Writing an Obituary

The funeral notice

Writing an obituary is an important part of funeral planning. It's a fairly simple process, though you can be original and creative if you're so inclined. It's becoming quite popular to make obituaries into creative pieces of public memorial.

An obituary can be very basic, including only the essential facts about a person's life, such as the names of children, grandchildren and spouse, the career(s) of the deceased, their interests and fascinations and perhaps a favorite sacred verse. On the other hand, an obituary can also be very personal, warm and unique.

Ways to Write an Obituary

Creative obituaries are generally written in the form of verse or attempt to create a story. They can include a variety of details that describe the personality of the deceased, and can also express the impact that person had on those around them.

An obituary can be taken care of in advance, especially if someone is terminally ill. Many people like to have a say in their own obituary or may want to write their own as a way of working through their own funeral planning. Having an obituary written before the time of the funeral can remove some of the stress associated with planning.

When writing an obituary, it's a good idea to think of it as a writing process. Come up with a theme or a basic idea, write a first draft, take time to reflect on it and then go back and make revisions. Writing a good obituary can even be a therapeutic part of grieving, allowing you time to express the feelings about the deceased that you really feel others should be aware of. You'll experience an assortment of emotions throughout the process, and ideally they should be reflected in the final product.

The Basics

You'll want to include at least the following content in your obituary:

  1. An announcement: the name of the deceased, the date and location of death and (if appropriate) the cause of death (i.e. 'suddenly' may be a euphemism for a traumatic death).

  2. Biographical information: about the person's life, the things they accomplished, their education, interests, etc. What would the deceased most want to be remembered for in his or her life?

  3. Survivors: a family tree lists the spouse, children, grandchildren, in-laws and any other close relatives. You may also name close friends, if it seems appropriate.

  4. Schedule of Ceremonies: List the time and location of viewings (wakes) and all services.

  5. Memorials: Instructions on how to honor the deceased, from contributions to flowers.

  6. Arrangements: This might list the funeral provider, and may have a phone number to which people can direct questions. The names of those involved in funeral planning may also be included.
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