WRITING AN OBITUARY
An obituary records our loved one’s story so it can be cherished forever. An obituary pays tribute by saying something about their story and character, which is far more meaningful than a simple death announcement. You can do this by sharing a story from their life, their accomplishments, their hopes and aspirations, their loves and what they mean to you. The best obituaries often talk about all of these parts of a person’s life.
Writing an obituary can feel intimidating and overwhelming. The responsibility of writing about a loved one who has died can be emotionally difficult. You also may worry about forgetting important details or that the obituary won’t fully honor your loved one’s life. This is why pre-planning the obituary is important.
Speaking with a loved one about their life can give you a chance to be insightful about your family history and to reminisce about your loved one who has passed. Some people write their own obituaries ahead of time, adding a personal perspective on their own life story and to share wisdom to friends and family.
Most people write an obituary in the aftermath of your loved one’s passing. The obituary is just one of many things to be done during this emotional and exhausting time.
Funeral directors at a funeral home are also great resources, as they can help with many details related to your loved one’s death, including drafting and publishing the obituary in local newspapers. Check with newspapers for publication deadlines and pricing if you are writing the obituary on your own.
Essential Parts of an Obituary
- Death announcement
- Life story
- List family member
- Memorial/funeral information
- Any charity information
- A photo
Here is a guide on writing an obituary and the important information to include within it. Feel free to be creative, some of the most beautiful obituaries are ones that are unique and don’t necessarily follow the standard structure. However you choose to write your obituary, be sure also include as many of these key details as you can.
1. Announce the death
There are many ways to state that someone has “died” (“passed away”, “passed on”, etc.) so you can choose any expression that you prefer.
There are many meanings behind why you should include the cause of death in the obituary. It informs your community, acknowledges the illness and your loved one’s battle with it. It also reduces the amount of times you are asked for the cause of death.
2. Share their life story
An obituary goes beyond just announcing a death, it gives us the chance to tell their life story. It helps memories of your loved one live on forever in memory. Don’t be afraid to add some humor if it is appropriate! You don’t have to share their entire life story. Just share the highlights, favorite memories, what you will miss the most about that person and what was important to them during their lifetime.
Biographical information you may wish to include in the obituary:
- Date and place of birth, marriage, and death
- Hometown, places lived
- Schools attended, degrees earned
- Places of employment and positions held
- Military service and rank
- Membership in organizations
- Place of worship
- Hobbies or special interests
3. List family members
4. Include funeral or memorial service information
5. Add charity information
Some families may wish to have people donate to a memorial fund to help cover funeral expenses, or for your loved one’s alma mater.
If your family prefers to have monetary contributions or charitable donations rather than flowers, please include a phrase such as “In lieu of flowers,” followed by “please consider a donation to the American Cancer Society,” “contributions suggested to the family,” or “the family is requesting financial assistance for the services.”
6. Select a photo
If you are working directly with a funeral home, they will be able to assist you in writing the obituary, the photo, and submitting to the newspaper. Keep in mind we will be able to display multiple photos and even a video for the online version of the obituary.