Menstuff® has information on writing your own obituary.
Anne Fleming died over a year and a half ago. She's glad she did. It gave her the means to take control her life.
Fleming, of Bellevue, sat down one day last winter and composed her own obituary. She performed this hypothetical exercise at the behest of her life coach, Barbara Schwarck, president of Clear Intentions, a "people development" company in Shadyside.
Facing a possible layoff from her job as director of marketing, Fleming was forced to take stock of her own life. So she imagined her own death.
"Once I really actually started to craft an obituary for Anne Katherine Fleming -- b. 1961, d, fill in the blank -- it was very sobering, " Fleming says. "At my core is that I'm afraid. I'm afraid of looking bad and failing. I do this exercise. What I got to is really who I am."
It may sound like something out of the Kevorkian playbook, but writing about oneself in the past tense can force an honest reckoning, help to conquer fears and bring goals into focus, say therapists and life coaches.
"I don't think this is at all an exercise about death," Schwarck says. "It's an exercise of life. Even a teenager can talk about who they would want to be and what values they would like to come to fruition."
Seeing one's accomplishments, milestones and relationships condensed into a few paragraphs is also a way of gauging where there is room for improvement. Think of Ebenezer Scrooge when he was shown his own tombstone by the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and taken to his own wake to see how people remembered him.
Fleming eventually was laid off from her job, but writing her own obit helped give her the courage to start her own business, something she'd always wanted to do. Late last year, she launched Women-Drivers.com, a consumer rating Web site where women can share their experiences at various auto dealers.
Dave Wheitner, founder of Idealist Coach in Squirrel Hill, says he's asked participants in some of his workshops to pen their own epitaph.
"It can be very helpful in helping us to define what our sense of life purpose is, which can be a very helpful anchor point," he says. "Secondly, it can help us clarify what our key values are. When we're doing something like writing our own obituary, those values tend to come out. How much do we value family? How much do we value the legacy that we're leaving through our career? What are the things we want people to remember us by?"
Practical considerations also come into play. A Web site, www.obitnow.com, helps users compose their own obituaries on the pretext that if you want something done right, do it yourself. After all, who better to list the accomplishments that are important to you than you? It also may be a way to clarify wishes, although obituaries will not supersede a will.
Visitors can write their own obituary on www.obitnow.com using a template, or by following several fictitious examples. They can store their obit on the site and make it private or public. They can also update it. For $30, they also can upload one of their photos.
However, expect that obit to be edited and vetted should it be submitted to the local newspaper upon your passing.
Paul Friday, chief of clinical psychology at UPMC Shadyside, says he sometimes asks patients to imagine their date of birth and death on a tombstone. What, he asks them, would they like their epitaph to read? He says that compels them to focus on "that little line between when you were born and when you died."
"It's not when you started or when you ended," Friday says. "It's what you did with that little dash. That little dash represents everything that you've done and you didn't do."
Obituaries are best shared with loved ones, Friday says. It helps keep the author honest.
"Is it a consensus? Who has the corner on truth as far as the summation of somebody's life. We can go to Michael Jackson -- what do you leave out and what do you leave in? How thorough does it have to be?"
A self-written obit is only as good as the person writing it, Friday says. It can be morbid or narcissistic. Done right, it can offer a new perspective and make the author feel like they've got a "second chance."
"I don't think it's inherently healthy or destructive," he says. "If you use it as an exercise to take stock, like 'Who am I on my womb-to-tomb trip?' That's a very healthy exercise.
Give it a go
Dave Wheitner founded Idealist Coach in Squirrel Hill to help others as "a strategic life, career and transition consultant." Below are his tips for composing your own obituary.
Consider the things that you would most like to be remembered for -- values, personality characteristics, strengths or relationships. Consider your unique contributions and whatever fears, obstacles or societal expectations that you overcame to express your authentic self.
Don't limit your obituary to your career. Reflect upon the family, social, spiritual and leisure dimensions of your life.
Imagine three people or groups who are most
important to you and their reaction as they read your
obituary. This may include your partner, a current or future
child, an organization, or an entire community. Which lines
of your obituary speak most loudly to each of them,
reminding them of the impact your life had upon theirs?
Todays Mojo Monday exercise was inspired by Roz Savage, who changed her life by writing two versions of her obituary. Roz was living the life many of us grow up believing to be the dream. She had a successful career, a husband, a home, a sports car, and money, but Roz felt something was missing.
Roz Savage Chose Which Life To Live
Faced with a choice, she challenged herself to an exercise- to write two obituaries, one for the life she was living, one for the life she dreamed she might live. One-by-one, I shed the trappings of my old life, she posted on her blog. Checking them side by side, Roz decided her life needed to change. Little by little I began to realign my life, to put myself on track for the obituary I really wanted. Since then, she has rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, she faces further challenges but is living her bliss, as she rows solo across the Pacific Ocean, trying to raise awareness about the environment.
My Own Pink Leap of Faith
I can relate to Roz, because I already ditched the life that didnt suit me. I quit the fancy doctor job with the six figure price tag. I dumped the husband who treated me like dirt. I pursued my art and my writing with vim and vigor, and then I started Owning Pink, with nothing more than a Field of Dreams vision and no clue whether they would come if I built it.
You might call me crazy, reckless, even. You might think me self-absorbed, even narcissistic. And you may think whatever you wish. But the truth is, I dont care anymore. I reached a point, after decades of trying to please everyone, when I was ready to stop living the life others wanted for me and start living my own life. When my father died at 60, I realized that life is short- and precious. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and realized he only had 3 months to live, he realized he was already living the life he dreamed of living. But was I? HELL NO! Losing Dad (within two weeks of giving birth to my daughter, losing my dog and having my healthy young brother wind up being evaluated for a liver transplant after taking the antibiotic Zithromax) made me reevaluate. If I knew I would die in a year, would I still live the life I was living. No way. So I took a pleap- quit my job, uprooted my family, and began walking a path that landed me at Owning Pink. With no safety net and no sugar Daddy to support me, I had to leap all the way. I had to believe. It required faith.
If I Knew I Was Dying, I Wouldn't Change a Thing
Today, if I found out I would die in a year, I would do exactly what I am doing. I would see patients 1-2 days/week at CLEAR Center of Health, because connecting intimately with women, helping them get their health and their mojo back, fills me to the brim. I would paint. I would write books. I would be with my husband and daughter. And most importantly to me, I would be here with you Pinkies. Why not travel? Finish all the things on my bucket list? My bucket list is for living. If I was dying, I would want my routine, filled with love, joy, peace, and authentic community. But thats just me.
Are You Living the Authentic Life You Want?
What about you Pinkies? If you knew you would die in a year, would you live the life youre living? Are you stuck in a life that doesnt feel like you? Do you wonder how you ended up where you are? Do you think about shaking it up and taking a pleap (Pink Leap of Faith)? What might your life look life if you were willing to sacrifice security, summon all your courage, and venture into the unknown?
Now pull out your journal, Pinkies. Its time for your Mojo Monday exercise.
1. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to breathe deeply, focusing your attention on the moment of peace at the end of each out-breath. Notice how your body settles into the rhythm of each breath. Allow your mind to rest a bit.
2. Now, continuing with your deep breathing, write your obituary based on how you are living your life right now, assuming you take no daring risks. Be specific.
3. Return to your breath. Pay attention to the moment of peace at the end of each out breath.
4. Now allow yourself to follow your bliss in your mind. Send your inner critic to time out and banish fear from your mind altogether. Answer this question- What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
5. Now write a second obituary based on the belief that you are living that life.
Dont just read this exercise, Pinkies. PLEASE DO THIS EXERCISE. You dont have to share it with us. Maybe that feels too scary for you right now. But promise me youll try this. If you feel inspired, please do share what youve written with us. We can bear witness to the life your mind has dreamed up. If you feel brave, we can support you while you start to live it .
Remember, you havent died yet. Your life is still
unwritten. You may not be able to control every aspect of
how your life will play out- and dont try. Understand
and rejoice in the mystery of the unknown. But dreaming
starts the process. Without dreams, we stagnate. Lets
fertilize our lives and GROW, Pinkies!
Let's talk about what I call the obituary exercise. And by the way, I want you to know that I teach this and actually guide people through it at my $50,000 Destiny Creator intensive seminars and eventsso it's like major technology.
The idea is this. Whatever age you're at, project yourself forward on one strand down the negative path, the way you are now, down the status quoand on one strand down the path of discipline, the path of the resources, time, work, and effort that you know you need to invest to make things happen.
And write your obituary two different ways; write it as a failure, as a life of mediocrity, a life that you're continuing and that you're right now on the path of. Where will the eventual end of the path that you are living right now lead to?
Write another obituary that leads to the place where you are fulfilled, where you have lived a life that made a difference to others, where you have love in your life, where you have lived a life of economic freedom, and the trips, and the journeys and all the contributions you wanted to make.
I bet you'll see some amazing things that will help you make the right choices. I know that when I did it you know what? I've already outlived my negative motivation date of death.
When I did it as the life of underachievement, the life of permanent potential, the life of always intending to but always having a job and not finding the time because I was tired when I got home from work, and it cost money to attend the seminar that I suspected wouldand of course eventually did turn things around for me
I died at 57 in a godforsaken place, under public care, alone.
And when they wrote the obituary, it was basically two paragraphs because there wasn't much more to say than to identify who I was, and to identify that I had a son and a daughterand I died alone, remember. And they identified that I had three language degrees, and that I'd always said I was going to be a great writer and I had a lot of potential.
On the other side, I died at 102, surrounded by over 80 peoplemy family, my kids, their husbands and wives, their kids and their kids' kidsin a private hospital in a place where it was like paradise.
And I had a string of 42 different books and works, and I had been speaking, and I had circled the globe. And I had an influence that had personally helped countless thousands, and the books had sold into the millions. And that influence had really revolutionized the world, through a positive benefit.
And folks, the difference between those two obituaries remains with me today.
The difference between those two obituarieswhen you
write your own story of the eventual outcome of your life,
living the life of mediocrity or living the life that takes
more, the life of achievement, the life of strenuous liberty
versus the life of slavery and bondage with easewill
motivate you to do what you know you ought to do these
I'm not being negative and trying to make anyone feel bad in this article. I'm pointing out the fact that we all have a certain amount of years on this planet to make our contribution to the world. None of us will live forever and it's a fact that at some point your obituary is going to be written. YOU are the only one who can determine what this obituary will say.
At nearly 60 years of age I am much more aware of what my own obituary will personally look like. As a young man I never gave this much thought. But if you think about this at a younger age you have a powerful tool to help you realize that you only have so much time to reach for your dreams.
Your life can be changed at ANY age.
My mission is to push, prod, poke, and set you on your way to finally taking action to shape and create the life you truly want to live. I'm sorry if I don't sugar-coat these lessons to please everyone and sometimes I probably I upset some people.
I'm never try to sell you anything to make money, and I'm not trying to be popular. I'm trying to shake you out of the 'conditioning' we have all been exposed to by 'society,' and limited by, and get you to begin taking action on the most important thing you will ever do in your life...reach for your dreams and discover your massive potential within.
My mission is to help you realize you have the power to enjoy any type of life you want to live...IF you CHOOSE to make it happen. It won't happen automatically. And you may not have a long lifetime to reach your all your desires and dreams and goals. So RIGHT NOW, whatever age you are at, is the time to get serious and begin to make it happen.
I want to you write 2 obituaries about yourself. In the first one write out what would be said about you if you passed away tomorrow. Make it as long as you like and most importantly...be truthful.
In your second obituary write out what it would say if you reached all your desires and dreams in life. Make it long and detailed and beautiful. (If you need to see how an obituary is structured simply look in your local newspaper on on the Internet.)
What do you think would be said about you in the first obit? Do you think you would be happy with what was said?
Have you lived your life up to this point with unbridled enthusiasm and motivation? Have you been helpful to people in your life up to this point? Have you made a difference in other people's lives? Have you lived to your potential? Are you as successful as you think you could be?
Have you accomplished all your dreams? Are you working hard to reach them? How have you treated people? What type of person do others perceive you as? What do you think of yourself right now? How strong is your character? Character is how you think and feel and act when no one is looking.
By writing your own obituary ON PAPER you will get an accurate view of what your life has been like up to this point. And hopefully it will scare the bee-gee-zees out of you if it's not how you want to be remembered!
The reason this exercise is so powerful is because it gives you a chance to make changes and LIVE the obituary you want posted when your time comes to leave this world.
It gives you a chance, and the motivation, to shape and create the type of life you want to be remembered for. It gives you a reason to begin right now to change what you want to change and begin to pursue the life you dream of.
The time to take ACTION is now, not next week, not next month, not next year. None of us knows how much time we will be blessed with in this life. Nothing is guaranteed.
Take pen and paper and DO this exercise! Don't just do it
in your mind, you must put in on paper to 'experience' the
POWER it will give you! Write your own obituary today and
take the opportunity you have to change anything you want in
It's a good day to die. - Native American Proverb. Also a favorite saying of incarcerated convicts.
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2019, Gordon Clay