Humor in a Time of Sadness: Honoring Your Loved One Through Humor
Need to learn how to write a funny obituary?
Would you like to be creative when writing an obituary?
Want to ensure that your own obituary is memorable?
Why Make an Obituary Humorous?
Have you ever read a funny obituary that made you laugh out loud? It may seem intimidating to be creative and write anything other than a stock obituary. But learning how to write a funny obituary—either for yourself or someone else—can be an exciting experience.
A good obituary can be more than just a somber account of someone’s life. A humorous obituary will stand out from the typical death notice. And it can serve as an example to others: you don’t have to take life—or death—that seriously. When people write or read an obituary, they are expecting a pretty dry read: a basic account of the deceased’s survivors, a reference to the reason for their passing, information about the upcoming services and funeral, and a place where donations can be made.
Humor can be very important during the time of grieving as there is no doubt healing power in laughter, especially in death and grief.
So, an obituary that cracks a few jokes and even pokes a little well-intentioned fun at the deceased can be quite entertaining. And you’ll be sure to leave your family and friends with a cherished memory.
Using Humor to Honor Someone’s Memory
For many people, the appearance of their obituary may be the one and only time in their life that their name was printed in the newspaper. Why not make it memorable by giving them a great sendoff?
Every life story is unique. It doesn’t matter if the person was a world traveler, a company president, a teacher, factory worker or a housewife. Everyone has a story to tell. Talk to other family members. Take the time to discover any quirks, passions, quotes or sayings, trips, favorite (or disliked) foods, and unusual hobbies or pursuits. It is these precise details that will bring life to your obituary.
An obituary is a sketch that retells the most important qualities, contributions, events, and connections in a person’s life. It is important to note that an obituary is not a biography or a resume. Nor is it a legal document, so some liberties are acceptable.
Traditional views promote seriousness in death. It’s no laughing matter. Besides, who can laugh while others are grieving for the loss of their loved one? It may seem counterintuitive to be funny during such a mournful time, but a little humor can go a long way to helping hearts heal from a devastating loss.
The great news is that obituaries don’t have to be boring. You have an opportunity to create a memorable obituary. You may want to step outside of your comfort zone and create an obituary, for a loved one or for yourself, with a different tone. Here are a few examples of different approaches to a more modern obituary.
Take some time to reflect on the deceased person’s life, recalling any intimate details that would be acceptable to share in a large, mixed group. If you could write an obituary about yourself, what would you want it to say? What would you want others to remember about you? Providing one last laugh can be a great gift to leave behind, enabling family and friends to celebrate a life rather than mourn a death.
What Should Be Serious in an Obituary?
Generally, modern obituaries no longer carry with them any rules regarding what needs to be serious. However, most obituaries follow a basic noun/verb format. This may seem dull and boring, but this style is typical at most newspapers and most common for the obituary writer.
Some newspapers are very straightforward, while other newspapers do offer the ability to be more flexible. So, if you feel like being creative, go for it. If not, you may want to imitate the style of other obituaries in your local newspaper to avoid the risk of it being rewritten. As long as you have the details and facts correct, the editor will take care of any necessary abbreviations, punctuation, and stylistic preferences of the newspaper.
What Kind of Humor Is Appropriate? What Is Inappropriate?
The opportunities are abundant for using humor in your obituary. Instead of issuing dry copy for your obituary, think of places where you can impart humor about the deceased’s life, what they thought of family members and friends, how they lived their life, what was important to them—even their idiosyncrasies and habits.
If the deceased had a sense of humor, you will want to illustrate that in your obituary. And if they didn’t have a big funny bone, you may want to find humor through a funny story or situation in their life.
While a stand-up comedic routine would be wholly inappropriate for an obituary or a eulogy, a bit of comic relief can serve well during a mournful time. Be careful to choose stories that show the character of the deceased with a moderate use of humorous compassion. Your goal should not be to entertain, but to share meaning and capture the person as they were in life.
Everyone deals with grief differently, and humor can be a common coping mechanism. An unexpected laugh can be welcome relief to some. A personality quirk, odd hobby, or contrast in aspects of their life can be interesting. Try to balance your use of humor with sentiment. Of course, if in doubt, let the obituary sit for a few days before you look at it again. You can also have one or more other family members read the obituary (or eulogy) to be sure that your use and placement of humor is appropriate for the deceased.
Who Should Be Mentioned in an Obituary?
One thing fraught with the possibility of an unintentional misstep after the death of a loved one is forgetting to mention a significant person in the obituary. It can be easy to innocently overlook mentioning someone during a time of grief and stress. To make matters worse, forgetting to mention someone can cause strife within the family circle that can last for years.
Years ago, remembering those who should be mentioned in an obituary was simple: immediate family only, and possibly the closest of friends. Today, those rules have been thrown out the window. So, what’s acceptable? Pretty much, anything goes.
A standard list of survivors usually includes the spouse and children (full, step, and adopted), grandchildren, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and nieces and nephews. Some people decide to only list immediate family members. Whatever you decide, you’ll need to be consistent. Don’t mention one sibling and not another.
If the deceased person had a conflict with or was estranged from any family members, the obituary is not the place to leave that person out. Whether parents, siblings, cousins, etc., it's best to list all family members rather than purposely omitting one.
It is now commonplace to see mentions of same-sex spouses and partners, two moms or two dads of a minor child, spouses of surviving adult children, ex-spouses (typically in amicable situations), devoted caregivers, lifelong friends, and pets. Generally, anyone who was significant in the deceased person’s life or found the deceased to be of significance to them should be included.
An Obituary Template
A basic, short obituary will include the following elements:
- Full name of the deceased
- Age at death
- Date of birth
- City and state of residence where they were living when they passed away
- Name of significant other (alive or deceased)
- Time, date, and place of viewing, burial, wake, and memorial service arrangements
If you want to go more in depth, the following list is meant to be a general guide to help you determine what to include in your obituary. If there are printing restrictions, such as the length of the obituary, you may not be able to include all information. Simply choose what you’d like to include and reorder the information as desired.
NAME / ANNOUNCEMENT
- Full name of the deceased, including nickname, if any
- Age at death
- Residence (for example, the name of the city) at death
- Day, date, and year of death
- Place of death
- Cause of death
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Names of parents
- Childhood: siblings, stories, schools, friends
- Marriage(s): date, place, name of spouse
- Education: school, college, university, etc.
- Designations, awards, and other recognitions
- Employment: jobs, activities, stories, colleagues, promotions, successes, frustrations
- Military service
- Places of residence
- Hobbies, sports, interests, activities, etc.
- Affiliations: charitable, religious, fraternal, political, etc.
- Unusual attributes, humor or other stories
- Survived by (and place of residence):
- Children (in order of birth date, and their spouses)
- Siblings (in order of birth date)
- Other family: nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws, etc.
- Predeceased by (and date of death):
- Children (in order of birth date)
- Siblings (in order of birth date)
- Other family: nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws, etc.
- Day, date, time, place
- Name of officiant, pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, other information
- Visitation: day, date, time, place
- Reception: day, date, time, place
- Other memorial, vigil, or graveside services: day, date, time, place
- Place of interment
- Name of funeral home
- Where to call for more information
- Memorial funds established
- Memorial donation suggestions, including addresses
- Thank you to people, groups, institutions, etc.
- Quotation or poem
- Three words that sum up his/her life
Examples of Funny Obituaries
Notwithstanding, it would be impossible to write a blog article without including some extraordinary excerpts. Use a sample obituary below to get your imagination rolling.
Harry Weathersby Stamps
'He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on.'
'He loved to use his over-sized 'old man' remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel.'
'The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women.'
'Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam's on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.'
'He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words 'veranda' and 'porte cochere' to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil's Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.'
‘Waffle House lost a loyal customer on April 30, 2013. Antonia W. "Toni" Larroux died after a battle with multiple illnesses: lupus, rickets, scurvy, kidney disease and feline leukemia. She had previously conquered polio as a child contributing to her unusually petite ankles and the nickname "polio legs" given to her by her ex-husband, Jean F. Larroux, Jr. It should not be difficult to imagine the multiple reasons for their divorce 35+ years ago. Two children resulted from that marriage: Hayden Hoffman and Jean F. Larroux, III. Due to multiple, anonymous Mother's Day cards which arrived each May, the children suspect there were other siblings but that has never been verified.’
‘Toni previously served on the board of the Hancock County Library Foundation. Ironically, the only correspondence she has received from the library since her resignation has been overdue notices for several overdue books (a true statement.) Between ICU, dialysis and physical therapy she selfishly refused to make the time to return them. Her last words were, "tell them that the check is in the mail…" Toni retired from GE Plastics after Hurricane Katrina in 2007. She would undoubtedly cherish the thought of having the former smoking room named in her honor.’
‘On Saturday February the 8th Molson's stock price fell sharply on the news of Bill Eves' passing. Senior executives at Molson called an emergency meeting to brace for the impact of the anticipated drop in sales. As a highly regarded principal for 33 years with the separate school board he created many fond memories for staff, students and families. After his retirement he pursued some of his many hobbies including cooking, carpentry, gardening and sending daily joke emails to family and close friends. Perhaps most important to Bill was educating people on the dangers of holding in your farts. Sadly, he was unable to attain his life-long goal of catching his beloved wife Judy "cutting the cheese" or "playing the bum trumpet" -- which he likened to a mythical rarity like spotting Bigfoot or a unicorn. He also mastered the art of swearing while being splattered by grease cooking his famous wings. In fact, he wove tapestry of obscenities that still hangs over the Greater Kingston Area. Before passing, Bill forged a 76-year trail of laughter, generosity, compassion, and wisdom. He will be greatly missed by his wife of 50 years Judy, his children Rob (Helen), Tim (Mary-Jo), Angela (Brent), Andrew (Stacey), and his grandchildren Noah, Macy, Teagan, Ella, Claire, Lucy and Will. While his whole family is deeply saddened by Bill's passing, there is a rumor floating around that he told some the nurses at St. Mary’s of the Lake that this was all just an elaborate plan to get out of shoveling the driveway. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!’
Where to Print Your Obituary
Once you’ve written your obituary, it’s time to print it. A funeral director, if you are using one, may be able to guide you toward local publications that will print your obituary. In addition, most funeral homes will also publish your obituary online, so others can view it there as well. Plan to print your obituary about one to two days before services. Here are a few other places to consider publishing an obituary.
- Newspaper - print and/or online
- Funeral home
- Employer – company newsletter, e-newsletter
- Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn
If you are currently writing an obituary, we at Lastly.com are truly sorry for your loss. We know this is a difficult, emotional, and stressful time for you. We hope that this guide helps you through the process of writing an obituary and gives you the courage to do something a little bit different. Just remember, in the end, the purpose of writing an obituary is to create a story that both honors and memorializes the deceased in a way that they would appreciate.
Lastly.com enables you to easily capture the stories and special moments throughout your life (or that of a loved one) so that you will be remembered and cherished by future generations. Get started today!