February 13, 2019 Brigitte Ganger

Writing a Joint Obituary for Your Parents

Can you write a single obituary for a couple who passed away together?

Writing a Joint Obituary for Your Parents
If your parents shared their lives together and died together, or within a short time frame, it might be appropriate to make theirs a joint obituary. (Getty Images)

When death comes for two

There are many documented cases of couples dying together, or within a few days of each other, of natural causes. A person who has lost a spouse recently may pass away shortly after. Those who spend their lives together are more likely to be together if an unfortunate accident occurs, like a car crash. 

Dying of a broken heart is possible, when grief takes away the will to live from someone who has lost their life partner. Though it's uncommon, this seems to occur in cases of couples who have been married for a long time. However, another possible example of this was the death of Carrie Fisher, followed by the death of her mother Debbie Reynolds just days later. These kinds of deaths are shocking, but happen more frequently than you might expect. 

When a couple who has been together for decades die within days or weeks of each other, survivors may wish to write a joint obituary in their honor. Surviving children of married parents who have recently passed often want to know how to craft a life story that adequately pays tribute to the lives of both and their special union. In this article, we will explore ways to write a joint obituary as a tribute to a couple who has passed away.

Writing a life story

Writing an obituary is a complex and emotionally fraught experience, especially for first-time or infrequent writers. There are many articles on Beyond the Dash that can help you understand the basics of writing a simple or creative obituary. Consult these resources to understand what's generally expected of an obituary:

How to Write an Obituary

How to Write a Creative Obituary that Stands Out

Obituary Template for Father

Obituary Template for Mother

Obituary Politics: Leaving Survivors Out of the Life Story

What's the One Thing that Can Make or Break an Obituary? The Writer.

The difficulty in writing a joint obituary in honor of your parents is ensuring that the two individuals are both honored for their separate accomplishments, while also paying tribute to their strong relationship. 

Deciding to write a joint obituary

A joint obituary isn't always the most appropriate tribute for a couple who has passed. This kind of life story works well when:

  • Both individuals passed away at the same time, or the funeral will be conducted on the same day

  • The pair had a very close bond that influenced the course of their lives

  • The survivors agree a joint obituary is a good idea

  • The deceased individuals left no instructions to the contrary

If one or more of these apply, a joint tribute to a pair who has passed can be a very meaningful way to honor them. There are emotional and practical benefits to a joint obituary:

  • Cost

    • A single, longer obituary story may be less expensive to run in a print newspaper. (Tip: Online obituaries are free to publish on Beyond the Dash, regardless of length. Once published online, we can help you publish the story in over 6,000 newspapers across North America.)

  • Detail

    • A single, longer obituary story can be rich in detail, share anecdotes and truly honor the real moments that made up the lives of the two being honored. 

  • Impact

    • Hearing the story of two whose linked lives ended at the same time can convey the sorrow of the loss, in a way that two separate obituaries can't. Whether the deaths were the result of accident, illness or broken heart, two people who were as close in death as they were in life are inextricably part of each others' final story.

Weaving two stories into one

Writing one obituary for two doesn't have to be complicated, but the final story needs to be clear. Writing in a fairly a traditional obituary format, with biographical details, survivors, predecessors, funeral arrangements and charitable donations, it's simple to weave the story together by section. Using a back-and-forth format, you can ultimately weave the story together with the meeting of the couple, and then relate the story in a unified way going forward.

Tips for writing the story of their relationship:

  • Remember to highlight the achievements and qualities of each person relatively equally. It's okay to mention their accomplishments separately, but it's important to honor both people adequately in their shared obituary. 

  • Emphasize the joy the relationship brought to them, and the ways in which they inspired others. The reason for writing this story as an intertwined tale is their love of one another and commitment they shared.

  • Include an explanation of the relationship. In an obituary of this nature, it's worth mentioning how they met, how they interacted with each other, and the length of their relationship.

  • Add a story that shows readers the love they shared, rather than simply telling them. 

  • Be specific. Write with as much detail as you can where it matters. Stories are greatly enriched by details that evokes feelings, or allow the reader to imagine the story in their mind's eye. 

  • You don't have to include cause of death, but this is a scenario in which many readers would want to know what happened. Think about the values of the couple who you are honoring, and make a tactful decision that benefits the story and tribute. 

  • Include an explanation of the relationship. In an obituary of this nature, it's worth mentioning how they met, how they interacted with each other, and the length of their relationship.

The takeaway

When two people who were deeply connected pass away, those who knew them mourn doubly. Writing a joint obituary can help the living acknowledge the wonderful relationship the deceased experienced in their lives. Their lives and deaths were connected in inseparable ways, and the obituary can reflect this important part of the story. 

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