Writing an obituary is a meaningful way to celebrate and honor the life of someone who has passed away. While it can be a difficult and emotional task, crafting an obituary that accurately reflects the life and legacy of a deceased loved one can provide comfort. In addition, an obituary serves as a lasting tribute to their memory.
This article will outline how to write an obituary, including tips for gathering information, structuring it, and ensuring that it accurately reflects the life and personality of the person being remembered.
What Is An Obituary?
An obituary is a written notice that announces the death of an individual and provides information about their life, achievements, and interests. It is typically published in a newspaper, online, or funeral program. Obituaries may also include details about the funeral, memorial service, or where to send condolences or donations in memory of the deceased.
Anyone close to the deceased can write an obituary. Authors might include family members, close friends, and even colleagues. You can also enlist the help of a professional writer or funeral home with obituary writing services.
All that said, writing an obituary is not required, especially if you prefer to make a private announcement.
What To Include In An Obituary
When writing an obituary, you might want to include the following information.
Include essential details about your deceased loved one, such as the following:
- Full name
- Age and birthdate
- Place of birth
- Place of residence
- Date and cause of death
Note that family members can choose to withhold the nature of the death. If you prefer to keep this detail private, use ambiguous language, such as “passed of a sudden illness”. Other euphemisms you can use for death include the following:
- Lost their battle
- Was called home
- Is in a better place
- Went to be with the Lord
In this section, the writer can summarize the deceased’s life. This might include details like what the deceased did for a living, their hobbies, educational achievements, advocacies, and whether they were part of a faith community.
Most obituaries include information about the deceased’s family members. Typically, an obituary lists the deceased’s family members in the following order:
- Spouse or partner
- Children and their spouses (if any)
- Siblings and their spouses (if any)
- Grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and step-relatives
- Grandchildren (most list the number of grandchildren instead of names)
If you plan to invite the public, you can include funeral details like the time, date, address, and additional information such as the funeral home website.
Most funeral attendees bring food, flowers, and other gifts. However, you can also request guests to bring donations for your loved one’s chosen advocacy instead. Provide the name and location of your chosen charity.
Tips For Writing A Good Obituary
Writing an obituary is one thing, writing an effective and heartfelt one is another. Consider these tips when writing an obituary.
While it may seem unorthodox, planning an obituary with your loved one can be enriching. After all, some people prefer to be in control over what’s published about them.
Do you prefer to get professional guidance? Some agencies like Legacy host online platforms where you can plan and template obituaries. These portals are accessible to loved ones in case they want to upload photos, videos, and stories about their loved ones.
Reach Out To Family Members & Friends
Add character to your obituary by interviewing family members and friends close to your loved one. Ask about hilarious anecdotes or even memorable mishaps that can bring your obituary to life.
Other questions you can as include the following:
- What are your favorite qualities about this person?
- What were this person’s most significant accomplishments?
- What were your favorite things to do with this person?
- What will you miss most about this person?
Write In The Present Tense First
Writing an obituary can force you to face some complicated feelings. Talking about someone in the past tense can feel devastating and disruptive to your process.
If it helps, write in the present tense to feel more connected to your loved one. Pretend you’re writing a letter to another loved one, like their spouse, children, or best friend.
Include Some Photographs
Photos are a pleasant reminder of the person you knew and loved. Pick out a photo of one of your loved one’s best moments. While you can use any photo, ensure they are the focus, especially if using a group photo.
Try using a recent photo when you spent the most time with this person, as using an old photograph can feel a little disconnected.
Don’t Feel Pressure To Write A Certain Way
Obituaries don’t always have to be humorous or profound. Write in a way you’re comfortable with, whether poetically or casually. Most readers connect with obituaries that have a personal touch and sound conversational.
Your loved one’s manner of death may dictate the tone of the obituary. For instance, injecting humor into an obituary may not be appropriate if your loved one dies under violent circumstances.
Proofread & Edit Your Work
While you don’t need to hire a professional proofreader to review your obituary, it may help to share your first draft with family and friends. A well-written obituary should have the following characteristics:
Remember, obituaries are public records, so you’ll want to get your facts straight. Ensure that names are spelled correctly, especially when using titles like “Sr” or “Dr.”
Know What Not To Write
Traditionally, obituaries are not written in the first person, so you’ll want to avoid using “I” language. Refrain from making an obituary about how you feel. Remember, an obituary is a tribute to someone – it isn’t a personal essay.
Other information you shouldn’t include in an obituary are your details, such as your phone number, home address, and email address.
Example Of An Obituary
It is with immense sadness that the Brown family announces the passing of the beloved Jeffrey, who succumbed to a sudden illness on March 29, 2023, at the age of 82.
Jeffrey is survived by his loving wife Amelia and two children Gregory and Mariah. He was a beloved history professor at New York University for over four decades and a dedicated New York Jets fan.
Jeffrey’s funeral service will be held at NYC Funeral and Cremation Service on Westchester Ave at 12:00 nn on Sunday, April 30. All of Jeffrey’s close friends and family are welcome to attend. Please consider making charitable donations to Jeffrey’s advocacy, The Children’s Scholarship Fund.
The Bottom Line
Writing an obituary is often a bittersweet experience. However, with ample preparation, kind words from loved ones, and an easy-to-follow template, you can write a meaningful tribute to your loved one.