Memorial Service & Bereavement Information Center

Creative Obituaries


Traditional obituaries are usually short, solemn articles meant to let a community know about the passing of one of their own. Most obituaries contain few, if any, interesting or fun elements in them. Name, place of birth, occupation, family — these are all fairly common to include in an obituary. But lately many people are looking for alternative ways to write an obituary, ways that still honor and respect the deceased, but also have a bit of flair, fun and panache to them. Let’s take a look at what these so-called “creative obituaries” are, how they differ from traditional obituaries, and how you can go about creating one.

Creative obituaries are a fairly new take on an old tradition. Dating back as long ago as the 1500s, when the printing press was beginning to become popular, obituaries began as short death notices and usually contained only the deceased’s name, date of birth, death date, and cause of death. During the 1800s, John Thadeus Delane started promoting longer, more elaborate obituaries in his London paper, The Times. These new obituaries included short poems, scriptural passage, and biographies. As photographs and images became commonplace in print media in the 1900s, people started to include images of their deceased loved ones. Today, the most elaborate obituaries contain a small picture of the deceased, basic biographical information, and some short poem or scripture — a long way off from the 1500s, but still, pretty solemn and unimaginative.

Creative obituaries offer the bereaved a chance to celebrate the life of the deceased in a way that hasn’t been explored much throughout the history of obituaries. And with the advancements in internet and communicative technology, people are finding it easier to create elaborate obituaries on their personal computers and share them with many people from around the world.

Online obituaries and death notices are probably the best example of creative obituaries and are quickly becoming just as popular as traditional print media versions. There are a few main reasons for this phenomenon. First, online obituaries allow the bereaved to contact exactly who they wish to regarding the death of their friend or loved one. Some people don’t feel comfortable with traditional newspaper obituaries simply because they don’t want their entire town to know of the passing. With online obituaries, you can make a list of everyone you believe would benefit from knowing about the death and send them a personalized obituary with the click of a button.

Second, online obituaries allow you to create an elaborate, multi-media presentation that would be impossible to accomplish with traditional obituaries. You can include pictures, video and audio clips, passages from the deceased’s favorite books, links to sites the deceased personally made or contributed to, and more. Instead of trying to summarize the life of your friend or loved one in a few short sentences, online obituaries allow you to create whole “life stories” that celebrate the deceased in a way print obituaries never could.

The third reason online obituaries are becoming so popular is that they are changeable, evolving monuments to your friend or loved one. As time passes, memories come and go. Perhaps the deceased was particularly observant of a specific holiday; as the holiday approaches, you can change your online obituary in order to reflect the deceased’s love and respect for it. Or perhaps you find a lot of old photographs of the deceased after you’ve already published the obituary. With a traditional obituary you would be out of luck, but with an online obituary you can add or change images, text and video as time goes on.

So how do you go about creating an online obituary and celebrating the life of a deceased loved one in a creative, dynamic way? There are a number of web sites that allow you to build online obituaries for free or a very reasonable price. ValleyofLife.com, for instance, offers free online memorial pages to registered members. You can write out the deceased’s life story, upload pictures and videos, create a memorial slide-show album, and start a forum that allows friends and family to share their stories about their loved one.

The death of a loved one can be extremely hard. Funeral preparations, notifications and other loose ends often feel like chores. Luckily, a creative obituary can help steer you through the grieving process by helping you remember the good times you shared with the deceased. And with a creative online obituary, you are only limited by your own imagination.

~Ben Nystrom, 2009

Photo courtesy of tosaytheleast, Flickr

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