Honoring Loved Ones Lost: How to Write an Obituary
Writing an obituary for someone is an honor, but undeniably a difficult one. You are entrusted with summarizing a lifetime of accomplishments and memories into a few paragraphs. It will be read by countless family members and friends, ran in newspapers, and online for, well, forever. We have compiled a few steps to help make the process easier.
First Paragraph: Details
This section should include basic information like name, age, and place of residence. Typically, you will also include cause of death unless that information is to be omitted for any number of reasons. A way to address the passing may be, “[insert name] passed away peacefully in his/her home surrounded by loved ones”. Even if this isn’t the exact circumstance, it can easily be changed to depict your particular situation.
If the deceased was cared for in a nursing home, by a hospice agency, home care agency, or even a combination, don’t forget to include them in this section. If that does apply, you can write something along these lines, “[insert name] passed away peacefully in his/her home under the care of [insert all agencies that have been of service] and surrounded by loved ones.” Caretakers form bonds with patients and clients over time and they will be grateful for any appreciation that is expressed.
Second Paragraph: Biography
This is the section where you will outline this person’s greatest qualities and contributions in their lifetime. While writing this specific segment there are a couple questions you can ask yourself in order to make sure you’re summarizing them in the best light. What accomplishments were they most proud of? What were the most important parts of their lives? Try to think from their perspective by asking yourself how they would write about their own life.
You will also include the person’s date and place of birth along with the names of his/her parents. This is also where you’ll add (if applicable and in chronological order) any moves to other cities for any substantial period of time, name of spouse and place of marriage, education, career, any military affiliation, etc.
Include any personal details. How did they inspire the people around them? Were they active in the community? Did they have memorable quotes or phrases? Do your best to really paint the person’s personality in how they affected those around them.
Third Paragraph: Family
Surviving family represents the impact the deceased had during their life. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. are all representative of the legacy they are leaving behind. It can bring some light and gratefulness to an otherwise sad occasion. Start with the closest family members and work down. The general order would be spouse, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, siblings, and their parents. Be sure to add spouses to anyone in this list who is married.
It is incredibly important to be respectful and include any and all family that falls under the above listed categories. Typically, cousins, nieces, and nephews of the deceased are only included in cases where they were very close to the person the obituary is written about so be mindful of any situations where that may be a concern. Make sure to include all in-laws, half siblings, step siblings, etc. Leaving names out can add unneeded resentment or hurt feelings to an already stressful situation. It may be helpful to add a number for grandchildren and great-grandchildren to ensure that no one is forgotten.
Fourth Paragraph: The Service
For this section, check obituaries in your local paper to see how they prefer to distribute this information. A funeral director or bereavement coordinator could also be of service. Typically, you’ll include the time, date, funeral home, officiant of the service, address (for clarity purposes), pallbearers, and location for the burial. If there will be a meal after, include that here also. Visitation details will also be given here (time, date, location)
If there’s anything that comes to mind, feel free to write any quotes, poems, bible verses, etc. that you feel apply to the situation. If desired, you can include pictures at the end too.
We hope this helps. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (605) 275-2344.