The standard approach to obituaries is to keep them as apolitical as possible. However, death is often inextricably entwined with social and political issues, such as the opiod crisis, gun violence, and natural disasters. While you are free to exclude cause of death entirely or use the obituary as a call to action, there are some things to keep in mind:
1. What would the deceased want? It might do a lot of good to destigmatize the opioid crisis by unpacking the deceased's addiction or overdose, but that doesn't mean an obituary is the place for it. Think of what they would want made public, as well as their own stances. If the deceased was an anti-gun advocate and was killed by gun violence, you might surmise they would want that included in their obituary.
2. Is it relevant? If the deceased died from lack of aid after a natural disaster, it might be relevant to use the obituary to call for better relief systems and funding. But the further away you get from the deceased and their own life, the less relevant the obituary will be. Sometimes all that is necessary is providing a link or organization for donations or more information at the end of the obituary.
3. Does it pull focus? Remember that the point of an obituary is to remember the deceased's life. The obituary should be full of the deceased's stories and accomplishments and milestones, not just the details of their death or its broader politcal implications. When including the larger social issues surrounding the death, make sure you stay grounded around the deceased.
4. Is it civil? You may decide to use the deceased's death to help mobilize change and save more lives. If you do that, make sure you use facts from trusted sources. Call for change in concrete ways without simply heaping blame on others. And avoid name-calling and insults, or anything vitriolic.If you have lost a loved one to a senseless tragedy, your rage and grief are valid. If you struggle to know how much to talk about the social or political factors that contributed to their death, consider asking a trusted friend or family member to write the obituary instead.
Index of obituary templates