Do I Have to Write an Obituary?
When a loved one dies, it is customary to write an obituary to be published in the local paper, on the funeral home website, or on social media. This brief overview of the deceased’s life not only informs people of the death (and the memorial service and/or funeral), but also commemorates things like careers, awards, education, children, and grandchildren.
Although it is relatively low cost to write and place an obituary (especially on a funeral home website or Facebook page, where it is free), not everyone wishes to do so. Obituaries tend to feed the curious and invite commentary/feedback from people you might not wish to hear from at this difficult time. They provide personal details the deceased may have preferred to keep private. You might also find it difficult to find the right words, and would rather place your focus elsewhere.
All of these are perfectly valid reasons not to write an obituary—and if you wish to skip this step, you have every right to do so. However, by not placing a public announcement of the death, it is possible that you will get questions from distant relatives or friends who are curious about the details. If you would like to forgo the formal obituary but still let others know about the death, here are a few ideas how.
- Phone Tree: Phone trees are not as popular nowadays as they were before the internet, but if you want to notify friends, relatives, and community members of a death, you can start one. Ask one person to call three people, and then have each of those three people pass on the news to three more. In this way, you can spread the word without making more than one painful phone call.
- Online Posting: Oftentimes, posting a message on a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram page is sufficient. Notify the deceased’s followers of the news and ask that they respect your privacy at this time. Most people will be willing to do so (though you may want to turn the comments off).
- Death Announcements: You might not want to write an obituary because you are taking a more formal step to invite people to the funeral and/or notify them of the death. Although it is not as common to send death announcements (which are typically obituaries printed on cards and sent to friends and relatives), these can provide a nice, personal touch.
- Church/Community Announcement: A brief announcement at a church meeting or service, a community meeting, a workplace meeting, or other public place can easily replace an obituary. You can ask that the person in charge notify others of the deceased’s passing and what (if anything) they can do/send to show support.
- Death Certificate: Although there is no law about writing an obituary, there is one about filing a death certificate with the state’s Office of Vital Statistics. This information, which is a matter of public record, is often considered sufficient for those wishing to maintain their privacy.
- Do Nothing: It is not your job to support others in their loss, no matter how much it might feel that way. If you would like to skip the obituary, simply do so and move forward in your grief however you can. Although you might hear comments or get questions, you can sidestep them by saying it was what your loved one wished.
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