Writing the Obituary – What is it? What do I say?

“I miss my son so much I can hardly breathe. How can they expect me to write his obituary when I am not even ready to say good-bye. Can I get some help with what to say?”

The death of a child is traumatic and painful. It is unnatural. Our children are supposed to outlive us. Although thinking about making the final arrangements and writing the obituary seems unbearable, you and your family will want to honor and celebrate your child’s life by holding a meaningful service.


During this time there will be many special and important decisions to make. You want to experience as much healing, comfort and peace as possible during this time so do not be afraid to ask for support.


Siblings and friends should be encouraged to to attend the funeral because it allows them to actively participate in the grieving process. A funeral provides a structure for children to see how people openly comfort each other, mourn a loved one, and honor their life. It is important for children to learn the ways we say goodbye and how we honor and respect the memory of a loved one.


Please read the article about “Funeral Planning” in this section, which provides useful information on making funeral arrangements.


Here is a sample of a beautiful obituary:

Ryan James Messinger was granted his angel wings on March 6th 2005, following a lifelong illness. His final days were spent surrounded by family and friends that Ryan had touched in some small way, throughout his short, yet very memorable life.


Ryan’s life would seem too short to many, but for those who were touched by him, understood that the quality of existence far exceeds quantity of time in which you live it. His gentle smile could melt the hearts of those around him and though he never spoke a word, his voice and thoughts could always be heard.


Although Ryan’s illness made him appear frail, he possessed strength, perseverance, the ability to overcome incredible odds and physical challenges. With his courage he led us to believe that each day is a blessing and an opportunity to create lasting memories. He could spend hours rocking in his favorite chair, while cuddling close to those he loved so much. He enjoyed music, sleeping late and reading stories. He loved the color red, listening to the sounds of children and especially laughter which would make him smile and sigh with contentment. He spent the summers camping with his family, in Rangeley. A place he loved to watch the sunsets, sit by the campfire, listening to the loons and the wind in the trees. It was one of the few places he could always sleep peacefully through the night.


With Ryan’s passing we remind others that his life is one to be celebrated, although we will miss him everyday, especially his winning smile, he will always remain forever in our hearts. Through his teachings about life, we were able to create wonderful memories and it has been a privilege to be his parents. We are so thankful Ryan’s sister Meghan met her brother and she will hold dear the memory of Ryan’s gentle spirit.


Ryan leaves behind many wonderful caregivers that provided love and support that enhanced his quality of life. Ryan’s love extends to his wonderful nurses, Elaine, Hattie and April. There is a special place in our hearts for Ryan’s best friend “Dr. Chris”; because of her continual dedication, love and support, Ryan was able to survive some of his toughest medical challenges. He will be dearly missed by all his special caregivers at the Morrison Developmental Center, and his friends with The Jason Program. All of these special people, too numerous to mention provided Ryan with love and dignity in his life and also in his death.


Ryan is survived by his loving parents, Craig and Jennifer Messinger of Raymond Maine; Sister Meghan Messinger; Paternal grandparents Bob and Gerrie Messinger of Kennebunk Maine; Uncle Jeff Messinger of Phoenix Arizona; Cousins Alex and Eric Messinger.


He was predeceased by his maternal grandparents Albert and Jean Fish and by one of his long term nurses Kathy G.


Calling hours are to be held Friday March 11, 2005, from 6-8 pm at Dolby and Dorr Funeral Home, Windham Maine. There will be a memorial service March 12, 2005 at 11:00 am at the Raymond Village Community Church Raymond, Maine. A collation will follow the service.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

Betty Morrison Developmental Center

331 Veranda Street

Portland, Maine 04103


The Jason Program

13 Industrial Park Rd.

Saco, Maine 04072


Article contributed by Dr. Kate Eastman PhD and Dr. Elizabeth Samenfeld-Spect PhD