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How To Write An Obituary (5 Steps With Examples)

By Larry Li

August 3, 2022


After a loved one passes away, you may be asked to write a heartfelt obituary for a newspaper, website, or social media platform. 

But do you write an obituary? 

An obituary acts as a summary of your loved one’s life and legacy. Talk about their accomplishments and favorite things. An obituary also informs people that someone has died and includes details about their funeral, burial, and memorial service. The obituary should include memorable stories from friends and family.

Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging processes to go through in life. However, you can use the obituary as an opportunity to honor your loved one’s life to show how important this person was to you. 

By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you’ll be able to write a great obituary your loved one would be proud of.

In today’s in-depth guide, you’ll learn:

  • The purpose of an obituary

  • The elements of an obituary

  • How to write an obituary in 5 steps

  • Self-written obituary templates

  • Generalized obituary templates

  • How to plan ahead with Trustworthy

Purpose of an Obituary

An obituary is a written announcement sharing the news that someone has passed away. It also sums up a lifetime of your loved one’s accomplishments and memories. Furthermore, obituaries are typically published online or in newspapers but can be found in other media, such as broadcast media or trade magazines.

Although there is no legal requirement of needing to write an obituary when someone passes away, it’s a good way to share the news of your loved one’s passing with family, friends, and the local community. 

Elements of an Obituary

An obituary doesn’t only share your loved one’s birth and death date, but it also includes a photo of the individual, along with a description of their achievements and personality. 

In essence, the elements of an obituary include:

  • Death announcement

  • Date and time of memorial service

  • Biographical information or summary of life

  • List of close friends and family

  • Memorable moments and accomplishments

  • Funeral or memorial details

  • Acknowledgments and donations

  • Pictures

Writing the Obituary (5 Steps)

Now that you understand what an obituary is and what elements to include, let’s discuss how to write the actual obituary. 

Step 1: Announce the Death

When writing the obituary, you should start by including the following information about your fallen loved one:

  • Full name

  • Age

  • Place of birth

  • Date of death

  • Place of death

You don’t need to include the cause of death in the obituary if you’re uncomfortable sharing this information. However, if you want to include the cause of death, please ask the family for permission first. 

Step 2: Provide Service Times

The next step is to list the details of where and when the funeral will take place. You should also include details of the wake or memorial service. This includes all the relevant information about the planned services, such as the full date, time, and location.

You should also state what is happening each day. Including the email or number for the funeral home may also be valuable for guests who want to check with them for further details. 

It’s crucial to concisely explain what type of service it is. This helps the guests understand what to expect in terms of wardrobe expectations and what they may need to bring. 

Step 3: Include Biographical Info

When writing an obituary for your loved one, it is important to include details about their life. However, you may need to be cautious about where the obituary is published. This is because newspapers may charge you per word. Therefore, you may need to set yourself a word limit.

In terms of what to write, you should recount the most significant achievements and events in your loved one’s life. This may include their hobbies, education, or contributions to the community. Every single person is unique, and this should be clearly reflected in the obituary. 

Step 4: List Family Members and Close Friends

It’s customary to include a list of family members, close friends who have survived the deceased, and immediate family members who predeceased your loved one. 

Step 5: Include a Special Message or Pictures

Sometimes, people include a special message in the form of a short prayer or funeral poem at the end of an obituary. Although it’s entirely up to you as the writer, it can be a great way to remember your loved one.

In addition, you should include a picture of your loved one if the publication accepts them. This should be the best picture of your loved one. It’s typically a clear headshot that displays your loved one in the best way possible. This adds a personal touch and puts a face to the description.

You may also want to add in acknowledgments and donations. For example, if your loved one received hospice care before they passed, you may want to thank the facility staff. 

Finally, donation instructions are the last customary element to include in the obituary. For instance, if your loved one had a cause they were passionate about, you can explain that donations can be donated to help that cause. 

Obituary Writing Tips

One of the most important obituary writing tips to know is that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. What’s most essential is the intention and remembering your loved one.

Nevertheless, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Accuracy: The obituary’s details and information must be factual and correct. Before you begin, gather all the information you think you may need and fact-check it with your loved one’s family members and friends.

  • Collaboration: Speak with people your loved one had close relationships with to gain insights from people who knew them the best. This allows their closest friends and family members to be part of the process. It also helps you learn new and interesting stories to include in the obituary.

  • Proofread: You should be prepared to edit the obituary for spelling and grammar a few times. Having a second pair of eyes to proofread the obituary is incredibly helpful.

Obituary Example

John Whittaker, 84, of St. Louis, entered into God’s kingdom on July 1st, 2022. He was born June 10, 1954, to Mary and Charles Whitaker.

John, the most loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather is survived by his wife, Julia; sons, Mark and Henry; daughter, Stephanie; grandsons Alexander and Joseph; and his faithful dog, Chewy. 

Upon graduation from Riverside County High School, John joined the Army to serve his country, which took him out to San Diego. Upon leaving the military and a few years after university, John met the love of his life, the woman who would stand by his side through thick and thin, Julia. 

Feeling obligated to raise their family back home in St. Louis, they loaded their family into a van and made the long and rigorous journey across the nation. Once back in St. Louis, John tirelessly and faithfully supported his family by working two jobs for nearly 20 years.

John had the personality and natural charisma to make friends no matter the situation, and his laugh was infectious to everyone around him. A man of many stories, some factual and others not so factual, all that would draw out inspiring conclusions.

As a man of true integrity, John would never budge under any circumstances, regardless of if anyone had any idea why his words meant. A man with a simple taste of slacks and t-shirts, he focused on providing his children with the best life possible without worrying about himself. 

John was a truly great man whose impact will be forever felt by his family, that loves him dearly. He was a selfless man whose passing left an unfillable gap in the hearts of his loved ones. His ability to sacrifice, provide, support, forgive, and love will be forever engrained in all he knew.

A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. on August 29 at Covenant Funeral Service, 1234 Kennedy Drive, St. Louis. Donations can be made to Operation Second Chance. 

Generalized Obituary Templates

Let’s take a look at a few obituary examples. You can use these as inspirations for your writing, but remember, there’s no “right”  way of writing an obituary. It just has to be meaningful to you.

Keep in mind that these examples are briefer than what you should include in yours. You should add in a lot more personal details based on the guidelines above. 

Example 1:

[NAME], a fourth-grade elementary school teacher, passed away at the age of [X] on [DATE]. For 35 years, he served as a guide and leader for children in the community. The students at [SCHOOL] treasured [NAME]. As a graduate of [UNIVERSITY], [NAME] was a kindhearted and composed instructor who impacted the lives of his students during his career.

[NAME] leaves behind his wife of 55 years years, [SPOUSE], and his children [CHILD] and [CHILD]. The funeral service with be held at [LOCATION] at [TIME] and [DATE]. All are welcome to attend. To honor [NAME], [SCHOOL] is accepting donations to dedicate a section of the school library to [NAME] for his service.

Example 2:

[NAME], a long-time resident of the Chicago area, died [DATE] surrounded by her close family. She was born in Portland and was the only daughter of [PARENT] and [PARENT]. After receiving her BA from [UNIVERSITY], she married her high school sweetheart, [SPOUSE]. She was a caring mother and active community member.

Her work included planning Chicago’s annual winter festival and holiday celebrations. [NAME] was also passionate about music, volunteering to help several local bands for over 15 years. She leaves behind her husband and her daughter, [CHILD]. Funeral services will be held at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME]. The [LAST NAME] family requests memorial gifts in [NAME]’s honor for the city’s local musicians program. 

Example 3:

[NAME], age [X], of San Fransisco, passed away on [DATE]. Born in Boise in [YEAR], [NAME] received his Bachelor of Science in Finance from [UNIVERSITY] in 1957. He directed the Finance Division at [COMPANY] for 30 years. In his spare time, he loved golf, visiting family, and traveling the world. He was proud to have visited over 50 countries in his long and fulfilling life.

Most of all, many will remember how his laugh could change the energy of an entire room. [NAME] is survived by his children, [CHILD] and [CHILD], and wife, [SPOUSE]. Funeral services will take place at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME]. In remembrance, the [LAST NAME] family is accepting donations to donate to the local youth center. 

Planning Ahead With Trustworthy

When we face life’s toughest moments, it’s important to be prepared. While writing an obituary is one part of the post-death process, there are dozens of other tasks to handle. This includes settling the deceased person’s estate, carrying out their last wishes, and much more.

Trustworthy is an advanced digital storage and collaboration platform you can use to store all of life’s important documents.

For example, you can upload your will and share access to the document with trusted loved ones. This way, your family will know exactly what to do when worst comes to worst.

Every adult should have an estate plan ready, no matter their financial status or circumstance. If you pass away without away (also known as dying intestate), the state will step in to make choices and decisions for you. This situation adds stress, time, and increased costs. It also causes potential arguments within your family. 

Fortunately, you can plan, organize, and securely share your documents with Trustwrothy’s innovative cloud-based storage database. In Trustworthy, you can also include your burial or funeral wishes, so your family knows how to handle these post-death memorials. 

You can try a 2-week free trial here.

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