Dealing with Opioid Overdose in an Obituary

Dealing with Opioid Overdose in an Obituary

Every day, a shattered family posts an obituary for a loved one lost to a drug overdose. Today it’s David Mehring’s family in Ohio. David, 47, was “caught up in the Cleveland drug epidemic and perished from an accidental heroin overdose.” In choosing to disclose David’s cause of death, the Mehring family helps humanize the opioid epidemic.

Obituary Clichés: What to Say Instead

Obituary Clichés: What to Say Instead

A few years back, I wrote a magazine piece that the editor criticized for containing too many clichés. In his edited version, the new opening sentence begins with “Tall, leggy blondes…” Turns out it’s tough to write without using clichés, which are a...
Writing about Smells in an Obituary

Writing about Smells in an Obituary

Steaming waffles. Dana Brown Safari coffee. Zest soap. Petunias. Cool, wet grass. Firewood. Those are some of the scents and smells I associate with my grandmother. If I were writing her obituary, I’d want to include as much of that sensory detail as possible....
Mean Girl: Should Her Obituary Tell the Truth?

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.

Do Obituary Templates Shortchange the Dead?

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.

Toss the Template and Tell the Story

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...
Tragic Death and Obituary Writing

Tragic Death and Obituary Writing

This post first appeared on December 29, 2017, just after the Bronx apartment fire that killed 12 people. Since then, “Tragic Death and Obituary Writing” has become one of the most popular posts on this site. The year 2018 has given us senseless deaths in...
Making a Mountain Out of a Dime Bag

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...
Sexism and Stroganoff

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...
Dear Johann: Obituary Tradition in Iceland

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...
Sample Mindmap for a Father’s Obituary

Sample Mindmap for a Father’s Obituary

A mindmap or wordcloud is a tool for getting started writing an obituary. I created this mindmap for my father-in-law’s obituary, but it could be used for a father’s obituary as well. Either way, your content will be completely different. For two more...

Sample Barf Draft of an Obituary

Journalists use the term “barf draft” to mean a rough draft that’s written (or recorded and then transcribed) all at once, without stopping to think or correct yourself or look up missing information. Once you create a barf draft of an obituary, you...