How to Write an Online Obituary

Toss the template • Tell the story

Obituary Writing That's Not Deadly Dull

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There's no app for that.

When someone you love dies, it feels unbearable for a while. There’s no getting around it.. But writing a fresh, unique obituary makes your grief a tiny bit easier to take. It’s a final gift to your loved one. For ideas, check out this blog or write me: melissa@HowtoWriteanOnlineObit.com. I’d love to help. Below you’ll find info not just on obituaries and obituary templates, but also on grief, hospice care, end-of-life apps, podcasts, and other technology, funeral crowdfunding, and more. Hope you find it useful.

All my best,

 Melissa Jayne Kinsey's signature

 

 

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Want to get started right away? If you’re thinking about using an obituary template, I hope you’ll reconsider. Here’s why. Instead, check out the blog entries on this page, watch a video or two, and download your free Quick-Start Guide to Obituary Writing

For ideas and lots of examples from the best obituaries, get your copy of How to Write an Online Obituary or download just the core chapters. These chapters give you advice on where to begin, what to include, how to come up with a quick draft, and how to turn it into a tribute people will share and remember. Click Learn More for details.

“The author writes in a colorful, cajoling prose that keeps things light…A thorough, accessible obit-creation manual.” 

Kirkus Reviews

Image Orientation for Online Memorials

As you put together a virtual memorial, a gallery or slideshow for an online obituary, a memorial Pinterest board, a family tree, or any other memorial or genealogy project, image optimization is important. One aspect of image optimization is image orientation. If...

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Using Historical Photos in a Virtual Memorial

Whether you're building an online obituary, putting together a full-fledged virtual memorial, creating a mood board, or preparing any other sort of online tribute or genealogy project, supplementing your own images with historical photos and illustrations can help...

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Virtual Memorial Websites and Apps

List and Comparison of Virtual Memorial Cost and Features If you anticipate a death in the family or if you're in the funeral business, you might find it useful to have a list of virtual memorial/digital memorial/digital afterlife/end-of-life websites and apps. The...

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Grandmother’s Obituary Used to Scold Sinners

An obituary shouldn't be a platform for the obituarist's own hatred, shame, or guilt. In an obituary for his grandmother, Joshua Fischer denounces our “selfish desires” and deplores our “lying, stealing, cheating, taking of innocent life, adultery, fornication,...

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Mean Girl: Should Her Obituary Tell the Truth?

If you’re pissed off at your brother or uncle or cousin, have it out mano à mano—or girlo à girlo. If you can’t work it out, take up your grievances with the local prosecutor, your attorney, or your therapist. Save the cheap shots for Thanksgiving dinner, like everyone else.

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Quick-Start Guide to Obituary Writing (Free!)

Why do we dread obituary writing? And why are obituaries so gloomy and colorless? Toss the templates. Write a fresh, original tribute, not a résumé and not an old-fashioned print obituary, or "death notice," as a newspaper would call it. To learn how to write a...

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Do Obituary Templates Shortchange the Dead?

If the idea of filling in a few factoids is a lot more appealing to you than the prospect of starting an obituary from scratch, you’re in good company: According to Google Trends, the search term “obituary template” is way more popular than “obituary writing.” If your loved one had a generic personality and lived a cookie-cutter life, by all means—use a boilerplate template. It’ll capture your loved one’s uniqueness with all the joy of a 1040 form, minus the refund.

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Toss the Template and Tell the Story

The narrative arc of a person's life naturally moves from cradle to grave. We're born, go to school, attend college or learn a trade. Most of us get married. Most of us get divorced. Most of us have children. Some join the military or open a business or change the...

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Is Digital Immortality a Creepy Concept?

Folks say your life stays on the internet forever, as if digital immortality were a creepy or sinister prospect. We've been warned about posting racy Spring Break photos so many times, it's become a cliché. But is it possible that our Facebook and Instagram photos...

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Tragic Death and Obituary Writing

How do you write an obituary for someone who dies a tragic death? This year has given us senseless deaths in abundance. And the more parties are at fault, the more complicated grief can be, since families don’t know where to channel their anger. When people die...

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Making a Mountain Out of a Dime Bag

Last year Ryan Saffrhan was shot to death in New Orleans shortly after trying to sell a dime bag of marijuana in a sketchy part of town. The New Orleans Times-Picayune described the event in a hybrid piece that was part news story, part obituary. The paper quoted...

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Selfies: Today’s Kodak Moment

Last spring I jumped at a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Paris. Ticking all the Travelocity boxes, I tromped off to the Louvre one morning to see the Mona Lisa. Passing through corridor after corridor of imposing canvases and statuary, I finally reached the Mona...

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Crowdfunding Pays for Funerals After Flood

Texas families who lost loved ones or homes in the recent Houston–area flooding are turning to crowdfunding to pay funeral or living expenses. The idea is a good one, but it’s not new. In fact, entrepreneurs have launched crowdfunding venues designed especially for...

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Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Capt. Richard L. “Dick” Martin, Cam Ranh Air Base, Vietnam, 1969, standing next to a C-17 Caribou like the one pictured, which I found among his Vietnam photos. On the back of the color photo, he wrote “Ahh—shade. Somewhere in Vietnam.”

Writing this piece for Slate in 2014 is what first got me thinking about the role of technology in saying goodbye to a loved one. It was really personal to me, especially the last nine or ten paragraphs. Hope you have a moment to read it.

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Regrets…Still Missing Maggie

In my late 20s, in the ladies room of the local animal shelter where I was a volunteer, I overheard an attractive woman in her 50s say she’d decided to move to Scottsdale simply because she liked it there. Wait, who does that? Intrigued, I asked her to meet me for coffee and tell me more.

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Sexism and Stroganoff

The 2013 New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist, infamously opened with a description of her her housewifely charms: ”She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three...

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Destination Funerals Change Scenery

Cremation has made it possible to hold a memorial in a distant location well after a person's death, giving rise to so-called destination funerals. “Just as marriages have moved away from religious buildings and register offices,” says London’s Daily Mail, “now people...

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Dear Johann: Obituary Tradition in Iceland

The people of Iceland have kept up a lovely tradition of writing letter-style obituaries, in which the obituarist writes a message directly to the obituee. These messages are warm and sincere, but they're not sappy or unduly sorrowful. Above all, each letter is...

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Works in the Public Domain: Why Buy the Pig?

Jazzing up a virtual memorial with commercial music and stock photos can quickly relieve you of your cash. But why buy the pig when all you want is a little sausage? Creative works (music, recorded interviews, images, and so on) in the public domain are like free...

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Sample Mindmap for Arthur Ellefsen

A mindmap or wordcloud is a visual collection (or just a list will do the trick) of 10 or 12 specific details about your loved one. Later, you'll create your barf draft simply by turning each of the words and phrases on your mindmap into a sentence. Your wordcloud or...

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Sample Barf Draft for Arthur Ellefsen

Creating a barf draft of an obituary is a quick way to get rid of that blank screen and generate some raw material to work with. For this barf draft, we used the mindmap we created earlier. This barf draft is worthy of the name and proves Hemingway was spot-on when he...

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Transcribing Audio (Yawn!!)

The word “transcription” comes from a Latin word meaning “tedious.” OK, not really, but it should. Transcription is a mind-numbing task, but it’s a necessary one if you have a trove of family audiotapes.

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Please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

 

Click the arrows to browse the video gallery.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

 

Click the arrows to browse the video gallery.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel!