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For modern grievers, writing an obituary in honor of a loved one may seem like an outdated form of memorialization. Several myths about the art of life storytelling persist in the death space that devalue the practice of writing an obituary when a loved one passes away.
In this article, we will directly address the 10 most common myths about obituaries.
Obituaries don't need to be depressing. If you take the time to read through the tributes, you'll find stories of achievements, life milestones, love and family. The reader's view of death is more indicative of how depressing an obituary will be, rather than the obituary itself.
Those who accept death as a natural end to life, or who see an obituary tribute as a sign of respect in the aftermath of a tragedy, understand that the depressing part of an obituary is the death—not the life story.
Historically, obituaries have been published in print newspapers. Today there are many more ways to share a life story. Social media, online publications, digital obituary platforms, custom websites and other forms of digital storytelling make it easier than ever to write, publish and share obituaries online.
It's not a myth that obituaries can be surprisingly expensive. In fact, a recent study shows that most people aren't prepared to pay for an obituary. The myth of an expensive obituary goes hand in hand with the idea that life stories need to be published in the newspaper. When you look at digital options for publishing an obit, there are countless low-cost and free options available to you.
While most obituaries are written in response to a death, they're usually more about life than loss of life. Some families do focus on death to shine light on issues of social importance (for example, suicide awareness), but this is rare.
Life stories may be written weeks, months or even years after a death has occurred. Today, more and more obituary writers are treating this genre as a chance to pay tribute to a loved one's life, rather than as a death announcement.
While it's true that many families write positive tributes of love and respect in honor of a loved one, the strongest obituaries reflect a person's full personality. Some obituaries even tell funny stories to capture the deceased person's sense of humor.
Some families will go a step further and highlight the deceased relative's flaws, rather than hiding them. In most cases, the person who has passed deserves to be remembered well, but this does not mean the story is unauthentic.
Families are often concerned about publishing a print obituary because any and all mistakes in the story will live on as the final record of their life. Many obituary stories do act as a final record of a person's life, but there's no reason the writer can't edit, add to or re-write the story in greater detail later.
Digital platforms provide families with a more fluid medium of sharing life stories of those who have passed.
Obituaries are still going strong in North America. In a recent study, over 72% of respondents living in the Northeast region said they want an obituary when they die. The desire is there, but misconceptions about publishing obituaries may affect people's perceptions of just how popular they are.
Some people believe that easy access to social media has made the publication of formal obituaries redundant. Publishing an obit on Facebook does allow people to bypass the checks and balances that are involved when publishing an obituary in the newspaper or in a reputable online publication. This bypass, however, often results in life stories that are misleading, blatantly untrue, or subject to comments from loved ones, strangers and trolls alike with no moderation. Digital obituary platforms are needed to keep life stories safe and respectful within the online space.
Does this sound familiar?
"Agnes Porch, 67, of Dallas, passed away in Houston on May 27, 2018. A graveside service will be held at North Dallas Funeral Home in honor of Agnes, on Saturday, June 9, 2018, at 11:00 am, with a reception to follow at the family home. All who knew her are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, please donate to your local humane shelter or ASPCA"
It's no wonder many people believe that all obituaries are the same. Lack of space, expense and the grief of the writer are all factors that perpetuate the idea that all obituaries sound the same. To bust this myth, just read the obituaries section on Beyond the Dash—there are thousands of unique life stories to peruse that defy conventions of the genre to tell memorable life stories.
The typical death announcement format, found in the Obituaries section of your local newspaper along with the classifieds, is less than 40 words per story. Full obituaries are often much longer, reaching up to 500 words and beyond.
The reason this myth exists is that is can be expensive to publish an obituary in print, as mentioned above. Because of this, many notices end up being concise
Although many believe that only the next-of-kin can write can do it, anyone can write an obituary for a person who has passed. The publication where the story is submitted may have their own set of requirements of who may submit a story, but anyone is free to write a life story of someone they knew. Some newspapers will only accept obits from the funeral home that handled the deceased person's memorial arrangements.
Most newspapers and online publishers will accept any obituary that can be verified by a funeral home and follows their content standards.
There is a grain of truth in some of the obituary myths on this list. But those ideas often come from outdated notions of publishing mediums and techniques. With technology changing the way we communicate, socialize and connect, there are more options than ever for publishing a life story.
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