Write Your Own Obituary

How to write an obituary of your own…
It is so important to make plans for you own death.

Wow…now there is a cheery way to start a blog article.  But I have some experience with this subject.  I have had so many people ask me to help make final plans.  So I decided to put down some ideas for those who are pre-planning.When my brother died at 24, we had a terrible time getting an obituary together.  Finding all the facts and dates is hard enough.  Trying to sum up your brother’s life and legacy in 250 words or less by Wednesday at 2 is nearly impossible.When Mom started making her final arrangements, we sat down together and she wrote her own obituary.   She and I sat down and had a long conversation.  We just wrote a basic obit from top to bottom.  Then she decided what was most important to her.  She had been married and divorced twice.  She had kids who came with a husband and had buried one son.  These are all sticky situations to address, especially for a daughter.  I wanted her to feel like her life was well represented.

She and I wrote down all the dates and highlights, in her own words.  Then we set it aside.  When the time came, I got the obituary out of the file, and added my own eulogy to the end, and I was done.  I submitted an abbreviated version to the paper and the full length version to the funeral home website.  This relieved so much stress at a very hard time.  Eliminating busy jobs made the funeral week so much easier.

Writing your own obituary may sound a bit creepy, but it is one of the kindest acts you can do for your family.

  • Start with the facts. Write your name as you want it stated. Write down the dates and places that are key. Born date and where.  Graduated date and where.  Married date and where. Remarried when and where.  Get all the statistical data on paper.
  • Look at a few obits in the paper.  What do you like about them.  What sounds weird.  Remember that this is yours.  It is the notice to your friends about the end of your life.  It should reflect your personality, not a cookie cutter template.
  • Choose a picture.  My mom chose a picture from my brother’s wedding.  She looked good and happy.  The last year of her life she lost about 70 lbs.   People didn’t recognize her easily, so she chose a picture that was one people would know her in the paper.  I always giggle when people choose a graduation photo, when they died at 92…who’s gonna recognize them?
  • Now write out your life story in a page or two. ( I was born at a very young age…). Seriously, use the facts you wrote out to write a story that includes born, schools, marriages, divorces, deaths, children, defining moments and favorite jobs and hobbies.
  • Now set it aside for a couple of days.  
  • Think about what are the things you want to be remembered for.  What really defines you.  Is it the facts and figures? Is it the relationships?  Is it the tragedy?  You need to decide what the tone of this farewell will be.
  • With the tone of your life in your mind, attack your story.  Mark out the things that are just stuff and leave the things that are the essence of you. I recommend keeping born and graduation location and dates.  It will help people who haven’t seen you in a while, recognize you.  The rest is all you.
  • You should be able to get it down to about a thousand words or less.  That is your long version.  When you die, the funeral home usually has a website that families can put an obit on.  This is a great service for the grieving.
  • Now you have to write the newspaper version.  The paper usually charge by the word, so be brief.  Write the facts that will help people recognize you.  Where you were born, went to school, who your kids are, who your parents are.  Where you currently work. Then write out died of ————-at the age of ————-on-/-/–.  Services will be held at ——– and interment will follow at ———–.  This is a place holder.  You should be able to get down to about 250 words.  Now you are done.
  • As a cover letter, write down the places that you want the obit sent to.  It may be the town you live in now, where you where raised, where your vacation home is.  You decide who you want notified with this.
  • Remember in your funeral planning to make provisions for the cost of this.  Our local paper charged me $1 per word in the obit write-up.  Everyplace is different.  Don’t write it solely on cost but do keep it in mind.

This is not an easy task, but writing your own obituary is a gift to your family and friends.


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