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How to Write an Obituary

An obituary is one of the most personal things you’ll ever write. As long as it expresses the sentiment you want that’s all that matters.
How to Write an Obituary
An obituary is one of the most personal things you’ll ever write. As long as it expresses the sentiment you want that’s all that matters.

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You probably realize there are a lot of arrangements to make after a loved one passes, but one common task that people forget about is the obituary. 

The obituary is something that will live on forever memorializing the life of your loved one. Today, obituaries are even searchable online. With that in mind, it’s no surprise people feel anxiety at the thought of having to write an obituary. It’s a big responsibility that people take seriously.

If you find yourself in that position, try to not let the anxiety get the best of you. An obituary can actually help you reduce stress by helping you communicate with numerous people at once. With the tips below writing an obituary will be easier than you imagined and maybe even a little therapeutic. 

What to Include in an Obituary

The first challenge is understanding what should and shouldn’t be included in an obituary. There are no rules that must be followed, however, there are some standard best practices. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s typically included in an obituary:

  • The deceased’s full name and age.
  • Acknowledgement of the person’s passing. (You don’t have to provide the details surrounding their death, but the obituary should first note that the individual passed.) 
  • Date of the death.
  • Where the deceased resided, died, was born and grew up. 
  • Big life, education and work accomplishments.
  • Military service and honors.
  • Hobbies and interests.
  • Church membership.
  • Names of surviving family members.
  • Information on donations for memorial or funeral services.
  • Time and location for services.

You may also want to include a photo or two that will be published alongside the obituary. 

What Not to Include in an Obituary

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who use obituaries for their own gain. Identity thieves can use the information they find in obituaries to commit fraud, and burglars may be looking for an easy target.

There are two pieces of information you never want to include in an obituary. The first is the date of birth for the deceased. That paired with the name can be used by identity thieves. You also don’t want to include your loved one’s actual address, especially if the house is vacant. Even if it is occupied, burglars know the house would be empty during the hours of the funeral service. 

The Details Are Up to You

You can provide as many or as few details as you want in the obituary. Some people choose to keep the obituary brief if publications charge by line or word, and others simply want to keep the details to themselves. However, it is best to provide the funeral service details so fewer people ask you directly for the information.  

The Tone is Up to You

Obituaries don’t have to be somber, serious or sad. They can be happy, funny and celebratory. Before choosing which tone to take it could help to think about your loved one and how they would have written their obituary. Just be careful to keep the obituary respectful if you do use a lighter tone. 

Write About What You Want Others to Remember

The most important reason to write an obituary is it captures the essence of your loved one’s life. What is it that you want your loved one to be remembered for? No matter what tone you take or the details you provide, readers should be left with a sense of who your loved one was and what made them special. 

Get Help From the Funeral Home

If you plan to have services at a funeral home the director can help you with the details and getting the obituary published. The funeral home can provide information on the times and locations of services. They should also be familiar with who to contact to get the obituary published in the local newspaper and news websites.

Picture of Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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