6 Things to Consider when Writing an Obituary

obituary writing

An obituary is the first written celebration of a person’s life, detailing how they lived, their greatest achievements, and honoring a life well lived. Trying to put down in a few short paragraphs a lifetime of memories is a daunting task, but a very important one. Follow along with this guide to understand the essentials of writing a fitting obituary.

1. Know the Parameters

Firstly, you must check with the newspaper or publication for word count, layout, format and whether they will accept an obituary that hasn’t been written by a funeral home or one of their writers.

Most newspapers charge by page size and sometimes by word. These parameters are good to know before you get started with writing.

2. Stick to the Basics

A typical obituary includes the essential biographical details like:

  •    Name
  •    Year of birth
  •    Where they lived
  •    Marriages and children, and a list of their surviving loved ones
  •   Cause and date of death
  •    Facts about their career or community accomplishments
  •    Any organizations they were a part of such as a church or club
  •   Information about funeral services (if any)

3. A lifetime of achievements

With the basics covered and enough word count remaining, start to write from the heart. Tell the reader why the decedent will be missed, the impact he or she had on yourself and others they met. Mention his or her achievements, from climbing Mount Everest to raising a wonderful family.

4. Service Details

If you are having a funeral or memorial service and plan on inviting family and friends, make sure to mention all of the details so people know where to go. Be sure to include: date, time and location of the service. People will also be curious about how to show support. Direct them where to send flowers, cards, and other tokens of encouragement. If you would rather not receive these, make that known as well.

5. Charity

Some individuals or families wish to have donations made in honor of the deceased. If this is the case, make sure you add details of the chosen charities and any instructions for donations.

This is a popular request among families who select green burials, where in lieu of sending flowers, they request charity donations to go towards an environmental cause.

Charity donations are also incredibly impactful when the death occurred due to an illness. It’s a great way to raise awareness and support while also remembering the individual and his or her battle with the disease.

Similarly, when a death happens suddenly, whether it was because of drug abuse, drunk driving, or maybe sudden infant death syndrome, donating to charities that support surviving families dealing with similar circumstances can be incredibly impactful.

Funding can go to help survivors through the grief process and this impact spans much farther than the life of any flower arrangement purchased for the day of the funeral.

6. Reflect them

Finally, write it in a tone or style that reflects their personality. It doesn’t have to be formal if they were fun and light hearted. Make it a fitting tribute.

There are very few set rules when it comes to celebrating a person’s life. As long as you include the important basics, the rest can come from the heart.

One thought on “6 Things to Consider when Writing an Obituary

  • By Faylinn - Reply

    I have always wondered why people include the deceased’s surviving loved ones in obituaries. I mean, I was just reading one the other day in a paper and it was really sad to learn that that person’s own parents had survived them. Why exactly do we include this type of information?

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