One of the most painful things a person can experience is dealing with the loss of a loved one. While death is a part of life, coming to terms with the loss varies by person. Thankfully, we have obituaries to help us break down the celebration-worthy life that the deceased had. Because how a person lived (not died) is the focal point of funerals, there are families whose loved ones’ obituaries leave out cause of death information to the public.
But why do families and obituaries leave out cause of death info sometimes? If it can’t be written, what else does one write in the obituary? Find out.
Possible Reasons Obituaries Leave Out Cause of Death Details
Life — it’s both a transcendent and realistic topic. While it’s a mere fact that everyone dies eventually, it’s the answer to the “how?” that is unique to everyone. In some instances, a person’s death isn’t always what many would consider to be a peaceful or acceptable passing. The choice to omit cause of death in an obituary often comes down to the following:
Death involving violence
There are cases when people reportedly violently suffered (whether purposefully inflicted upon them or not) that led to their demise. Some people may have died at the hands of a murderer, were involved in an accident, or committed suicide but in a gradual yet excruciating way. If the person died from one of these causes, it’s practically natural for the surviving relatives to leave out that cause of death information — because nobody wants to experience further trauma by having to relive that gruesome detail about the one they deeply cared for.
Untimeliness of death
We’re also no strangers to hearing about untimely deaths. Even though most people wish — or wished — for their loved ones to not have endured an extended amount of pain (before their relative’s death), more often than not, it’s the “shock” that plagues the ones that were left behind once they learn about the person’s passing. A person’s death may be sudden and painless, but to the family, it’s a pain that lingers.
The remaining family members would typically always find themselves wondering how different things could’ve been had they said their proper goodbyes to each other, if they could’ve been more observant that the person wasn’t feeling well, or how they wouldn’t feel so guilty had they not allowed the person to leave the home — so the deceased wouldn’t have died from a certain accident.
Time to process
Having to hear or read the circumstances that ultimately led to a person’s last stage of life can be a triggering situation for many. Until they’ve processed what transpired — and they’re given the time to healthily come to terms with the passing — it’ll only be then that the cause of death can be more easily discussed.
Judgement From Others
Let’s face it: Certain illnesses and conditions, suicide, and even some accidents that resulted in death due to negligence by the deceased, still draw judgement from the public. No one wants to experience ridicule, embarrassment, shame, or judgement — for the deceased loved one or the family members and friends in mourning — especially from strangers or mere acquaintances who take the liberty to inflict that kind of negativity without truly knowing the full story (or the deceased and their struggles).
Media circus while mourning the loss of a loved one, anyone? No, thank you! Unsolicited advice? That could be even worse. Nosy neighbors gossiping all over town and reveling in the misery of others? How tactless.
Violent and sudden deaths aren’t the only reasons to leave out cause of death information for public knowledge. Because at the end of the day, even if the death was non-violent and somewhat expected, it’s still the relatives of their deceased loved one’s decision whether or not to include the details of the person’s passing — it’s their call on what to put in the obituary as long as they’re comfortable sharing what they’re putting.
Why Families May Choose to Include Cause of Death in an Obituary
For families who prefer to include the deceased’s cause of death, most of them do it because they value honesty and transparency — and perhaps many of them believe that the others who cared for the same person they cared for also deserve to know the cause of death. Many of them don’t find discussing the cause of the person’s demise to be taboo. This preference should also be respected — no matter the amount of detail they divulge.
Raising awareness for a cause
At times, families mention non-profit organizations they’d like obituary readers to make donations to in lieu of flowers. The naming of those organizations can offer a clue as to cause of death, or it could simply be a cause that was close to the deceased person’s heart during their lifetime.
Other times, families choose to disclose the cause of death in hopes of raising awareness for the reason a loved one lost their life — drunk driving, cancer or other illnesses, and more.
Writing an Obituary: What Do I Put?
Everyone should celebrate life every day. And as human beings with the capacity to love and care, we should also celebrate other people’s lives — whether they’re still with us or not anymore. If you have to write an obituary about a loved one’s life and death, the most common details should include the basic information about them — this is something you can almost never go wrong with; in case you don’t know where to start.
What was their name and what nickname did they like to go by? Who were they married to and how many kids are carrying their legacy now? How old were they? Think of the beginning of the obituary as a document you have to fill out — but write it with utmost care and affection in your heart and mind.
You can also honor the deceased by personifying and emulating the kind of life they lived and their certain traits and qualities. Were they known to be the town grandparent? Make sure to mention their “grandchildren” as one of theirs (after all, they also cared for these “kids” of theirs) — and what type of cookies they baked, or the usual time they’d mow the lawn!
Did the person have a great sense of humor? Add a bit of comic effect for added giggles — like how they’d want you guys to be laughing in the first place anyway! Obituaries don’t always have to be solemn or morose.
Last but Not Least,
When it comes to families of the deceased, their obituaries leave out cause of death information because it’s simply their choice — in the end, it’s not about how the person died. But rather about how they lived their life. Truth be told, if you’re close to the family, you’ll probably learn the cause of death; if not, it’s simply none of your business.
In relation to that, respecting the dead shouldn’t be limited to what the obituary states. If you have fond memories of the person, you can keep those with you to remember. If you wish to honor what they stood for, think about how it’ll make them happy if you celebrated the same things they enjoyed supporting. If you deeply cared for that person, simply continue with life the way they did and the way they would’ve wanted you to.
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