Should donor offspring be mentioned in a donor's obit?

Should a donor offspring be mentioned in a donor's obituary? Hell, yeah! Absolutely not! Because it's complicated.

4 minute 30 second read

I first saw this question in an online forum. It was directed at both donor offspring and donors. It sounded so simple, but of course, it's not. The answers ranged widely, with about as many saying No as Yes.

It made me reflect on the purpose of an obituary.  Primarily, it's a notice to those outside someone's most intimate circle that they have died. It's a memorial to that person's life. But it's also a genealogical reckoning of where that person sits within the family tree. And so including or not including a donor offspring is a significant declaration.

I recently re-asked the question, but only to offspring: Would you want to be mentioned in the donor's obituary? 

Here is some of what I heard back.

"No, I would not. It feels good to be acknowledged by him (I have met him), however, that is all that I need. I wouldn’t want to be included in his obituary."

"I would not want to unless they were insistent on including me, and I would not want to if in any way the children he raised objected to it. That would not be a time I would ever want to add more pain to someone hurting."

"Yes, I would very much like to be mentioned. As I think about it more deeply, however, I think my desire to be mentioned is reflective of my desire to have our relationship mean more to him than it currently does. The 'need' to be in his obituary is secondary, because if I were mentioned there as his daughter that would mean he saw it that way in life as well as death."

"I imagine it's still quite rare for donors to include their DC [donor-conceived] children in their obituaries, but that certainly wouldn't make it hurt any less to see oneself 'erased' from the parent's life, when inclusion would cost almost nothing, just a few characters on the page. I can't wait for the day and age when our inclusion is normalized."

"It would be so incredibly validating to get mentioned by name... It would go to show that he treasured our relationship and didn't let fear, stigma or even just plain uncertainty about how to capture our connection in writing get in the way of documenting what we meant to one another. I do see how the phrasing could be a bit tricky in the sense that the obituary should differentiate between me and the children he raised, but with a bit of advanced thought and planning that shouldn't present an issue." 

"My biological father would need a full page in his obit. Nineteen kids and counting."

"Yes! My bio-dad died before any of us even knew he was our bio-dad. I would have loved to be included along with my 57 other current half-siblings. We are just as important as the four sons he raised! My bio-dad donated for 30 years. There could be thousands of us."

"Yes, I would like to be included in his obituary. Not much links me to him on paper. He is not on my birth certificate. It would be nice to have a piece of paper that declares to the world he is my father, and to have that paper for posterity and genealogy research."

"Yes. If only for my descendants' genealogical convenience."

"I plan on mentioning him in my own obit so my descendants will have an easier time correctly tracing their lineage. Denying them their correct heritage is something I will not be complicit in."

"I certainly plan on including all of my fathers in mine, whether my bio-dad would want to be included or not, and would like to be acknowledged in his as well. I know that I will not be."

"The feeling of wanting to be acknowledged that I exist is strong. He would be survived by me...whether he wants to admit I exist or not."

"Yes. I think it would help reaffirm the idea to family members on my donor’s side that I am real and I am his daughter."

"When [my grandmother] passed away, my social father arranged her funeral. He refused to put us as her grandchildren in her obituary. That was very painful for me and my siblings. After the funeral, I arranged with the coroner to receive the correct obituary, the one my grandmother would have wanted, with all her grandchildren, not just the biological ones."

"Yes. It can feel very bewildering to be made invisible like you do not exist in either the genetic father's family or the non-genetic family... it feels like I am being silenced and there’s not a place for me anywhere."

"I recently discovered who my biological father is. Unfortunately, he passed away before I could meet him. He was only 61 when he died. He was single and had no (legal) children. When he took his last breath he was alone lying in a hospital bed. His family didn’t want to organize his funeral so one of his friends did. There wasn’t even an obituary that was sent out. Like he never existed. But the fact is that if he hadn’t existed, I wouldn’t have been here writing you. It’s tremendously sad that I and others will never be able to know him or to spend time with him. Yes, I would like to have been put in his obituary. He who thought there was nothing to leave behind couldn’t have been more wrong. He has at least five biological children and seven grandchildren. We are his legacy."

These responses have been edited and condensed.

Many thanks to WeAreDonorConceived for their help. 

If you have any obits that include donor offspring, and that you don't mind sharing, please send them my way. I'd love to tweet them out.

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