Tuesday, August 22, 2017

4 Tips on Writing Your Own Obituary

Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.

 – Brenda Ueland

How is our story told? Sometimes, the only opportunity we have is through an inch-high notice in the newspaper – an obituary – which may be written during the throes of grief by our families.

Writing your own obituary can be difficult. After all, it’s “The Last Hurrah” and, for most of us, may be the only time we’re mentioned in the newspaper. Do you really want it to be nothing more than your birth and death date, funeral arrangements and names of close family?

Imagine if you could tell your own story. If you could:

Ø have the opportunity to say what you want to say about yourself.

Ø include items that your family may not be aware of or have forgotten.

Ø alleviate some of the stress of your death for your family.

Ø have your wishes honored.

Ø exhibit your personality instead of a resume.

Ø leave a lasting legacy for your descendants.

How do you write an obituary? By creating a document that reflects who you really are. Here are four tips to get you started:

1.   Face your own mortality

Most people who attend my classes to write their own obituary are courageous and genuine and caring. They realize that death is just part of living and that by taking care of their business, they are relieving their loved ones of a sad duty. They’re willing to take some of the burden away by documenting the important things so their family doesn’t have to.

2.   Gather information

A lovely lady who is a true force to be reckoned with in my home town decided to write her obituary and asked me to help. She had scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings and pictures that documented her years as a community leader and business owner. We sat together and, as I took notes, we laughed and cried over her accomplishments, the foremost of which was her great pride in her sons.
She knew that her loved ones may not easily and quickly find all the information they’d need to create the massive obituary she wants placed in the paper, so we put it into order for them. They won’t have to worry about missing something important when the time comes.

Your own endeavors may not include speaking before Congress, as hers does. But no matter what you have accomplished, your family will find it important.

3.   Just do it

We’d all like to think that we’re immortal or that ‘I have plenty of time’. But chances are that neither are true. I suggest that today is the day for you to sit down and write down your thoughts.

Take your time. Write some today and some tomorrow.

Think about the things that are important to you. The people you loved. The achievements that make you proud. The things you’d like to be remembered for.

These are the things that people want to know about you, now and in the future.

4.   Final tips

Don’t worry that whatever you write isn’t perfect. You’re not perfect either.

Make it real. Make it sincere. Make it you.

Write as you feel comfortable, like you’re sitting across the table from someone you love, telling them the story of your life. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re philosophical, be philosophical. But be yourself, no matter what.

Don’t worry about length. Write what you want. It can be shortened for the newspaper later.

Remember, this may be the greatest gift you can leave your family. And, it allows you to tell the world how incomparable your life actually was.

Have you written your own obituary? Why not?

I wish to express gratitude to the giants whose shoulders I stand on and who taught me so much about the writing craft. I would list every one, if it were only possible.

@sarahsallyhamer  #writeyourownobituary! #legacywriting #youareincomparable

Sarah (Sally) Hamer is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick'. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres - mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction – she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.
A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twelve years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors.
You can find her at www.sallyhamer.blogspot.com or on Twitter @sarahsallyhamer


  1. Thanks for the great post with a road map. Everyone should establish a record of who they are--while they can do so. It's never too early for a bucket list, and it's never too early to write your obituary, legacy letters, and memoir. Last week I found out one of my cousins, on my mother's side. founded the first intensive cardio-vascular training in Georgia. A wing at one of our best hospitals in Atlanta is named for him. When we get new info about our family we need to pass it on to our children. Now is the time to get started. The clock is ticking.

  2. You're exactly right, Jackie. How great that you discovered something about your family and can pass it on!

    Thanks for the comment.