Posted by: Kelly Deeny | July 11, 2016

Mourning My Sister Through Writing

I’ve stated many times that the words I choose matter. I believe that I write because my spirit craves to do so. Sometimes the words flow effortlessly and other times it’s not just the pen that runs dry. I know firsthand that writing can work as a healthy outlet during times of emotional or spiritual crisis. Such was the case after my sister’s sudden death.

In the weeks since my older sister in our Little Women-esque family passed away, I wrote sporadically having little interest in my blog, novels, play, or TV pilot drafts. I sought the comfort of my journal instead, the flow of pen to paper acting as a security blanket.

When our family met with the funeral director hours after my sister’s passing, my tasks became clear: I am the writer in the group, so I will write her obituary. I then volunteered to give/write the eulogy, a suggestion the rest of the family agreed to immediately. I never imagined that I would be tasked with such important responsibilities for at least another few decades. Yet I felt compelled, called even, to write.

I read through other obituaries in the paper to get a sense of what to include in Jen’s. There’s a formula, or template, that I followed and then modified the words and phrases to create a tone that reflected Jennifer’s interests. I sought family member feedback for final approval and sent it for publication.

In comparison, writing the eulogy was one of the most challenging and important pieces I knew I’d ever pen. I sat at the computer and made a list of terms that epitomized Jen: travel, history, and animals. But having never written a eulogy or spoke at a memorial service before, I didn’t know what was expected. Do I write an elongated obit, listing Jen’s favorite travel sites, TV shows, and charitable causes? Do I write it as though I’m addressing her directly? Do I keep the content general or specific to my memories? I pondered it all until the emotion overwhelmed me. I sobbed at the dining room table as my mother, brother-in-law, and sister comforted me.  “My big sister,” I wailed. “She’s gone.” I felt my heart break into shards of memories. It had been a full week, and the reality finally hit.

After the tears ceased and my body stopped shaking, I returned to my journal. The words flowed now like a gentle river, splashing against the banks with bursts of inspiration. Once the river of inspiration flowed into its main source I knew I’d created a fitting tribute to my big sister.

River image


I believe that we are more than our achievements or our perceived flaws. We are a smorgasbord of moments blended together to keep us in a perpetual state of spiritual movement. Jen’s spirit parted ways with her body, and is now having adventures in places unknown. I know that I must keep moving forward, and writing guides my way.



  1. Much love to you Kelly. It is a little rote to pen an obituary, but a eulogy is quite another matter. Lots of investment and energy. I am sure you did your family proud.

  2. Graceful and thoughtful. As the person entrusted with the choice of music for a memorial service for my mother, the author of the eulogy for my father-in-law, and as a contributor of some testimony at the funeral of my stepfather and at the celebration of life for his eldest son, I have faced similar challenges. Bless you!

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