How to Write an Obituary
Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Planning Resources, Grief and Guidance, Obituaries | July 13, 2020
When funeral planning and grieving a loss, one of the most important and daunting tasks is writing the obituary. How do you tell a life story in just a few paragraphs?
To make this task a little less overwhelming, we’ve created this how-to guide for writing an obituary. By following this guide, you can honor your loved one’s life and capture how they want to be remembered.
Gather All the Basic Information About Your Loved One
First off, gather all the basic information about your loved one to mention at the beginning of the obituary. This includes their birthplace and date of birth, where they lived at the time of death and the date they died, their age at the time of death, the cause of death (if you’re comfortable including this), and any other relevant information that you wish to mention.
Toward the end of the obituary, you list their relatives, both living and deceased. For partners of their children, siblings, and other relatives, their names are typically included in parenthesis. For example, let’s say Sally Sample is married to Bob. It’d be written like “Sally (Bob) Sample” or “Sally Sample (Bob),” depending on your preference.
Make a List of Your Loved One’s Life Accomplishments and Passions
When telling your loved one’s life story, don’t feel like you need to include every single detail. You can still capture what made them unique by highlighting their notable life moments that reflect who they were. And if you don’t have the space to include something, you can consider adding it in their eulogy, instead.
To make this easier, list your loved one’s life accomplishments and passions. Then, choose the ones that reflected their character the most. Did they love their job? Make sure to include any job-related accomplishments, like earning a promotion or receiving an award. Or were they passionate about a certain hobby? Highlight that in their obituary and talk about why they loved it so much.
Talk with Family and Friends to Get Personal Stories
To tell a life story, you need to listen to others' stories. Pick a few of your loved one’s close family and friends and ask a few questions about your loved one. You may even learn something new about your loved one in the process.
For example, these are a few questions that you can ask them:
- Describe your favorite memory with your loved one.
- What made your loved one special to you?
- What was the best advice you received from your loved one?
- How would you describe your loved one’s personality?
Find Creative Ways to Incorporate Your Loved One’s Personality
Using your own insight and information from your interviews, find creative ways to incorporate your loved one’s personality into their obituary. Obituaries are meant to be personalized to the life they’re honoring. For example, if your loved one was a comical person, don’t be afraid to add some humor. Use your best judgment to determine what’s appropriate.
Include the Funeral Details, As Well As Memorial Funds
At the end of the obituary, make sure to include the relevant visitation and funeral service information, such as the date, time, location, and address. Additionally, include any memorial funds that people can contribute to. These can be memorial funds to raise money for the funeral costs and other expenses, or they can be charities, organizations, or causes that were important to the deceased.
Have Multiple People Proofread the Obituary
After writing the obituary, have multiple people proofread it for fact, spelling, and grammar errors. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your funeral director for guidance with writing and editing. They can provide you with suggestions and examples.
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