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How To Write An Obituary To Remember

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If you have the honour of writing an obituary then it's going to be one of the most important pieces you'll ever write. Thankfully, not a lot can go wrong so you shouldn't worry. It's a way to celebrate their life and reflect on what they achieved.

Obituaries can be a simple posting in a newspaper or a much larger article and therefore it's good to know how many words you have to work with. After that, you also need to know what information needs to be included.

What needs to be included?

Obituaries are essentially a public service announcement which, while becoming less vital in the world of social media, is still an important way of letting people know that someone has passed away. Here's what you have to include.

  • Their full name, including any commonly used names
  • Age and place of birth
  • When they passed away
  • Details on the death (can be optional or vague)
  • The date and information on the funeral

The priority of an obituary is the announcement of these details. Remember, you have the eulogy at the funeral for a more touching and personal statement if needs be. That being said, there is often plenty of room in an obituary for some kind words.

A brief history

The detail in this part is going to be highly dependent on the number of words that you have. In local newspapers, you often have a graduated payment system where you can be allocated a certain number of words. You need to bear this in mind before you start writing.

You can see this part as an extremely brief biography. This is where you document their most significant life achievements and provide a broad overview of the type of person they were. You can decide what to include whether this is a career achievement or simply the fact they were a valuable member of the community.

If they loved their job then you can put that here or perhaps you know that they'd love you to mention what football team they supported. The more room that you have, the more information you're going to be able to give.

Don't feel down if you're struggling for space and feel as if you're not doing them justice. As we said, there is plenty of time to celebrate their life at the funeral. As long as you're getting the general message across, you should be fine.

In terms of the death, the detail here is up to you. Messages such as 'after a long battle with cancer' or 'peacefully at home' are often used. If you want this to be personal then you can simply say 'sadly passed away' as you have no obligation to tell anyone the fine details.

Surviving family

This can be the trickiest part as you need to list the people related to the deceased. This can become difficult as you may only have a limited amount of space and can end up including a vast amount of relatives.

It's important to know the family dynamics as to not leave anyone out. If the deceased was a devoted step-mother, for example, then their step-daughter should be mentioned. Nieces and nephews are often left out but include them if they were particularly close.

You don't want to miss anyone out but at the same time, it can be hard to include everyone. If a grandmother passed away with many grandchildren then you could say 'and much loved by her eight grandchildren' or similar.

When mentioning relatives, it's common practice to mention their spouse's name in parenthesis. For example, if James' father passes away and his wife's name is Jane then you would right 'devoted father to James (Jane) and his grandchild George'.

While this is the traditional way of doing things, this is your obituary and you can do it your own way if it feels right to you. Post-death can be a very emotional time for everyone and you just need to be considerate of everyone's feelings.

Announcements

The details of the funeral is very important as here you should put the time, full date and location of the service to make sure everyone knows. You may also add more detail if required on the order of service and place of internment/burial, if applicable.

If you're running out of space then you don't have to put the details of the wake, as this will be communicated at the funeral. You may also want to make special announcements such as asking for charity donations instead of flowers or taking the staff at a hospice.

Adding a photo

Adding a photo will add cost to an obituary but can be a nice touch. You have to be mindful of where you'll be publishing the picture and how much space you have. The quality of newspapers is often low and therefore you'll want to use a photo which is a clear headshot.

As a large part of an obituary is the giving of information to people who may not have heard of the death, you also want it to be a recent photo that people can recognize.

Summary

It's a good idea to break the obituary down into four segments:

  1. Announcement of death and personal details
  2. The brief biography of their life
  3. Their surviving family members
  4. Service details and any additional information

Final thoughts

An obituary is something that you should feel proud to do rather than looking at it as a burden. If you follow these steps then you're going to be able to create an obit that does justice to the deceased while also giving out all that crucial information.

Once you've written the obituary then it's good to refer back to this page just to double-check that you've included everything you need too. As well as proofreading it yourself, it's also a good idea to get a second pair of eyes to look over it. We're sure you'll do an amazing job.

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