Letter of Recommendation

   Writing an Obituary for a Child


Writing an Obituary for a Child

The death of a child is especially heartbreaking. It's hard to memorialize the life of someone who has only had a few years on this earth. If the child you're writing about was known to you, the grief is unimaginable.

If you are a newspaper reporter, funeral home staff member, or other "stranger" writing an obituary for a child, talk to family members. Ask what brought the child joy in his or her daily life - even something as seemingly small as "she loved Disney princesses and swinging at the playground" says a lot about a child. Besides likes and dislikes, an obituary could mention the child's nicknames, cute things he or she would say, and other details that reveal personality. Ask about favorite places to go, or a recently reached milestone the child was proud of, such as learning to recite the alphabet, or to ride a bike. The Journalism Center on Children & Families states, "The goal of an obituary is neither to inspire nor depress. It is to tell the story of a life with accurate details and nuances that distinguish the child from all others."

For a family, though, a submitted obituary is the chance to share whatever they'd like about their loved one. This may include a poem, prayer, statements of faith, and so on. A photo may be submitted, or even a baby's handprint. The obituary might mention favorite pets, toys, or stuffed animals. Also, consider recognizing a few of the child's close friends among the survivors.

If a family doesn't feel ready to write an obituary right away, they might consider waiting and submitting a "memorial" piece in a few weeks or months.

When a newborn baby dies, the family-submitted obituary usually focuses more on the surviving family, such as how lovingly they anticipated his or her arrival, what the child meant to those around him or her, and how deeply loved the child is even now. The obituary may mention the cause of death, such as a genetic issue. There is often a reference to the "brief gift" the child was on this earth, or how the baby "touched the lives" of loved ones, hospital staff, and even people in the community at large. Some may find comfort in mentioning that the child is "safe in the arms of Jesus," or "was greeted in heaven" by other family members who had previously passed away.

If a child died after an illness, such as cancer, it might be appropriate to use the obituary to thank caregivers and also to request donations for the family's expenses, or even for a hospital or a foundation dedicated to fighting the disease. Or, an obit may ask that people donate blood, or simply hug their own child a little tighter.

Index of obituary templates