupation (Type of work done during most of life)
  • Kind of Business/ Industry
  • What are the accomplishments/skills/work you hope people remember about you?
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