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How To Write An Obituary

It can be a daunting task. There are many things to consider. But before you begin to write an obituary, let’s determine what an obituary is.

An obituary is often referred to as a notice of death, often called a funeral notice. It informs others of someone’s death.

Although there is no rule, most obituaries are written as a matter-of-fact, containing information about a person’s death; the time and place of death; causes or circumstances of death; surviving relatives; religious services and any other burial and funeral arrangements.

When space is not a consideration, writing an obituary can become a memorial and what you write can truly become a tribute to a loved one’s life as well as a notice of their death.

How To Write An Obituary

Before you begin to write, we suggest you gather the following:

  • Decedent’s full name as you would like it to be published.
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Date of death
  • Photo
  • Funeral date and time
  • Name and address of where services will be held

First steps to writing an obituary

The main purpose of an obituary is to inform others of someone’s death and to briefly (and publicly) commemorate him. A family member is usually in charge of the obituary, but if the person who died has no family or is estranged from his family, the task may fall to a good friend. Obituaries are sensitive, so be sure you’re the appropriate person to write it first. Things to know before you start

Gathering biographical facts

  • Before you start writing, gather the facts you’ll need. An obituary presents basic information about the person’s life and death.
  • Decide what you want to write about. The information given usually includes:
    • Full name (some people put a maiden name in parenthesis)
    • Date of death
    • Where the person was living at the time of death
    • Date of birth
    • Birthplace
    • Key survivors (spouse, children) and their names
    • Time, date, place of memorial or burial services (if you want the public invited)
  • Add any extra information that’s relevant or important to those closest to the person. It’s common to include:
    • Cause of death
    • Biographical information, life story, or major life events (covering as much or as little as you’d like)
    • Survivors who are grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends, or pets
    • Memorial tribute information, such as “in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to such-and-such hospice or such-and-such non-profit organization”
  • It’s a good idea to run these facts by other family members to check for accuracy, as well as to make them feel included, before you invest time in writing.

Writing an obituary

Obituaries tend to use a basic, straightforward writing style, simply presenting the facts. Have some samples next to you as a guide.

Most obits present information in roughly this order, linked together in a few sentences:

    • Name
    • Age
    • Place (town name) of death
    • Optional: cause of death, usually in a brief description such as “died of cancer” or “died after a long illness”
    • Optional: exact place of death, such as “in the hospital” or “at home”
    • Examples:
      “Maggie Maples died Saturday at age 98 in her home in Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by family.”
      “Our loving dad, Stuart Green, passed away in his sleep on July 17 after a heroic fight with cancer. He was 76.”
      “Jeremy Brown died August 28 at age 82 at the Gentle Creek Nursing Home in City, State, where he’d lived for the past six years.”
  • Biographical information, including such facts as schools attended, degrees earned, jobs, volunteer experiences, military service, passions, interests, hobbies.
    • Examples:
      “Greta, a 1942 graduate of Our State University, spent most of her professional life as a social worker involved with foster children, a job she loved. After retiring, she volunteered with foster care agencies whenever she wasn’t traveling or gardening.”
      “Frank served in the Vietnam War and was a proud U.S. Marine. In his civilian life, he was an electrical engineer and an avid poker player and soccer coach.”
      “Jenny was an active member of her church and a loving wife, mother, and grandmother.”
  • Survivors: spouse (if spouse has already died, you can write, “was preceded in death by her loving husband, Jerry”), children; optional survivors include grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, pets
  • Information about the memorial, funeral, burial services, or wake** — upcoming or previously held — including date, time, and place if the service is public
    • Examples:
      “A memorial service will be held on July 1 at 2 p.m. at the Final Rest Funeral Home in XYZ town.”
      “Private services.”
      “Private services were held last month.”
  • Memorial tributes
    • Examples:
      “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to XYZ hospice or XYZ non-profit organization.”
      “Memorial tributes may be made to XYZ hospice or XYZ non-profit organization.”
  • Add a small personal touch to the basic list of facts if it feels natural, such as:
    • Terms of affection or endearment
      Examples:
      Our beloved mom and grand mom, Lydia Henderson, died in her sleep June 30 at the age of 67.”
      “It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of our amazing grandfather”¦”
      Unique, humorous, or unusual information
      “Anyone who knew Filbert knew how much he loved playing practical jokes. We will miss his silly sense of humour.”

More common obituaries used with memorial pamphlets:

  1. It please our Heavenly Father to take away from us our dear and beloved … in the age of … years, … months and … days. His / Her departure is deeply mourned by his / her … place will be empty in the hearts of those who knew him / her. We rest upon the knowledge that God shines over us. Sadly, mourned by…
  1. Under the Will and Admission of our Heavenly Father our beloved … has been taken away by death at the age of … years, … months and … days. We humble ourselves before God in our hour of sorrow with sincere thankfulness in our hearts for the wonderful years that we were together. Our lives were enriched through his / her joyous life. We will miss him / her memories. On behalf of …
  1. On the day of … the life story of … started. His / Her emotions of love and hate, sorrow and joy, were written up in his /her book with God. On … the last entry was written in his / her book and God closed it. Through our Heavenly Father’s decision, his /her soul was claimed back by God, his / her Maker, and his / her body given back to earth, as it should be. His / Her bereaved …
  1. Suddenly, and without farewell, our dearly beloved … was taken away from us in the age of … years, … months, and … days. Only those who had the experience can tell what parting without goodbye means. Silently he / she left us without a spoken word or a farewell. His / Her bereaved …
  1. It pleased our Lord of heaven and earth to take away from us our beloved … in the age of … years, …months, … and … days. In the days to come we will long for him / her. We silently resign ourselves in the knowledge that God will never make a mistake. We are grateful for all the memories that we have of him / her and we will hold it in esteem. His / Her place will be empty, but we submit ourselves to the Will of God and call out together with the faithful Job: “the Lord gave, the Lord, took, praise the Name of the Lord.” His / Her bereaved …
  1. From the Giver we received a gift of a devoted father / mother, … people come and go, but their memories still exist. We will always remember him / her. He / She was lending to us for … years, … months and … days. When God called, and disclosed His Will, his / her voice became still. We, who were left behind, submit ourselves to God’s Will and believe that it is for the best. We are not mourning without hope, we rejoice in the knowledge that we will meet again one day! With sadness from …
  1. It pleased our God to take away my beloved soul mate and our … on the age of …years, … months and … days. His / Her family was his / her greatest pleasure and most precious possession. His / Her loyalty and helpfulness made him / her a special friend loved by old and young. As he / she lived charming, affectionately and unselfish, always satisfied – we will remember him / her. His / Her bereaved …
  1. When we lose a loved one, our world just falls apart. We think that we can’t carry on with this broken heart! Everything is different now: we’re upset and we’re annoyed. Our world, it seems that it is shattered there’s such an awful void. There’s got to be a reason and we have to understand: God made us and at any time, He’ll reach down for our hand. There might not be a warning; we won’t know where or when; the only thing I’m certain of is – we’ll meet each other again!
  1. It has pleased our Heavenly Father to take away from us our dead and beloved ……….. in the age of ……… years. His/her place will be empty in the hearts of those who knew him /her. We rest upon the knowledge that God shines over us.
  1. Under the Will and admission of our Heavenly Father our beloved …… has been taken away by death at the age of ……… Years. We humble ourselves before God in our hour of sorrow with sincere thankfulness in our hearts for the wonderful years that we shared together.  Our lives were enriched through his/her joyous life.  We will miss him/her and respect his/her memories.
  1. On the day of …… the life story of ……… started. His/her emotions of love and hate, sorrow and jo, were written up in his/her Book with God. On ……… the last entry was written in his/her Book and God closed it.  Through our Heavenly Father’s decision, his/her soul was claimed back by God, his/her Maker, and his/her body given back to the earth, as it should be.
  1. Suddenly, and without farewell, our dearly beloved ………………… was taken away from us in the age of ……… Year, ……. months and ……… days. In the day to come we will long for him/her. Only those who had the experience can tell what parting without goodbye means.  Silently he/she left us – without a spoken word or a farewell.
  1. It pleased our Lord of Heaven and Earth to take away from us our beloved ………… in the age of ……………. Years. We silently resign ourselves in the knowledge that God never makes a mistake. We are grateful for all the memories that we have him/her and we will hold them in esteem, him/her place will be empty, but we submit ourselves to the Will of God and call out together with the faithful Job: “The Lord gave, the Lord took, praise the Name of the Lord.”
  1. From the giver we received the gift of a devoted father/mother ………………… people come and go but their memories still exist. We will always remember him/her. He/she was lend to us for …………… years.  When God called, and disclosed His Will, his/her voice became still forever.  We, who were left behind, submit ourselves to God’s Will and believe that it is for the best.  We are not mourning without hope, we rejoice in the knowledge that we will meet again one day!
  1. It pleased our God to take away my beloved soul mate and our ……………… in the age of ……………. years. His/her family was his/her greatest pleasure and most precious possession. His/her loyalty and helpfulness made him/her a special friend – loved by old and young.  As he/she lived – charming affectionately and unselfish, always satisfied – we will remember him/her.
  1. When we lose a loved one, our world just falls apart. We think that we can’t carry on with this broken heart! Everything is different now:  we’re upset and we’re annoyed.  Our world, it seems, is shattered – there’s such an awful void.  There’s got to be a reason and we have to understand:  God made us and at any time, He’ll reach down for our hand.  There might not be a warning; we don’t know where or when; the only thing I’m certain of is – we’ll meet him ‘her once again.
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