How to Write an Online Obituary

Colorful stories for modern lives

A beautiful obituary is a final gift to your loved one.

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. If you find it useful, please leave a comment or drop me a line.

All my best,

 Melissa Jayne Kinsey's signature

Ordinary People Frozen in Time

A.L. Wix was just ordinary people—one of those regular chaps who schlep through life showing up, working hard, and trying to do right by their families. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Wix’s obituary, written by George B. Ellis and published 100 years ago today in the Butler Weekly Times and the Bates County Record, in Columbia, Missouri. Just a normal bloke, frozen for all time in the digital ether.

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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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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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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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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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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...

read more

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.

read more

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...

read more

Are Pet Sympathy Cards Absurd?

The seriousness with which we Americans now approach our pets’ passing shows how far we’ve moved away from our formerly god-fearing attitude toward the afterlife. Today, pet sympathy cards have come to seem normal. Think about that. (Full disclosure: I haven’t had a...

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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...

read more

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...

read more

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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!