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How to write an obituary


Writing an obituary can be an important part of saying goodbye to a friend or loved one, but it can also feel like a tremendous pressure to do justice to their memory.

The best obituaries are honest, celebratory and memorable, touching on those aspects of your loved one’s life that will strike a chord with all who knew them.

The following tips and advice can give you somewhere to start and help you get your thoughts down on paper.

Use an Obituary Template

Having a definite structure to follow can really help to ease the pressure when you first sit down to write.  There are many obituary templates available to download online for free.  You’ll need to know the length or word count and any other specifications that might apply to the obituary as you’ll need to make sure you adhere to these.  If you’re not sure, contact the newspaper or publication where the obituary will be published; they’ll be able to confirm the details with you.

Emphasise Their Life

When writing an obituary, it’s natural to find your head filled with thoughts of the persons death, especially if their passing was very recent.

However, first and foremost, an obituary should be a celebration of life.  To re-focus your mind, it may help to make lists of things such as:

  • Your happiest memory of the person
  • What were the most important things in their life? (hobbies, career, family, friends etc.)
  • What was their most unusual trait?
  • What was their proudest achievement?
  • What’s the most memorable thing they ever said to you?

If you draw a blank, you could ask other friends or relatives of your loved one to contribute their memories and ideas.

Make Sure That You Include Relevant Information

As well as honouring the life of your friend or loved one, an obituary is also a way of providing information about funeral arrangements and memorial services to friends who may not be in direct contact with the family but who would wish to pay their respects.

Think about including:

  • The date the person passed away
  • The date and time of the funeral
  • Address of the funeral venue
  • Whether or not there will be a separate memorial service
  • Will the funeral be family only?
  • Will there be flowers or has the family requested charity donations instead?

Proof and Revise

The last thing you want is for your obituary to be published with an embarrassing typo.  Newspaper editors can make corrections, but you shouldn’t rely on this.  Leave yourself enough time to check spelling, grammar and punctuation before you submit the obituary to the newspaper.  It’s also a good idea to let a friend read it for you, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.

When you’re happy with your work, it’s time to submit it to the newspaper.  If you’ve followed the tips and advice outlined above, you’ll have written an obituary that truly reflects the life of your loved one.