After the death of a loved one, you may be asked to write an obituary. If you’ve never done this before, the task could feel overwhelming.
On the surface, an obituary informs people that someone has died. But at its best, it can be a lifelong keepsake for the people left behind.
If you aren’t sure where to begin or what information you should include, we’re here to help you.
Get the Facts
Before you put pen to paper or sit down at your computer, you’ll need to gather some information. You should begin with these basic facts:
- Full name
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Where they lived
- Cause of death (although the family may not want this information released)
As you gather your facts, you will probably come across a lot of additional information. It’s better to have too much information than not enough, as you can always edit the obituary later.
Gather the names of relatives, both living and deceased. Include the full names of deceased parents, siblings, spouses or partners, and children. You can also mention grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any step-family members.
Make a note of any grandchildren or great-grandchildren. If there are a lot, you do not have to list them by name; simply the number of each with suffice.
Something to remember is that partners of children are cited in the obituary in parenthesis after the child’s name. For example, “Survived by son John (Julie) Green.”
Funeral or Memorial Details
Share the information you know regarding the end-of-life celebration. This should include time, day, date, place, and location. Also, have any information people would appreciate if they plan to attend the service. At the very least, include the name and phone number of the funeral home so they can call with any questions.
Once you’ve gathered the basic facts, you can begin to form a summary of the deceased life. Start at their birth and work your way forward. Begin to create the story of their life.
You can be straightforward and move from one fact to the next, or you can be more heartfelt and share more detailed information about the deceased. Regardless of your decision, take some time to ask yourself the following questions:
- Will someone else find this information interesting?
- Does this information keep my loved ones’ stories going?
- Does the obituary mention something the deceased was known for?
Did you spell the deceased name correctly? How about the names of other family members or loved ones you mentioned? An obituary can become a lifelong keepsake for people left behind, so take your time and ensure you have everything right.
Include middle names, initials, and distinctions such as “Jr.,” Sr.,” and “Dr.” While it may not seem like a big deal to you, it might be to others.
Read and Re-read
When you have completed your first draft, ask at least one person to proofread the obituary. Have them look for spelling errors and any other mistakes or omissions.
After the obituary has been proofread and edited, take some time to read it out loud. Often, ears are better than eyes when it comes to improving a story.
Structuring an obituary is a matter of choice. No two stories are alike, and this is no different. Readers expect to learn facts about the deceased, including a life summary, a list of relatives, and details about the service. Once you’ve included these details, you’ve done your job!