Honest Obits was started after my own mother died. Spoiler alert: my relationship with her was...complicated. The very night she died I felt drawn to writing. I let an Instagram post announcing her death be the vehicle I used to express it all…her story coupled with my story. Without the pressure of writing anything official and just writing as a cathartic release, I found a notable degree of healing. The act of speaking the truth not for her, but for me, was powerful. The response I received was sincere appreciation for honesty, and I found myself wishing for a space beyond personal social media posts that allowed the freedom to write about the life of an imperfect person. I wanted there to be space free of the backlash or judgement that one might receive in a traditional printed obituary. Human’s aren’t perfect in life; why do we insist on making them perfect in death? I wanted there to be somewhere where people would encourage and applaud the real story, the story that might have been painful, not ideal, but TRUE. I wanted there to be a space in which writing an obituary of a person shouldn’t make you feel like you’re betraying yourself.
There has been a cultural shift when it comes to transparency. It’s time obituaries reflected that. What’s so wrong with talking about all of it? Why is it that an obituary that was a genuine depiction about the life someone has lived make headlines? Enough. Let’s make nuance normal. Let’s make space for the full picture. Let’s make mistakes, lessons learned, tragedies, egregious flaws, beauty, growing pains, not-growing pains, triumphs and all that encompasses existing as a human be what we talk about in life, and in death. An Honest Obituary is where you can do that. There’s room for all of it here.
Who is an honest obituary for? It’s for those of us still here. This is for the writer, the griever. This is for those who are brave enough to confront and to speak the truth. An Honest Obit is for those who need a judgement free space to acknowledge disappointment, pain that was inflicted, unresolved hurt or, you know, even just some total bullshit that was endured. Where do these things go when not acknowledged or processed?
Unfortunately, absolutely nowhere.
Let’s attempt release.
When we move away from the idea of obituary as legacy it frees us up to move toward as obituary as a tool toward healing. Should ‘honoring’ someone while painting a rosy picture cost you honoring yourself? It shouldn't. This space is for honoring someone by, first and foremost, honoring yourself. Both are possible, and Honest Obits is where you can do that.
A complicated relationship makes for complicated grief. Let’s talk about the complication.
My hope for this space is not to be a container for spilling vitriol, but for acknowledging the entire picture. No human is all “good” or all “bad”; let this be a place for the whole spectrum. You’re welcome to write anything that feels healing to express, but I encourage you to think bigger. I invite you to think about what led to destructive and hurtful behaviors. After my own mother died it occurred to me that narcissists aren’t born as narcissists. There was a mountain of unaddressed trauma that got her there. Diving deeper into history can lead one to compassion. Finding some compassion for them leads to finding some peace for yourself. Try it.
If you have some trouble getting started writing, check out these questions to help get you started.