How to write an obituary

Funeral Planning
Write an Obituary

Losing a loved one is a part of life that all of us must deal with. And yet, while we cannot live forever, a well-written obituary ensures that the memories of our loved one will.

Obituaries serve as a touching way of letting others know about their death, expressing your pain and remembering the joy their presence brought. Moreover, remembering your loved one's legacy through an obituary can help you cope with the grief of losing somebody close to you.

Writing an obituary for yourself, a relative or close friend can be difficult. This guide will help you write a touching, heartfelt online obituary.

Before you begin: read other sample obituaries

Writing an obituary is different from writing an email or letter. It’s a task that requires tact, grace, and dignity. Not many of us ever have a need to write like this, so it’s not unreasonable to struggle with the task, especially with a loss so fresh in your mind.

To help get started, start by looking at obituary examples. This will give you an idea of what format or style is currently circulated and how you can personalize the one you write.

1. List the person's key details

An obituary is more than just a statement or a “goodbye” to someone you loved. It also serves as a celebration of the life they led as well as their family, achievements, and passions.

All of this begins by stating the facts. Your announcement identifies all the crucial details about your loved one, which can be communicated in a number of different ways. Some prefer euphemisms and poetic language, whereas others are more matter-of-fact. The approach you take will depend on what you feel comfortable with.

To begin, write down basic information about your loved one, such as:

  • Complete name

  • Date of birth

  • Date of passing

  • Age at passing

  • Place of residence

  • Spouse or partner information.

Double-check dates and places and make sure that all your spelling is correct. You can also add a bit of character with personal information such as:

  • Nicknames

  • Names of children and grandchildren

  • Personality traits

  • Hobbies and achievements of note.

2. Give a brief biography

They say a funeral is for the living, and the same could be said of obituaries. A good obituary does more than inform. It memorialises and pays tribute to the deceased person, their contributions, hobbies, and life.

Each life is unique. That’s why you'll likely want to give a brief biography about your loved one’s life, including:

  • Major life events

  • Contributions and causes

  • Their profession or trade

  • The lives they touched

  • Family and friends

  • Funny habits or quirks.

Remember, it’s all about memorialising your loved one, and there’s no rule saying what can and can’t be included. So, include whatever you and your fellow mourners feel is relevant or are comfortable with sharing in this public forum.

keep in mind that good obituaries don’t inundate the reader with trivial details. A well-written obituary paints a picture of what the person was like to be around, and the impact they had on those around them. Don’t be afraid to abridge, or use a habit or phrase they were fond of to sum up their personality.

3. Indicate service schedules

Once all the details are complete, be sure to include any information about memorials, viewings, wakes and other services.

You might like to add:

  • Name of the funeral home and contact number

  • Place of service

  • Date and time of visitation

  • Any special program for the deceased

  • Officiant Name (if that's applicable).

Once you’ve listed all this information, you can start forming it into more meaningful sentences.

Decide if you want a concise or elaborate message. Once again, what’s considered appropriate to publicly share is really up to you and your fellow mourners.

4. Add a special message

For a more personalized obituary, add a special message at the bottom. This can include anecdotes, thank you notes, words of encouragement or a prayer.

This is another place where you can communicate your loved one's unique personality. Consider including poems, quotes and special thoughts to make your obituary truly reflect their nature. And if you’re planning a public service, this is the perfect spot to make special requests.

While this last section is optional, it can be a great way of fitting in anything that wouldn’t fit elsewhere and injecting a bit of the deceased’s unique personality.

Consider who you are writing the obituary for

Who are you writing an obituary for, and what was their role in the family? This can have a significant impact on how you put the obituary together. Whether they are a grandparent, parent, sibling or friend, your loved one holds a special part in your heart, and one that you'll want to reflect in their obituary. Consider the following articles, which might help: