Writing My Parents’ Obituaries (Guided By My Heart)


I’ve never written an obituary before.

Fortunately for me, I’ve just never been given that task yet in my life. Both of my parents are still living, these two being the ones for which I would have to create obituaries. But lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of taking on the task of writing my parents’ obituaries prior to their deaths.

Since I am the oldest of three daughters and considered the “skilled” writer out of our brood, I know that this task will fall upon me when the time comes. I’ve been thinking that now, while they are alive and well, is a better time for me to gather my thoughts of exactly how I want their obituaries to read once they do pass away.

But I’d be lying if I said that this responsibility doesn’t stress me out a bit.

In an article located on Legacy.com, the following is written regarding how to write an obituary: “Obituaries are an important way that we remember the people who matter to us… the obituary is where we record a loved one’s life story to live on forever.”

Record a loved one’s life story. To live on forever. You may now understand the anxiety and pressure I feel to write a darn good obituary for the two most fabulous human beings in the world who raised me and love me more than anything! Because the words I put together in each of their death notices are finite in marking the end of their time on earth and very important!

And how does a writer encompass one’s life story in just a few paragraphs published in a newspaper or on a website? How do I convey to my audience how truly wonderful each of my parents were in just a short public posting? It seems impossible to me to really capture their meaningful lives and valuable traits in such a brief tribute! But, despite the mounding stress regarding this important task and responsibility, I feel compelled to press on and somehow pen the words to paper.

Tips From the Experts

Looking at Legacy.com, a global network of online obituaries, there are actually quite a few articles and resources that will help one in writing the perfect obituary. This website tells me that there are six key parts that must be included in an obituary:

  • The announcement of the death,
  • The sharing of the deceased’s life story,
  • A list of family members closest to the deceased,
  • The funeral/memorial information,
  • Charity information,
  • And, of course, a photo of the individual.

But also on this website, there is a specific article in regards to writing an obituary for one’s parents. It mentions talking about their favorite things, telling family stories, and quoting your parents (just to name a few topics included in the article). And so I am figuring out that there are indeed resources that can help me to formulate the “perfect” obituary for my mother and father. Because let’s face it, such a daunting task may be extremely hard to do without some sort of guidance from the experts!

But then there’s that part of me that just wants to start writing and see where it goes

The writer in me feels strongly compelled to literally just pull out a pen and a piece of lined paper and just let the words come to me, while furiously writing them down. Somehow, I feel that’s how I create my best work. That’s how my most purposeful words are formed together to create my most meaningful pieces. So for me, it seems that the best way for me to go about writing my parents’ obituaries is to let my mind become flooded with memories of my parents, my favorite things about each of them, and the ways I want people to remember the two of them for years to come.

With my pen to paper, I’m reminded of how my parents both worked tireless hours to build our home at the beginning of their marriage before I was even born, and how they were constantly completing projects around the house to better our home and make it more hospitable for their family of three children. I’m reminded of my father’s frugality, and his admirable ability to always save money. I can remember how hard both of my parents worked in their jobs to bring home money in order to provide for their three girls.

I know how passionate both of my parents were (and still are) regarding their Christian faith and how important it was for them to bring their three girls up in the church. I also know how important family always was to both of my parents, and how they put us kids above all else in their lives. These are just a few things that come to mind as I brainstorm regarding the lives of my parents and what words I might say in each of their obituaries.

In researching online, as well as searching inside my heart and soul, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right way to write an obituary.

Sure, there are traditional guides that one might follow in order to hit all the high points of the deceased’s life, but writing the best obituary truly is going to come from one’s heart. Dealing with death is hard. Like really hard. Especially the death of one’s parents. It seems to me that a wise decision to make in dealing with my parents’ deaths before they happen is to begin writing their obituaries now. Writing their obituaries from my heart of hearts is going to make the most meaningful and memorable obituary for each of them, not following some outline on some obituary website. I just need to listen to the writer inside and let my passionate words about my loving parents flow out in abundance.