The obituary should be more of a true tribute, a chance for you to share about your life, accomplishments, and surviving family members. And speaking practically, it would not be possible to pre-write a death notice.
Think back on the last funeral or memorial service you went to. Remember when their loved ones stood at the podium in front of everyone? They may have read a poem, sang a song, or… read a eulogy they wrote? The eulogy would be full of memories, praise, and kind words. Eulogies are a way for loved ones who are left behind to gain some closure; truly a unique and important part of the service. While you could write your own eulogy, it is also a way for others to give tribute to the impact you had on their lives and the lives of others.
Condolences and meaningful sympathy messages are also written about the deceased, but those are specifically crafted for the surviving loved ones.
One of the personal benefits of writing your own obituary is that it can be a powerful self-discovery activity, one that is both therapeutic and personally challenging. You have the opportunity to give others a glimpse of the person you really are, and it can also be a legacy you can pass onto your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
To make your obituary as unique as you are, it may help to read other thoughtful, clever, or even humorous write-ups from others who decided to write their own obituaries before they died. Do a quick Google search for unique obituaries, or go to your local bookstore to find compilations of memorable obituaries that you might enjoy reading.
This may surprise you, but obituary writers are kind of a league of their own—they even have their own conferences and events—and some of them have come out with intriguing books about all of the different incredible stories they’ve had the opportunity to tell through obituary writing.
To get some inspiration for writing your own obituary, try to read a few. You might even like to think of a famous celebrity who may have recently died—their obituaries are worth reading, too.
Your obituary has the opportunity to show what you want to be remembered for. This could be your personality, devotion to family, or your work as a volunteer. Beyond achievements, it can also show your unique qualities as a person. It really can be whatever you want it to be.
Here are some writing prompts to help with inspiration. You can use these to journal first, and then decide if you want to include them later.
This could be anything you’ve done in your life that you want to remember, such as joining the military, choosing a specific career path, living in a foreign country, or quite the opposite—never moving out of your hometown.
What events in your life made it extra special? Was it a wonderful spouse, having a dozen grandchildren, being part of a special community, or learning a unique trade?
What do you wish you had (or hadn't!) tried? Maybe it was something you were afraid of, like skydiving or taking a hot air balloon ride, or maybe you wish you’d never moved away from the city you lived in when you were 30. Why is this important to you?
Use these prompts to get your juices flowing. Write down memories, people, places, and experiences. You don’t have to decide what's in your obituary, just write freely. You might even decide to write a memoir out of it!
“Today I am happy and I am dancing. Probably naked.”
“He was a comic book aficionado, a pop-culture encyclopedia and always the most fun person at any party.”
“Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience, and his ashes will be kept around as long as they match the décor.”
“His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.”
Just like writing a eulogy or being part of a funeral service, it is important that your family takes steps to grieve after you pass. Receiving sympathy and love from others at a memorial service, for example, can be an important part of what is called the “acute loss period” of grief. Remember, the funeral services are really about the people left behind after you pass, to help them grieve, get support and find closure.
Here at Morrissett, we’ve seen many families come and go through funeral services and grave-side burials, or even just come to collect their loved one’s ashes. Something we have never heard a family say is, “I wish they hadn’t preplanned.”
So while you are writing your obituary, think about having a special talk with your loved ones to explain to them your wishes—and allow them some time to express their wishes of how they would like to honor you after you pass.
Now that you have some direction on writing your own obituary, you can start the process today. If you want to go beyond this one simple step in easing your family’s burden when you pass, you can learn the complete pre-planning process.
Morrissett offers free preplanning sessions. This allows you to take control of your entire funeral process and eases the burden on your family.