Obituaries tend to follow a fairly standard form. Although it doesn’t leave much room for originality, the constraints of the format can be a blessing for mourning families.
Always check with the funeral home first. Many funeral homes provide forms for basic information and will write the full obituary for you as part of the services they provide.
After the loss of a loved one, family members are often overwhelmed by all of the decisions that have to be made in the midst of their grief. One of the details that have to be taken care of is the writing of the obituary.
If you have recently lost a loved one and don’t know where to start with the obituary, you may find the following tips useful. This information will walk you step-by-step through the process of writing a great obituary.
Include biographical information, as much as you have available and feel comfortable sharing (the more information you include, the easier it is for acquaintances to identify the deceased as someone they knew). Some items you may wish to include:
- Full name of the deceased (including maiden name, nickname, or any other name by which your loved one might be identified)
- Dates and locations of birth, marriage, and death
- Cause of death
- Predeceased and surviving loved ones’ names
- Schools attended
- Military service
- Place of employment and position held
- Membership in organizations (for example, civic, fraternal, place of worship)
- Hobbies or special interests
Consider listing one or more charities to which you’d like donations made. If you do, be sure to include the address or url for the charity to make it easier for people to make donations.
If services are public, include full funeral service information: location, day, and time of visitation, memorial or funeral service, and burial. If services are private, indicate so (for example, “Burial will be private” or “Private services will be held”).
If the family prefers monetary contributions rather than flowers, include a phrase such as: “In lieu of flowers, please consider the needs of the family” or “contributions suggested to the family,” or “the family is requesting financial assistance for the services.”
Plan to publish the obituary at least 1-2 days prior to services so that friends and family can make arrangements to attend.
Make it personal
To write a nice obituary, it’s important to capture the spirit of the loved one who has passed. Write a paragraph that describes not only what your loved one did, but also what your loved one was like. For example, focus on hobbies, passions, and personal characteristics.
If you really want to write a special, personalized obituary, include details like this:
Peter had a strong passion for carpentry and painting. He also loved fishing, and he combined his two favorite hobbies to create extraordinary art. His paintings of various fish were much admired not only by friends and family but also by all who frequented his woodwork shop where his paintings were displayed. He was also an avid music lover and a collector of calypso memorabilia. He was known for his quick wit, his infectious smile, and his kind and compassionate spirit.
While you don’t have to mention every nephew and cousin by name, it’s important to write a general overview of the family members who passed away before the loved one as well as the surviving family. Close family members can be listed by name, and other relatives can be referred to more generally.
Review for mistakes
Check, check, and check again. Once you are satisfied with the finished product, pass it off to a friend or a dispassionate third party for review. Since obituaries are composed during a time of grief, it’s not always easy to keep a clear mind when writing one. It’s always good to get multiple perspectives. When you are sure that the obituary is as good as it can be, send it off for publication.