How to write an obituary

grave that helped to inspire an obituary

Writing an obituary does not have to be a difficult process and with a few simple steps, most people will find that they have the ability to write a loving tribute to the person they have lost. For those that do not have the desire to write an obituary there is always the option of hiring another person as well and in some cases, individuals make the decision to write their own obituary while they are still alive, updating it as they continue to live, creating what can almost be considered an autobiography.

Write Your Own Obituary

Writing your own obituary may seem like you are trying to hasten your death. In truth, you are planning for your future in the same fashion as when you purchase a life insurance policy or make your funeral arrangements in advance. Writing your own obituary means that you will make the decision about what is included in your obituary.

Follow these simple steps when writing your obituary and the writing process will be much simpler:

  • Celebrate your life. Although it is inevitable that your family will mourn your passing, you can make the transition easier by simply letting them know you feel as if you accomplished something.
  • Thank your loved ones. Take a moment to thank your family and friends for filling your life with meaning and love, let them know that they meant something to you.
  • Be inspirational. It is okay to brag about your accomplishments in your obituary, sharing a story that will inspire others is something that will keep your memory alive for years to come.
  • Tell the truth. The compulsion to have people believe that you were a greater person than you were is a natural one; however, the truth is always the best. If you have something that you have always regretted in your life, share it, your family will feel closer to you as a result.
  • Say goodbye. The point of the obituary is to tell about your life and death, take a moment to say good-bye to your loved ones and express how much you really love them.

Write an Obituary for a Loved One

Writing an obituary for someone you love can become an exercise in self-control. It is natural to want to pontificate about the person you loved in long, glowing sentences, however, time constraints and honesty to the person’s memory requires that you approach this obituary with a little distance in order to gain clarity.

These steps should help you in writing an honest and loving obituary:

  • Write about their life. It is easy to be caught up in the last moment of a loved ones life. It is important to focus on their entire life rather than their last moments so that you can pay tribute to their accomplishments in full.
  • Consider their wishes. If your loved one expressed a desire for information to or not to be mentioned in their obituary or at their funeral, respect their wishes, even if it is something you think everyone would love to know.
  • Be accurate. Ensure that you get all of your facts straight from your loved ones date of birth, how many siblings they had, where they met their spouse, etc. This information will likely be important to family members and it is important to get it right.
  • Be inspirational. If your loved one inspired others to do great things, or did great things themselves, share the story, help inspire others.
  • Don’t get personal. It is easy to get involved enough in an obituary for a loved one to start speaking on personal terms. Always keep the obituary writing it the third person, if telling a personal story refrain from saying I while writing it.

Write an Obituary for a Stranger

This type of obituary can perhaps be the most difficult task for a writer to accept. Writing an obituary for a family that has recently lost a loved one means asking difficult questions that may create more sadness or even anger among the family so it is important that you address the family’s needs quickly and efficiently in order to provide an obituary that the family can be encouraged by.

  • Be tactful. You are working with a bereaved family, approaching an individual and saying “sorry he is dead” may not be the best approach. Find a way to express your condolences without prolonging the situation.
  • Ask questions. A little research is not going to be enough for writing an obituary so take some time to ask former co-workers, family members, friends and neighbors to share some stories about the subject.
  • Be accurate. A family has hired you to chronicle a loved ones life, it is vital that you get the facts right. Families want this information to be perfect and can often, in their grief, focus on the imperfections of an obituary and cause them more pain.
  • Consider the audience. Keep in mind that you are writing the obituary for the family of the diseased, not an in-depth expose about someone. Remember that the family probably already knows about the bad times and maintain a focus on the good.

Other Considerations

Writers need to consider the length of the obituary and newspaper requirements. Most newspapers have specific forms that need to be filled out in order to meet their requirements and there are word restrictions as well. With access to the Internet, it is possible to have a complete obituary online, either on a family website or through a newspapers online site where they have fewer restrictions.

In a world where we have to be concerned about identity theft, consideration must be given to how much information is actually included in an obituary. It may be prudent for the family to reserve family information, other than first names and relationship to the deceased, for use on the funeral notes rather than in the newspaper. This is a decision that each family will have to make for themselves.