October 15, 1924 - January 24, 2018
An obituary is the final record of the life of someone who has passed away. It should be their life story, death announcement, and final tribute.
Some families try to keep the obituary purely factual: birth date, death date, occupation, predeceased family members and survivors. Other families will outline their loved one's character, passions, relationships and accomplishments. There is no one right way to pen an obit, but stories that share the unique personality of a special person tend to resonate the most— both with readers who knew the deceased person, and those who didn't.
There are several schools of thought regarding including cause of death in a public obituary notice. Today we're exploring the reasons to include—or exclude—the cause of death in an obituary story.
Especially when the death was sudden or unexpected, folks will be curious about the cause of death. It's natural to want to know, and sometimes finding out how someone passed away is a crucial first step to the grieving process.
Cause of death is not legally private information, and can be accessed on the Death Certificate. However, the information on the Death Certificate is the medical reason, and not necessarily informative for those who don't already understand the context.
Though a person's death shouldn't be the focus of an obituary, it does conclude the story of their life. Death is a part of life, and including the cause or manner of death can be seen as the completion of the full story.
Depending on the manner of death, the writer of the obituary may wish to use the story as a call to action. Obituaries can be a tremendously impactful medium to drawing attention to social issues, such as mental health, gun violence, racial issues or drug abuse. In this type of obituary, cause of death is directly linked to a cause, movement or political statement.
When the cause of death is noted in the obituary, it spares those who were closest to the deceased person from having to explain again and again. Especially when the cause of death was not already obvious, folks will ask what happened. The burden of having to repeatedly state what happened typically falls on direct family members, close friends, and those closest to them. This is avoidable if cause of death is made public in the obituary or death announcement.
Depending on how the deceased person passed away, the family may wish to keep the cause of death as private as possible. Though members of the public could access the cause of death on the Death Certificate, most people wouldn't bother to do this level of research. The official cause of death can be kept discreet depending on the wishes of the family.
Obituaries should focus on the life, achievements and qualities of the person who passed away. The manner or cause of death isn't always necessary in telling the full life story. Especially when the deceased person suffered from a long or terminal illness, including the death in the obituary can be an irrelevant detail that detracts from their story.
Death can happen any time, in any way. Sometimes the manner of death didn't match the life or character of the person, and is out of place in an obituary. When a violent crime or avoidable accident led to the death, it might be more appropriate to leave it out.
Some folks keep their medical and health issues private. All obituaries should reflect the values of the deceased person, as well as relate their life story. If the person of honor would have preferred to keep the information private, it should be excluded from the the obituary.
Whether or not cause of death should be included in an obituary is a decision to be made on a case-by-case basis. Use these points for and against to help you and your family make the right decision when writing an obituary.
After creating an online memorial, you can also publish in print in any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America.Get started for free