Parting Shots: Are Mean Obituaries and Eulogies Fair?

Thursday, September 12, 2013 • by Elizabeth Meyer

In a courtroom, one is compelled by law to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Does this same moral approach apply to eulogies and obituaries? Is honesty really always the best policy? Or, is the applicable saying here: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”

I am notorious for not filtering my words; if something’s on my mind, chances are it comes out my mouth. While I’m a firm believer in always stating your true thoughts, there’s a caveat to my preaching: It’s not necessary to publically badmouth the dead.

Others contest this standpoint and claim that since the deceased can no longer be offended, it’s more important for the living to be able to vent. Clearly, the offspring of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick and opted to very publically share her true feelings about her mother. Here’s an excerpt taken from a Huffington Post article:

“On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.”

Although the writer claims she is airing the dark truth in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of child abuse and potentially helping others, I’m not sold. I feel that it all could have been done in a classier way. Even if the deceased can no longer be offended, it’s also true that they cannot defend themselves.

When it comes to the all-important eulogy, even I have been known to bite my tongue. I prefer to simply omit the negative and just focus on the positive attributes. (No matter how much you might contest, it’s always possible to find something nice to say.)

What do you think? Should we curb our comments or does brutal honesty provide some sort of closure?