How to Write an Obituary
Why was this never covered in English class?
When the time comes to write an obituary, it’s best to follow a fairly structured formula to make the exercise easier on yourself. Before you begin, assume an attitude of acknowledgement and consider what was most important to your loved one. Your writing should be an expression of care and thoughtfulness, so take your time to make it right.
The first section of the obituary is the announcement of death. Begin with the name, age, and place of residence of your loved one and then follow with the time and place of death. Some people choose to include the method of death as well, but that depends on your own comfort level. If you want to avoid blunt words like ‘died’, there are many other alternatives: ‘passed away’, ‘went to be with the Lord’, ‘is resting peacefully’, or ‘has left us’.
The next step to writing an obituary is sketching out the life of the deceased, highlighting accomplishments, notable experiences, and special endeavors. The most universally important milestones to include would be date and place of birth, parents’ names, date of marriage, name of spouse, education, work, children, and grandchildren. Feel free to omit information if you feel that it’s unnecessary or awkward. Though it may be easier to write in chronological order, it may read better if the most important and impressive information is near the beginning.
Once you get started, the difficult question becomes: how do I select what is most important and most interesting for others to read? You should include significant achievements and contributions, but in as few words as possible. A long list of honors and awards is not as interesting as unique passions and priorities.
Beware of falling into the “list” pattern. If you feel like the obituary needs something to break up the monotony, add a piece of nostalgia in there. What was a humorous experience your loved one had? Did they have a favorite sports team? A quirky habit? A favorite joke or catch phrase? Were they a social person or someone who preferred to be alone? Did they take a special interest in something unique?
At this point it is essential that you consider all the family who is left grieving the deceased, and the relatives who have preceded them in death. It may be tiresome and confusing to include this section of relatives, but remember that the obituary is for the living, too. List parents, spouse(s), siblings and children by name. Some families choose to include daughters- and sons-in-law. Grandchildren are often numbered, as are great-grandchildren. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are commonly left out unless they were particularly close with the deceased.
To conclude the obituary, name the place, time and date of the service, along with the name of the officiant. Include the name, date and time of the burial or interment, and any memorial services to be held.