How to Write an Obituary: A Guide to Celebrating a Life Lived

For some, it may seem like writing an obituary is just announcing someone’s passing. But really, it’s a beautiful way to honor their life. It’s all about capturing their achievements, the people they loved, and the difference they made in the world. If you’re trying to figure out how to write one, we’ve got some tips to help you through it. 

First things, first. Gather Important Information

Before you begin writing, it’s important to make sure you have all the pertinent details at hand. Like: 

  • Full name, including maiden name and nicknames
  • Dates of Birth and Death
  • Place of Birth and Death
  • Names of Parents and other immediate family members
  • Details of the funeral, memorial, or celebration of life service

Begin with a Brief Announcement

You’ll start with a basic announcement providing the facts. Such as:

  • [Full name], aged [Age], of [City, State], passed away on [Date of Death]

Summarize Key Life Events that Stand Out

Next, think about the big moments in their life. You can be straightforward, get a bit emotional, or even toss in a funny memory. And, if they ever mentioned what they’d want in there, make sure to stay faithful to their ideas. Here are some examples: 

  • Childhood memories or events
  • Educational achievements
  • Career highlights
  • Marriages, children, and family life
  • Hobbies or passions
  • Community involvement or charity work 

Mention Surviving Family Members

For this part, you’ll want to list immediate family members who have passed on before and those who are still here, carrying on your loved one’s legacy. 

  • “He/She is preceded in death by [Names and relationships, e.g., ‘his parents, John and Jane’] and survived by [Names and relationships, e.g., ‘his loving wife, Sarah, and their children, Anne and Paul’].”
Add a Personal Touch

If there’s a moment or memory that really stands out to you, this is the perfect place to share it. Whether it’s a heartwarming story, a quirky trait they had, or a funny incident that showcases their personality, it can really help paint a picture of who your loved one was. It’s those little details and stories that often resonate the most and help others remember the unique spirit of the person.

  • “Known for her infectious laughter and love for gardening, Mary often said that flowers were nature’s way of smiling. Her backyard, always bursting with colors, was a testament to her green thumb and her zest for life.”
Share Memorial Service Details

Now for the practical part. You’ll want to mention all the funeral or memorial service details plus any additional information that may be helpful to attendees such as if you’re planning to host a private or public service. Think about whether there’s a dress code or a special request, like ‘in lieu of flowers’. If there’s a gathering afterward or a specific place for condolences, it’s good to mention that too.   

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Additional details 
Proofread. Then Proofread Again.

You did it! Now, let’s make sure everything is spot on. Give the obituary a few reads – look out for any slip-ups with dates or names. Sometimes a second set of eyes can catch what you missed, so recruit a family member or friend to give it a once-over. 

Adhere to Publication Guidelines

If you’re thinking of putting the obituary in a newspaper or online, give their guidelines a quick look. Some places have word limits, specific ways they want things formatted, or might charge you based on how long it is. 

Great work! Writing an obituary is a big responsibility, but as long as you follow these tips you’ll end up with a heartfelt tribute that really captures the spirit of their life.