How to write an obituary
Writing the obituary of someone you love is more than sharing the specifics about their final arrangements. It’s an opportunity to capture the essence of a life, to pay tribute to accomplishments and to help deal with grief.
Here are some tips to help you write a meaningful obituary.
Celebrate who they were
An obituary is a death announcement, but it’s also a depiction of a life story. The obituary details their family, profession, accomplishments, and reflects on the hopes and dreams they fulfilled during their life.
Take the time to gather information
It’s important to ensure the details are correct, including dates, family members’ names and relation, and a concise yet informative history of their life. It is especially helpful to reach out to those who may be able to share unique details you may not know. If possible, it is worthwhile to prepare the obituary in advance. Here are details that should be included in an obituary:
- Date and city of birth
- Date and place of death
- Family survivors: Parents, spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren
- Religious affiliation
- Education and profession
- Retirement achievements
- Military affiliations and service
- Volunteer and civic work
- Fraternal affiliations
- Favorite vacation places
- Date, time, place of funeral, memorial service, viewing, cemetery service
- Personal achievements
- Consider including a charity to donate to for those who are interested
It is not necessary to disclose cause of death if you’d like to keep it private.
Let emotions show through in your writing
The painful emotions from a death can be a conduit to express your love. Take a notebook and carefully recall how special the person was to you, and how they impacted your life and the community. An honest and reflective remembrance will come through your writing. Thoughtful examples may include “Susan was always there to help if someone needed a hand” or “Paul’s volunteer work at the veterans’ hospital was something he enjoyed in his retirement.” By sharing your perspective, others can get a sense of how wonderful your loved one was. (Here's more advice on making an obituary memorable.)
Rely on a funeral director’s experience
Funeral directors have experience summarizing what should be included. They can sit with you and your family to help brainstorm details to include. They are also familiar with the format and what’s expected from local newspapers, including deadlines and costs.
Sit down to write
Once you’ve gathered all the details and reflected on what made the person special, it’s time to write. Don’t be afraid to be honest, to use humor or to use their own words if you have them. Include details that convey passions and personality. When you have finished, ask someone else to read it over, paying careful attention to spelling, grammar and the specifics of the arrangements.