How To Write An Obituary – 6 Things You Need To Include (2020 Edition)
“Write what should not be forgotten.” – Isabel Allende
The obituary is designed to acknowledge the passing and to share about the deceased person’s life; the noteworthy events, special relationships and unique qualities of the individual. The obituary can include as much or as little information as the family wishes.
How to Write an Obituary – 6 Things You Need To Include
There are 6 things that are standard to include in an obituary.
- Announcement of death
- Important details and life events
- Family members to list
- Funeral/memorial/visitation times
- Flower or memorial donation information
What Is the Right Format for an Obituary?
1. Announcement of Death
- The deceased’s full name (may include middle, maiden or nickname),
- Location of residence
- Location of death,
- Date of death
- Optional – Some may choose to include the cause of death.
2. Important Details and Life Events
General information to include:
- Date and place of birth
- Date of marriage and spouse’s name (if applicable)
- Hometown and other locations lived
- Schools and degrees earned
- Employer names (positions held may be listed, too)
- Military service and rank
- Hobbies and interests
- Place of worship
- Memberships or organizations they were a part of
An idea to consider:
If you are interested in writing more, consider sharing their life story. Include the characteristics you appreciated about them, life experiences they had, or other things you admired about them. Your words may be funny, serious, or a mixture of both.
3. Family Members to List
Family members can be listed as those who are survivors and also those who have preceded the deceased in death. You can list key family members in the following order: spouse, children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, and siblings. Grandparents, cousins, in-laws, and nephews or nieces may also be listed. You may wish to include pets if the person was very fond of their animals.
If there are multiple names in one category (often grandchildren), you may list each one individually or merely state the total number of them.
Example: She is survived by three sons, Stephen (Miranda), Marco (Jennifer), and Alan; six grandchildren; and 1 great-grandchild.
4. Include Funeral/Memorial Information
Make sure to add the what, when, and where for the events. Will the visitation and funeral service both be held at the funeral home? Or will the visitation take place at the funeral home but the service will be held at a church?
If your family has decided to make the services private or hold no services at all, make note of that in the obituary to alleviate confusion.
More like This: Attending a Funeral: Your Ultimate Survival Guide (2020 Edition)
5. Add Charity or Flower Information
Sometimes the family will ask that people make donations to a charity instead of sending flowers. In this case, consider choosing a cause that your deceased loved one would have found meaningful.
6. Select a Photo
If you’d like, you can choose a favorite photo of your loved one to include.
What Not to Include in an Obituary
- House addresses, as these can be a clue to empty homes at the time of a funeral
- You may wish not to include the deceased person’s date of birth to help avoid potential identity theft
Who Should Write the Obituary?
Often, a family member or small group of family members will write the first draft of the obituary. They will then send it to their funeral director, who can help with suggestions or revisions if necessary.
7 Tips for Getting Started
Here are some quick tips as you begin writing an obituary.
- Include the date, day of the week, time, and location of each service.
- It doesn’t have to be solemn and serious. You can still be respectful with tasteful and kind humor (Mary Stocks’ obituary is a great example).
- Take your time. When you rush, that’s when mistakes happen.
- To inspire your writing, think of five words that sum up the life of your loved one.
- Include any accomplishments that were meaningful to your loved one.
- Are there people you’d like to thank or that perhaps the deceased would? It could be a caretaker or someone else that went the extra mile to help your loved one.
- Some print publications will charge you by line or word for an obituary. Keep this in mind while writing, if this is of concern.
Writing a Parent’s Obituary
Follow the format: announcement of death, important details and life events, family members, service & event times, flower or memorial info, and a photo.
Samples of Great Obituaries
The easiest way to learn how to write an obituary is by seeing what other people have written.
Free Obituary Template
If you would like help writing an obituary for your loved one, here is a basic template you may use as a starting point for writing an obituary. You may edit it to fit your needs.
Please note that you do not have to mention the cause of death if you don’t want to. You may add things such as, “she passed away April 9, 2019, surrounded by her family” or “with her husband by her side.”
(Person’s full name, plus nickname is appropriate), (age), of (residence), passed away (date), after/with/due to (context about death – natural causes, a long/short illness, etc.). He/she was born (date and year) to parents (names) in (birth location). (Person’s first name) graduated from (high school, location) in (year) and received his/her (degree) from (college/university). He/she married (spouse’s name) in (year of marriage). (Person’s first name) is survived by (list of living family members and close loved ones, as appropriate). He/she was predeceased by (list of close family members who have previously passed on).
You may then add the person’s former employer, personal accomplishments, hobbies, or other personal mentions. Up to three is a good rule of thumb.
(Person’s first name) was a member of the (local/national club, etc.), enjoyed volunteering at (the local animal shelter, etc.), and was a (life-long Green Bay Packers fan).
Now add the funeral arrangements. If there’s more than one service, list them in order of occurrence. If services will be private or not held at all, make note of that. If the family has a preference regarding donations, note that here.
(Type of event – visitation, viewing) will be held on (date) at (time) at (location). The (type of event – funeral, memorial service, funeral mass) will be held on (date) at (time) at (location). The (type of event – burial, interment) will be held on (date) at (time) at (location). Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to (specific or general charity).
Writing an obituary for someone you love can be a difficult task and we hope the format and examples provided will help as you get started. Remember to be patient and kind with yourself during this difficult time.