How to Write an Obituary

Soon after the loss of a close loved one comes a variety of responsibilities. One of the first tasks you’ll need to take care of is creating an obituary. While writing an obituary can be challenging when you’re processing shock and grief, we have some tips that may make it easier.

What is an obituary?

An obituary is a written announcement of a person’s passing. It should include key details about your loved one’s life and informs readers about the funeral arrangements. Though they were traditionally published in a local newspaper, these days an obituary may also be posted online.

Your loved one may have composed their own obituary in advance. If not, someone will need to write it. Usually authored by a family member, an obituary may also be written by a funeral director as part of their services. They will work with the family to obtain the necessary details.

Eulogy vs. obituary

Though both a eulogy and an obituary are pieces of writing focused on your loved one’s life, there are several differences between them. A eulogy is a speech that is delivered at a funeral or celebration of life service. The eulogy can include stories and anecdotes. It’s typically longer and more detailed. An obituary, on the other hand, is typically shorter. It provides brief details about your loved one’s life and announces the funeral service’s location, date and time.

What to include in an obituary

An obituary can be structured however you prefer. Here are some of the details that are typically included:

  • Name and important dates: The loved one’s full name, when and where they were born and the date they passed.
  • Places: The city where they lived and spent most of their years, as well as the place in which they passed away.
  • Education: Where they went to high school and any further degrees or training they received.
  • Partner: Your loved one’s partner’s name and how long the two were together.
  • Career and personal accomplishments: Your loved one’s achievements, community involvement and brief work history.
  • Personality: The person’s most notable and admired personality and character traits.
  • Hobbies and interests: Did they love to read? Share about their favorite genre of books. If they loved to ride motorcycles, include that detail.
  • Family members and special friends: You may name surviving close family members, as well as family or friends who preceded a loved one in death.
  • Funeral: Share the details of the memorial service or celebration of life, including the date, time and location of the event, as well as any expected attire.
  • Gift guidance: Whether and where to send flowers or donations.

The obituary should be positively written and include only affirming attributes of your loved one. You’ll also want to protect your loved one’s identity by not including too much personal information. For example, it’s better not to include home addresses or their mother’s maiden name. The cause of passing is also not necessary to share, though you may if you wish to.

Tips for proofreading an obituary

You’ll want to edit and proofread your obituary before it’s published. Be sure to read your obituary a few times to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. It may be helpful to read it out loud. You can use spell-check or an online grammar tool to be certain. In particular, double-check any dates, names and the details of the services.

After you’ve proofread it, ask a family member or friend to look it over. They can make sure you’ve included all of the correct details. When you’re done proofreading, it’s ready to be published.

Obituary examples

It may be helpful to start with a template or example and personalize it with your loved one’s details. Some obituary examples include:

Obituary example 1

Our devoted husband and father [full name] passed away peacefully on [date of death]. [First name] enjoyed [hobbies/interests], spending time with his family and making people laugh. He was married to [spouse’s name] for [number of years]. Together, they raised their [number of children] children in [hometown]. He spent most of his career at [workplace] as a [job title] until his retirement in [date of retirement].

He is survived by [family member’s names and relationship to the loved one, e.g. “sister Darlene Smith”]. He will be deeply missed.

The funeral service will take place at [location] on [date] at [time]. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in [first name]’s name to [charity].

Obituary example 2

[Full name] passed away on [date] surrounded by her loving family. Born on [date of birth], she was the daughter of [parent’s names]. She went to school at [high school] and furthered her education at [college or trade school]. While getting her degree in [degree name], she met the love of her life, [partner’s name]. They spent [number of years] wonderful years together.

Not only did [first name] have a successful career as a [job title], she was very involved in her church and frequently volunteered at [volunteer work]. She had a gentle spirit and was always helping others. In her spare time, she could be found doing [hobbies/interests].

She is survived by [family member’s names]. [First name] was preceded in death by [family members who have already passed]. A celebration of life will be held in her honor at [location] on [date] at [time]. Flowers may be sent to [address of funeral home].

While you grieve the loss of your loved one, remember that you’re not alone. Your family and friends would likely be honored to help you craft your loved one’s obituary. Sharing memories of your loved one so often aids in the healing process. Your loved one’s obituary will serve as a family keepsake and lasting memory of their precious legacy.