How to Write an Obituary: Guidelines for a Meaningful Send-Off
Were you tasked with writing an obituary for a loved one? Don’t know where to start? Use our guide and set of tips to write one that’s truly meaningful.
If you’ve been tasked with the job of writing an obituary for a friend or family member, it can seem overwhelming.
This important memorial will typically be published in the local newspaper and online, so it’s crucial to craft something meaningful and impactful.
Read these helpful guidelines that will show you how to write something that will leave long-lasting memories of the person who has passed in a special way.
Gather Pertinent Information
You probably already know the proper name of the person who has died, but your obituary should also include a wide range of essential information. Ask a close family member for more, such as their place of birth, date of birth, and a list of relatives they’ve left behind.
Many obituaries also include information about where the deceased worked and any special facts about them, such as a favorite hobby. You’ll need to make sure you get everything exactly right so you can record it properly when you publish the obit.
You can choose how to announce the death, whether you use terms like “passed away” or “went to be with our Lord.” This terminology should be confirmed with the family so you’re saying it in the way that they deem best.
In most cases, you won’t mention the cause of death unless the family chooses to include it. It’s not recommended that you add this information unless it’s been confirmed by the family that they want it added to the verbiage.
Remember the Person in a Meaningful Way
It’s important to note that an obituary is not the same thing as a biography. That being said, you should still include some pertinent information that made the person who died special.
Include things like their favorite things to do in their spare time, charities they worked with, or something they were passionate about like music or gardening. You can add a touch of humor if you choose, but again, this addition should be confirmed with the family first.
Think about the things this person really loved, whether it was a beloved pet, their children, or their community. Emphasize how caring and giving they were so they’re remembered in a positive light.
You don’t need to add every single life event or every job they ever held. Instead, focus on a few key points about the person that made them so memorable.
The obit should be more of a visual sketch of the person as a whole rather than a detailed bio. You can even add one of their favorite songs or quotes to showcase who they were as a human being.
Include the Family in the Obituary
An essential part of an obituary includes the person’s family members whether living or dead. You’ll need to confirm all next of kin as well as anyone directly related to them who have passed away before them.
Use terms like “beloved son of” or “loving father of” to add emphasis on how caring they were to their family. Including the names of family members will often depend on the age of the person who has passed away.
For example, an obituary for a young person who was never married or who did not have children will typically focus on their siblings and parents. For someone older who has a large family, you should include their children, spouse, and grandchildren when applicable.
In most cases, nieces and nephews are not included unless the deceased was especially close to them. If there is a large number of great-grandchildren and you don’t have the space to include all of them, you can say something like “and many wonderful great-grandchildren.”
Add Service Information
When a person passes away, readers of the obituary will want to know when and where the funeral service will be held. Include this at the end of the obituary and mention the date, time, and location.
Sometimes families prefer a private service. If this is the case, simply mention that a private service will be held instead.
You may also mention that the family prefers a donation to the deceased person’s favorite charity in lieu of flowers. This is common among many families who would rather see donations given to honor the person and the thing they most cared about.
If the person is going to be buried, you can include the name of the local graveyard where they will be laid to rest.
Photos and Phrases
When you publish an obituary, the newspaper will also ask if you have a photograph to include. This photo should be chosen by the family whenever possible.
Photographs can be formal such as a graduation or wedding photo, or they can be more candid such as a family picture. Allow the next of kin or spouse to select the photo whenever possible.
At the end of the obituary, you can also feature the person’s favorite phrase or saying. It can be a treasured Bible verse or a line from their favorite song or poem.
Some people prefer to use their own quote or choice of phrasing, while others choose to omit this addition altogether. Ultimately, the option to include a photograph and/or phrase will be determined by the family.
A Memorable Presentation of Life
Essentially, an obituary provides a wonderful way to memorialize someone’s life. Whether you add photographs and quotes or the person’s favorite sport, this information provides a snapshot of the person and who they were.
Consider everything carefully before you publish an obituary to ensure that all of the essential information is included to remember the deceased in a special way.
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