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4 Reasons to Publish an Obituary

Times are changing, and funerals are, too.

But some traditions surrounding the death of a loved one are worth keeping. Obituaries are one of those traditions.

The old way of publishing obituaries has changed. Up until 20 years ago or so, local newspapers published obituaries free of charge. They were considered news stories. As such, newspapers kept strict editorial control over what could be said in the obituary, including what survivors could be named.

Newspapers also published death notices, which were small paid advertisements listing the name of the deceased, the date, time and location of services and sometimes where donations could be sent.

Now, most newspapers charge for obituaries, and those fees can be hefty. With the charge, though, comes the freedom for the purchaser to say what he or she wishes about the deceased and whom to list as a survivor. Because of this, you’ve seen a burgeoning number of “viral” obituaries, extolling the quirky nature of the deceased.

In a reverse, some newspapers now publish death notices for free, although many still charge. Ask your funeral director about the potential charges for both obituaries and death notices.

Fear not, though. There are other places than newspapers and their online websites to publish obituaries, and many are free.

Funeral homes often place full obituaries on their own websites for free or a nominal charge. Ask your funeral director about this policy. Memorial websites such as often scrape websites for obituaries and post them on their own sites. Of course, you can also write up something and place it on Facebook or other social media free of charge as well.

There are reasons why acknowledging a death in print, whether in a newspaper or online, is a good idea:

Paying tribute to the person who has died. Everyone has a unique life story. In nearly every case, it’s a story that should be told and preserved. We all know the deceased lived, but how that person lived and why that person lived are important. In addition to the basic facts—age, date of birth, date of death, survivors, predecessors—an obituary can include a person’s hobbies, favorite foods, sports teams, work history and any other accomplishments that made the deceased stand out.

Sharing your loss with the community. People should know that one of your loved ones has died. They can reach out with condolences, prayers and offers to help. Online obituaries usually have a comments section, as does social media, and those comments can not only provide comfort but also points of contact for others who share in your grief.

Writing an obituary can be part of the grieving process. Remembrance is an important part of grieving. When you think about a deceased loved one, you are often recounting that person’s history in your head and remembering why that person was important to you and others. Writing those memories down often provides a spark of admiration, perhaps even humor, that will remind you that the good things about your loved one live on in you and others.

History. You may not think it now, but your loved one is a part of history. And future generations in your family may want to know more about that person and their history. Dates, places of birth, year of immigration, maiden names, children, spouses and parents are all jumping-off points for genealogy researchers to trace their roots through obituaries.

One last word: If you choose to place your obituary in multiple locations, you do not have to use the same text for each. You can use an abbreviated version for newspapers to limit costs and place a full obituary online for free. Just remember that these are words that will live on past you, so think carefully about survivors. Make sure to be thorough, and don’t be shy about letting your loved one’s personality shine through. They were special to you and others. Remember them.