Adding to Our Grief

I wrote the letter below to send to the “To the Editor” section of our local paper; The Oregonian. Unfortunately, the paper has a word limit of 150 words for such things. So, I cut most of my letter and sent it to them, hoping they might somehow publish it. They pride themselves on printing things that may not be popular and stories that uncover important facts most people do not know. After all, they won a Pulitzer prize a few years ago for their efforts. However, my letter was critical of THEM and their policies of charging outrageous prices to grieving families desiring to have an obituary printed for a loved one.
If you’ve never considered that even the local newspaper may want to profit from the death of your loved one…you might want to read this blog. My original letter follows:

When a loved one dies we are struck with an emotion that is not often felt in the daily course of our lives: grief. Even if that death has been expected for sometime, the sense of sadness, loss, and helplessness can be overwhelming. What a blessing it can be when friends and extended family step in to lend support and love. They are a safety net to help us get through the numbness, confusion, the sleepless nights, and loneliness.

It is gratifying when outpourings of sympathy come from unexpected places; a thoughtful card in the mail, heartfelt condolences from an employer and kind words of sympathy from neighbors and other acquaintances.  You breathe a sigh of relief, for it seems that in your period of mourning there is a moment when, for the most part, the world cuts you some slack, gives you the benefit of the doubt and lets you step out of life’s battles for a moment.

Thankful for this brief respite, I sat down last month to begin the sad task of writing an obituary for my mother. It was a difficult and poignant job, often bringing tears to my eyes. I’m sure anyone who has written an obituary can attest to these emotions. And yet as I pondered and wrote, I knew it was also an honor to be given this to do. Mindful that such things cost money, I tried to be thoughtful, without being too wordy.

After I finished, I showed it to my wife. Her feeling, which I had to agree with, was I had sold my mother short. Surely, this epitaph could tell a better story of someone who had been such a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

And so we lovingly added to the story, and when we were finished, it felt like we had done justice to her memory.  However, we were in for a rude awakening when we went to place the obituary in the Oregonian. The cost for this moderate length obituary with picture? $1328.00

We were outraged. However, the Oregonian is the only game in town, and so we set about to trim our tribute. We cut the fat. And then still faced with an outrageous cost, we cut clear to the bone, finally even leaving out the photograph. The final cost for a brief obituary that was disappointingly brief? $397.00

We all know that newspapers are struggling. They are competing with the internet and have lost both advertisers and subscribers. It is apparent, however, that they feel there is a good profit margin in the obituary column.

Turn to the obituary page in the Oregonian and read some of the obituaries you find there. Realize those of moderate length with pictures may be costing the family as much as $1500. Realize that some of them cost over $2000.00, all for one single day in print.

Know that within the lines of loving tribute you read there is grief and sadness at the loss of a loved one.  But also know of shock and grief unspoken as these families deal with yet another unexpected expense associated with the death of a loved one – the heartless greed of a newspaper who profits from their loss.

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4 Responses to Adding to Our Grief

  1. I’m just horrified, Jeff. I wonder if this is the case for all papers, everywhere. So very sorry for your loss; to then get this $1300+ pricetag is just untenable!

  2. Susy (Elmgren) Davenport says:

    Wow, that is outrageous!! No wonder very few obits are in the paper, anymore.

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