Why You Should Write Your Own Obituary
At one of my prior jobs, a partner’s wife had already written the obituary for her husband long before he passed away. It seemed unusual because before then I had always thought of obituaries being written with all the general factoids of a person’s life after they died. But it made sense. It’s smart getting a lot of these estate planning details in order. I also think of it as a good way of doing a check to see how I’d want to be portrayed to others. If there are accomplishments I’m proud of, those are things that can be listed in the obituary instead of just the standard facts of where I went to school or the town where I grew up.
Thinking more about this, I reached out to my sister to get her thoughts on how she put together my mom’s obituary.
She said she couldn’t remember anything about writing our mom’s obituary. All the drama surrounding her death and how life unfolded after made her mind blank out on a lot of things. She remembers getting a still image of our mom smiling from a video she took of her blowing dandelion seeds when my mom last visited my sister in Montana. Our mom hated having her picture taken and finding a current picture was challenging!
Similar to how estate planning is really done for the benefit of the family that you leave behind, so they know what to do with your assets and belongings, having your obituary written also eases this burden on your loved ones. Having the obituary drafted means one less monumental task to complete so family members can take the needed time to go through the grieving process. An obituary is also time-sensitive since it will detail the funeral arrangements. Typically, an obituary is posted within a week of death and at least three days before the funeral. That’s a lot to put together in a short time, so it’s understandable why my sister doesn’t recall the detail.
Crafting the obituary in advance also benefits the person who died to shape how they are remembered. It’s your final chance to express who you are and share your accomplishments and achievements and convey what is important to you. Obituaries don’t just speak to that singular moment of death and then disappear–they are the lasting words that generations down the road will read to learn about who you were while you were alive. In addition, writing your obituary while you have time to be thoughtful and deliberate about the words you write will always speak from the heart, so it’s more meaningful and memorable, especially to your loved ones and the people who are or who will be impacted by your actions in life.
To get started, here is a list of questions to spark ideas to help you give more color to your obituary.
- Describe some of your important relationships.
- What are you most proud of?
- How would you describe yourself?
- Describe something most people don’t know about you.
- What are your favorite memories or stories from work, childhood, college, with family members, etc?
- What is something still on your bucket list you are trying to complete?
- What would you most like to be remembered for?
- What interests, hobbies, causes, etc. are you passionate about?
Addressing your own death may be difficult for some people, I understand that. Sometimes this is easily met with humor to deflect the topic or outright denial. But before you dismiss this exercise, think about the important relationships in your life and how the obituary as another way to communicate your story can be a gift. Contributing to your own obituary provides an everlasting reminder of the amazing person you are.