Tips for Writing an Obituary


In the flurry of things that happen when a loved one dies, one requirement is that someone must sit down to write an obituary. The Death Notice is often published in the local newspaper, the paper of the hometown of the deceased, online, and elsewhere. Writing while grieving can be difficult, but also therapeutic. You will have time to reflect on their life, consider those left behind, and share with the world what your loved one’s life was all about. Let’s look at a few things to think about when writing an obituary.

Those Left Behind

An essential part of every obituary, and often the easiest place to start is with a list of family members who are still with us. In a typical obituary format, the spouse of the departed is listed first and should include their hometown as well. Next, list the children from oldest to youngest, and their spouses if applicable. Follow this with the parents of the deceased if they are still with us. Recently, it has become more common for a special pet to be named in the list of family members, so if they were especially close to their dog or cat, you might include them at the end.

A Tally of the Facts

Create a list of dates. Start with their birthday, and move through their lives. When did they pass through special moments in their lives? Attach these to the things they were involved in throughout their life. Look for some of these milestones:

  • College participation
  • Marriages
  • Military Service
  • Careers
  • Community Activities
  • Membership with Service organizations such as the Moose or Elk Lodge, Ruritans, or Rotary
  • Notable Awards and Achievements
  • Religious Activities

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Add the Human Factor

This list will help you create an accurate picture of the life of the person who has passed. After you have compiled this list of achievements, begin to fill in the gaps with more anecdotal, personal information.

  • Nicknames
  • Hobbies
  • Quirks
  • Interests

Funeral/Memorial Service Information

In addition to information about their life, the obituary will also tell when friends and family can say their final goodbye. List the date, time, and place of the memorial service and funeral. This section may also include who is giving the eulogy, pallbearers, and other more detailed information such as viewing times and graveside services.

Concluding the Obituary

Often, in the time leading to our transition from this life, there are many people and institutions who assist us. This may include a doctor who was especially helpful, organizations such as American Cancer Society, or the Alzheimer’s Association, or even special groups like churches, the VFW or American Legion who send members to visit. Take a moment to reflect on their assistance and give them proper thanks for their support. If memorial funds are requested, notifying the reader should come towards the end. This information may also include the wishes of the deceased for donations to specific organizations, and address to relay the gift.

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Putting it All Together

Once you have created a list of the facts and details that you wish to convey, begin your draft. You are writing what will likely be the final official account of their life. Take the time to go beyond listing facts and figures. Allow readers to know the human behind the numbers, awards, and achievements. You are summing up the life of a loved one. Obituaries are often clipped and saved as a reminder of the life taken from us, and as an inspiration to those who admired them. While the obituary serves as a notice of death, it is also a celebration of that life. Be sure to write this final address in the third person, as if their life is being described by a narrator.

Once the draft is finished, many people find it helpful to walk away from the obit for a time. Take your mind off the writing and sleep on it, or have a meal. Then come back to your writing and read it fresh. Consider any changes you want to make. If there is another person in the family who is willing to help, allow them to proofread what you have written. Finally, use grammar checking software such as Grammarly, or ProofreadBot to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes.

Writing an obituary may seem like a daunting task. By laying out a list of highlights in their life, you can make the process easier. Many find the activity to be a beneficial coping device, as you are given the opportunity to honor a loved one a final time. Create more than just a death announcement, deliver the blossom of their life!