Obituary writers share their secrets on How to Write a Great Obituary

Great title makes you want to read this obituary

My brother Joe recently sent me an  article about how to write an obituary. The article was an interesting interview of two professional obituary writers, Maureen O’Donnell and Linnea Crowther who both write obituaries for the Chicago Sun-Times and

I thought my readers would find it helpful to hear what professional obituary writers suggest when writing a memorable obituary.

They said to ask yourself, What is something about the deceased that no one else knows, or that would surprise people? It was suggested to look for the “Rosebud”—the thing that was important to the deceased that made them tick.

Canadian journalist Tom Hawthorn suggests you ask about a decisive moment—something that set the person on their path in life. Maybe they were inspired by a teacher who was a nun, for example, and they decided to join a convent. And, I ask about their passions, be it a good cigar, their love for French bulldogs, their appreciation for Denzel Washington, or their ownership of Detroit muscle cars.

And I even ask about noteworthy physical attributes. Were they known for a crushing handshake? Their penchant for wearing purple? Their 80 pairs of high heels? And sometimes I ask about their favorite places, be it an island in the Caribbean or at the birdfeeders in their backyard.

I guess I could summarize by saying I ask a lot of general questions that lead me to the specific. If they were a phenomenal cook, I even ask for a recipe or two, and we’ll reprint that.

I hope by reading these suggestions from the professionals you are inspired to think a bit outside the norm and let yourself be a little creative. The goal is to let your reader have a feeling of who your loved one was, what made them special and how they will be remembered quirks and all.

At the end of the article they asked what the writers have learned from writing obituaries and here is what they said:

Maureen O’Donnell said, from writing obituaries, I think I’ve learned not to put things off. So many people I’ve written about had a dream trip they wanted to take, but they never got the chance to do it.

Linnea Crowther said, my wisdom learned from this work is similar to Maureen’s—do the things you want to do now, so you won’t regret not doing them at the end of your life.

I’m heading off to Vietnam next week to build a house for Habitat for Humanity something I’ve always wanted to do. When asked to join the group I said to myself, if not now, when? I guess I’ve taken their advice not to put off what you want to do.

Here are some samples of well written obituaries.

Click here to find more details on how to write an obituary.

Read full article from professional obituary writers here 

If you want to know how to write a eulogy use this link.

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