Writing an Obituary

Anyone who has lost a family member knows how difficult it is to deal with the many arrangements that need to be made at a time when sadness and grief are so great.  One of the most daunting challenges for some can be in writing the obituary.  The thought of trying to capture the significance of an entire life in a few short paragraphs can seem overwhelming.  But with the right information and a willing spirit, it’s possible to create an obituary that honors the life of the deceased love one in a way that’s pays tribute in a way that’s not so difficult to create.

Primarily, an obituary serves as the notice of death.  Therefore, it’s best to begin an obituary with this announcement including the full name of the deceased along with his age, city of residence, day and date of death.  Often, the place of death is also given (“at his home” or “at Mercy Hospital Southeast”) as well as the cause of death if known.

After this initial notice, the next part of the obituary should comment on the life of the deceased person.  Obviously, every detail cannot be included, so choices need to be made about what is most essential.  The most common items discussed are:  information about the person’s date and place of birth; names of parents and any significant childhood information; facts about educational accomplishments; employment information and any significant career accomplishments; charitable, professional, or religious affiliations; name of spouse and date of marriage; and notable attributes (e.g. sense of humor, unique talent).

The next part of the obituary needs to mention family members.  This should begin with the family members the deceased is survived by, like a spouse, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings.  Close aunts, uncles, nieces, or nephews as well as dear friends may also be mentioned.  Decisions about who should be  included can get tricky because it’s easy to leave out someone who will be hurt, like step-siblings or distant relations who live far away.  It’s best to make sure there is agreement in the immediate family about who should be named in the listing.  After covering those still living, this section should go on to explain significant people who have preceded the loved one in death, like a spouse, children, grandchildren, and any other significant relations.  Their dates of death should be included as well.

After the family section of the obituary, information about when the funeral or memorial service will take place along with information about hours for visitation should be included.  If there are any vigils or special services, these should be mentioned to.  The place of burial, name of the funeral home, and a place to call for information should be included as well.  The obituary should end with any information regarding suggested memorial donations, and a closing line that sums up the deceased loved one’s life in a few short words.

When writing the obituary, make sure to focus mostly on the loved one who has died, not the feelings of those writing the obituary.  Be sure not to refer to the deceased as “Mom” or “Grandpa” but to write in the third person throughout.   Although it may seem difficult, it’s best to try to find a happy medium between giving information about the death and celebrating the person’s life.  Hopefully, by keeping these tips in mind, writing a high quality obituary can be a little less intimidating and will appropriately honor the loved one who has now passed on.

A great deal of information about losing a loved one is available at In the Light Urns. For words of sympathy and loss visit our website. We hope this article about writing an obituary was helpful. Thank you for reading.

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