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.

Words of Sympathy During a Funeral

It can be difficult to find the right words of sympathy to express sympathy during a time of loss. We often search for the most appropriate words that will help another. Comforting a grieving friend with a sympathy card or a heart to heart can be easier than you think. People are often thankful with the feeling that you care to take the time to try and comfort them while others can seem to avoid the topic altogether. In expressing your sympathy you might be worried about saying the wrong thing, saying something that upsets them, or simply sounding artificial.

Just being there for your friend can help them so much. Ask if they need company, or someone to stay the night. Make lunch dates with them to get them out and help them talk about their loss. Providing your company, words of sympathy and listening can comfort your friend after a funeral. If you wait too long because you are afraid of saying the wrong thing you will probably end up not doing anything at all, which is worse than trying something. The more you care about your grieving friend, the harder it may seem to do right by them. Unfortunately, you cannot take their pain away. Anything less may seem silly to you right now, but for your friend it can mean the world. There are many things you can do to help a friend in a time of loss.

It is important to talk with someone in grief. It is common to feel overwhelmed, helpless, uncertain, or awkward. Chances are your grieving friend feels the same way. You might feel that there isn’t much you can do to make your friend in grief feel better, but just talking with them can comfort them. They will remember you were there for them during this tough time and it will help you bond together. Begin by letting your friend know that you care. Having your support can help in so many ways. You do not have to give advice or have answers. You just need to be supportive and be able to listen. Understand that grief brings on strong emotions and there is no right way to grieve. Be genuine when talking with your grieving friend. Using words like died can help your friend feel more open to you because you feel comfortable using that word. Let your friend know that you are truly sorry that this has happened. You could even say, “I am not sure what to say right now, but I want you to know that I care about you. You can talk to me”. Ask your friend how you can help; what can you do for them that will help in this time? Allow your friend to cry, yell, break down, or get angry. These are normal feelings during grief and are part of the grieving process. Just be there for your friend. Offer your shoulder to cry on. Your friend needs your support and comfort, not judgment or criticism. If you can’t think of anything to say then just offer a smile or a hug. Sitting in silence is ok.