Putting a love affair to rest in writing


“Relationship Obits: The Final Resting Place for Love Gone Wrong” by Kathleen Horan (HarperOne, $13.99)

Kathleen Horan lost two loves in two weeks.

First, she broke up with her boyfriend of three years.

Two weeks later, her dad died.

Writing her dad’s obituary provided some peace and comfort as she grieved his passing.

“It felt good to dig around the facts of his life and remember favorite things,” recalls Horan. “Writing his obituary got me to focus on his whole life, not just the ending of it.”

She wondered if writing an obit about her dead relationship would help as well.

It did, she discovered.

Pleased and relieved, Horan, a radio reporter for NPR affliate WNYC-FM in New York, set up a Web site, www.relationshipobit.com, for others to post. She launched it with a fun funeral for dead relationships, featuring break up songs, a drink called “Break-Up” and a coffin filled with break up stories.

Within a day of its launch, hundreds of people had posted obits of dead relationships. And they kept coming.

There were so many that Horan, 40, compiled the best of them — changing names, of course — into “Relationship Obits: The Final Resting Place for Love Gone Wrong,” released this month.

“I hope that it can be sort of a condolence care for people going through a break up,” Horan said. “I think it could be helpful and also provide a little comic relief because there’s so much humor mixed in with the sadness.”

Some excerpts:

UFrom the chapter: “Cause of Death: Cowardice”:

“An autopsy of the remains reveals what had long been suspected but never confirmed by the couple: that Brett and Camille were each suffering from chronic illnesses that made the death of their relationship inevitable. Brett had been a life sufferer of Cowardice, a condition that obliterates the spine and shrinks the testicles.”

UFrom “Cause of Death: General Meanness and Complete Insanity”:

“It started badly and ended worse ... I will not miss his ability to suck the fun out of everything. He excels at it. He could suck the fun out of the word fun!”

There are numerous obits posted on the site.

She offers an outline for writing your own relationship obit at the end of the book, but points out that there are no hard and fast rules — only that it reflect the relationship as much if not more than the pain.

“Not being overly one-sided helps a lot — even if it’s clear which side is responsible for the obit — it’s still more pleasurable to read if it’s not just a pity party,” Horan says. “Also, details! All the unique and specific details that only your relationship had gives its fingerprints, so to speak, and makes it all the more fascinating.”

Horan says the death of relationships ought to have rituals just as other deaths. The grieving process has similar phases, she notes, including disbelief, anger and, finally, acceptance.

Writing an obituary, she says, should help the writer feel the breath and essence of the relationship — the beginning, the middle and the end. It can help you see why you were together and, ideally, why you needed to part, Horan said.

“You feel so alone when you’re going through a break up” she said. “Seeing that many others are going through it, too, helps.”

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