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How to write an obituary

For those who haven’t had to write an obituary before, making a start can be difficult. So, what does obituary mean, exactly, and what information should be included?

This step-by-step guide explains how to write an obituary and what to include, helping you celebrate the life of your loved one and share details about the forthcoming funeral.

What is an obituary?

An obituary, or obit for short, is a news article that announces a person’s death, offering an account of their life and details about the forthcoming funeral.

Do I have to do an obituary?

There is no legal requirement to have an obituary when someone dies. However, an obituary, or an online death notice, can be a good way to share news of the death with family, friends and the local community.

Who should write the obituary?

An obituary often includes personal details, so will usually be written by family or friends. However, your Funeral Director will be happy to make suggestions.

What should I include in an obituary?

If you’re not sure how to write an obituary or what the obituary message should be, this guide will break down the process into manageable steps.

What to include in an obituary:

  1. 1. Announce the death

When considering what to write in an obituary, you should begin by including the following basic information about your loved one:

  • Full name
  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Date of death
  • Place of death

You don’t have to include the cause of death in an obituary if you’re uncomfortable with doing so. If you do choose to share this information, please make sure that you ask the family’s permission first.

  1. 2. Recount details about their life

An important consideration when writing an obituary is to include details about the person’s life. Depending on where the obituary is being published, you may need to set yourself a word limit as newspapers will often charge you by the word.

Concisely, recount the most significant events and achievements in their life. This may include their education, hobbies or contributions to the community. Every single life is unique and this should be reflected in an obituary.

  1. 3. Include surviving family members

It’s customary to include family members and loved ones who have survived the deceased, as well as immediate family members who predeceased your loved one.

  1. 4. Add a special message or poem

Sometimes people choose to include a special message, short prayer or funeral poem at the end of an obituary. This is completely up to you but can be a great way of remembering a loved one.

  1. 5. Choose an appropriate obituary photo

Finally, you may want to include a photo of your loved one, if the publication accepts them. If you do choose to publish an obituary photo, make sure it’s a clear headshot of the person who has passed and one which they would have been happy with.

  1. 6. Include details about the funeral or memorial

List the details of where and when the funeral will be held, as well as details of the wake or memorial service.

Example of an obituary

What does an obituary look like? If you're still unsure how to write an obituary, here is an example that may help you to prepare an obituary.

Mr Joe Smith

It is with great sadness that the family of Mr Joe Smith announces his passing after a brief illness, on February 19th 2018, at the age of 75.
Joe passed away peacefully at his home in South London and will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 45 years, Mary, his son James (Lisa) and his two grandchildren, Thomas and Lucy.
Joe taught history at South London Secondary School and was a lifelong Chelsea FC fan and season ticket holder.
The funeral service will be held at South London Crematorium, Rowan Road at 12pm on Sunday 25th February. All are welcome to attend. Please make any charitable donations to The British Heart Foundation.

Does an obituary have to be published?

Obituary notices help spread the word that a loved one has sadly passed away and are traditionally published in local or national newspapers. However, obituaries don’t have to be published in print, although online obituary notices are becoming increasingly popular.

What’s the difference between an obituary and a death notice?

A death notice tends to contain key facts such as name, age, date of birth and date of death. An obituary will usually include more details about the person’s life and achievements.

Still unsure about how to write an obituary?

If you are having trouble getting started, your local Funeral Director will be available to help you write an obituary for your loved one. For further advice, find your local Funeral Director today.

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