After the death of a close friend, I searched the paper each morning for her obituary. I never found it. My friend was very accomplished; she was an innovator in her field and a philanthropist and she made a real difference in this world. I’m not sure why it was so important for me to relentlessly search; maybe I needed the written validation of her death or this was just part of my grieving process.

The primary purpose of an obituary is to announce the news of a death. It is an impossible task, even with email, Facebook, and other forms of social media, to reach the entire community that may be interested in a passing. How can we know every business associate, former classmate, colleague, or the tradespeople that the deceased may have touched? When I finally asked my friend’s husband why there was no obituary he said, “Everyone who needed to know knew.”

While the primary purpose of an obituary is to inform the community of a death, they often tell a story about the deceased. They might list the date of birth, date and cause of death, names of the immediate family, and an employment history. They often include education, cities and towns where the deceased lived, as well as personal attributes, detailing the accomplishments and contributions that made up the essence of the deceased. The obituary often includes the date and location of funeral rituals along with family requests regarding flowers and donations.

Cost can be a factor in whether the bereaved choose to publish an obituary. Rates vary by region, city, town, and by the size of the publication. The length of the obituary and inclusion of a photo will factor into the cost. 

It pays to check the publications in your area as they might publish an obituary at no cost. My local paper publishes a news obituary for locals with certain criteria. The deceased must have lived in the area a significant part of their lives, usually at least twenty uninterrupted years, and they must have had extensive involvement in the community through employment, charitable, or religious involvement. These news obituaries announce the death but give no information about funeral rituals.

There was a death in my community this week and I learned of it by email. I looked for the obituary and found once again that there was none. Is this a trend? Are we now using electronic communications and social media to announce deaths? Will the use of obituaries decline? I hope not, but I guess only time will tell.   

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Photo: obit Ellen Lynch via photopin (license)

Views: 629


You need to be a member of LegacyConnect to add comments!

Join LegacyConnect

Comment by DJ on July 21, 2015 at 3:59pm
Whereas obituaries may be for the living today, they may be even more precious for the living tomorrow - researching their ancestors. If we think only of today, perhaps we do know everyone who needs/wants to be informed; however we don't know who in the future needs/wants to be informed.
For some reason I became interested in our respective ancestries after my wife died... The dirth of information makes it difficult - the few obituaries I found have been so rewarding.
Comment by MJ Tyler on July 2, 2015 at 4:35pm

You have certainly given me something to think about. Up until 4 and a half months ago, my daughter would have been in charge of that. She knew I wanted to be cremated and I didn't see the need for anything beyond that (not even an obituary), but since she was the sole beneficiary of my life insurance policy I gave her the option of doing whatever she felt would comfort her.

Unfortunately her own life ended suddenly, in a very tragic manner, just 4 and a half months ago. I am a widow, but I have been engaged to an absolutely wonderful man for about 2 and a half years. Since I have serious health issues, we have had to discuss what my preferences are because this job will fall to him now. Since I am still reeling from the sensless death of my beautiful daughter (and also my very best friend) I have told him I don't want anything at all. I don't even want anyone notified of my death until after I have been cremated and he has scattered some of my ashes in a short list of places I have given him. He said he will do whatever I want but now that I have read your post, I wonder if that is selfish of me. You certainly have given me something to think about.

Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 1, 2015 at 11:43am

Andrew - we share the same sentiments!

Comment by Andrew McCullough on July 1, 2015 at 11:34am

I really struggled to write my late partner's obituary.  I solicited help from his family and found that was akin to pulling teeth.  Eventually I was able to cobble together something less dates & facts timeline-oriented and more Tim-esque, describing how they felt about him and using their own words (when I could get them to send me something, anything). 

It could be fear that keeps us from writing obituaries: facing immediate social media criticism, not being prepared to do the person justice, not getting details correct, not being able to undo mistakes, not wanting to face the fact someone we love truly has died. 

Locally, our remaining print newspapers charge such exorbitant rates to post an obituary (irony?) that they're not a prudent outlet.  Fortunately the funeral home offered me a free / permanent online memorial page - I only needed to provide the content and any photos electronically, the funeral director who assisted me in the arrangements did the actual posting work.  I haven't revisited that page in a few months but I don't have this compelling feeling to do so for fear of it disappearing the way newspaper clippings eventually do.

The adage about funerals being for the living holds true with obituaries - they don't benefit the deceased but they do give us a place to say someone mattered and is not forgotten. 

Latest Conversations

aubri is now a member of LegacyConnect
Sep 16
Leonardo Villalobos is now a member of LegacyConnect
Sep 13
Cyprian Otieno liked elyse's photo
Sep 7
Profile IconAnna DeRosier, Joy, Cyprian Otieno and 1 more joined LegacyConnect
Sep 7

Community Guidelines

Please be respectful of others. For more information, read our Community Guidelines.

Follow Legacy

© 2021   Created by   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service