Writing your own obituary is not as whacky as it sounds…

The story goes that Alfred Nobel, creator of dynamite and also benefactor of the Nobel Prize, had a lightbulb moment when

The story goes that Alfred Nobel, creator of dynamite and also benefactor of the Nobel Prize, had a lightbulb moment when a newspaper accidentally reported his death, writing in his obituary, ““Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”


For the very-much-alive scientist (whose brother had actually been the Mr Nobel to pass away), it was a huge wake-up call, reports LifeHack. It’s believe that this was the impetus for Nobel to set aside a huge chunk of his estate to establish the Nobel Foundation. Consequently, he is now remembered, not as the inventor of death, but for the Nobel Prizes, including the Peace Prize.

What will your obituary say? And more importantly, will you be proud of what the world has to say about you once you’re gone?

Writing in the Huffington Post, novelist and cancer survivor Katarina Cosgrove says life is too short not to write your own obituary. She says, “I’m a writer. I’ve written lots of stories over the years, real and imagined. But the process of writing my own obituary has proven to be the most profound narrative I’ve ever attempted. Writing your own obituary is life-changing (yes, it’s that big).”

There are three very good reasons to consider sitting down and penning a memorial version of your life story; focusing on where you came from, what made you the person you were most proud of; and what you have achieved (so far) in your life.

1. It reveals your true goals and dream

If you sat down and wrote “Lynette was the author of seven much-loved novels” but you have never set pen to paper to write that first draft, then you know you’re spending your days in the wrong way. So many of us struggle to stay on the path towards our dreams, getting sidelined by life, and this can make us unhappy. By writing down who you want to be 20 or 30 years from now, you’re actually committing to an action plan for the next period of your life.

Cosgrove says, “Writing my obituary illuminated my path and clarified where I want to be, in every sense.”

2. It reveals everything you have to be proud of

No one is ever going to start an obituary with “Karen was always late to meetings and never stopped talking”; instead they will say, “Karen was always engaged with life, enthusiastic and had boundless wisdom to share”. An obituary is short and sweet; it focuses on the strengths of a person and the highlights of their life. Why not take some time to remind yourself about all the good you bring into this world?

3. It helps you focus on what matters the most

Who in your life means the most to you? What fills you up with joy? When you read in an obituary that Bill loved his roses almost as much as he loved his children, the key there is “he loved”. Life is not all about kicking goals and ticking off marathons, it’s about being happy and making a mark in some way. Sitting down to write your obituary can help you clarity just what that means for you.

As an aside, there is one more great advantage to writing an obituary for yourself… It will be accurate! And, no doubt, cherished by those who loved you.

Would you try this?

  1. What a good idea I would never have thought about it! But I have just put it on my “to do” list. – who knows if I will ever get it done 🙂

  2. I don’t have an obituary but I do have a special farewell email to be sent to my relatives and closest friends.

  3. I think it’s a great idea!, better than some Celebrant who has never met you, rabbiting on about you.

    • I have never heard an experienced Celebrant rabbit on – they are trained to get positives from those close to the deceased, – & I would trust them.

    • The celebrant at my father’s funeral was supposed to invite the mourners to say a few words. He didn’t do that. It was the shortest funeral I’ve ever been to.

  4. While not actually an obituary, my mother had left very specific instructions about her funeral arrangements: the flowers she wanted, the hymns and readings, what she wanted done with her ashes which left us all in no doubts and made things much easier. My brother officiated at her funeral which made it so much more personal than if it had been a stranger.

    • Yes, my Mum did that as well, and it made the whole process so much easier, because we, her children, were clear about how she wanted to be remembered & how we could honour that memory.

  5. Actually I have written my autobiography – I would like someone to condense my 130 pages into 1 or 2!! Good luck!

  6. No point in me doing mine, my kids would never agree with what I would write.

  7. my mum who is still alive and 96yrs has written her own obituary…(I’ve just got to remember where I put it)!

  8. What a great idea. ..kids don’t really know about our lives. ..we tell them things but it’s usually when they are young and only really interested in their own lives….i know as i was the same with my parents. ..so many things i want to know about them now when it’s too late

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