How to write an obituary
This step-by-step guide will explain how to write an obituary and detail all the essential parts, 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.
Obituary notices help spread the word that a loved one has sadly passed away and are traditionally published in local or national newspapers, although online obituary notices are becoming increasingly popular.
An important consideration when learning how to write an obituary is to make it interesting; after all, it is a celebration of their 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.
If you’re not sure what the order of an obituary should look like or what the obituary message should be, this guide will break down the process into five manageable steps.
How to write an obituary for a loved one
1. Announce the death
When you start writing an obituary, you should begin by including the following basic information about your loved one:
- Full name
- 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.
2. Recount details about their life
In a concise manner, recount the most significant events and achievements in the deceased’s 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.
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.
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.
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 deceased and one which they would have been happy with.
Example of obituary notices
What does an obituary look like? If you're still unsure how to write an obituary, here is a fictitious example that may be useful if you’re writing an obituary for your loved one.
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.
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.