How to Write an Obituary
How to write an obituary? What's involved in writing a good obituary? That's really the first thing you have to think about when sitting down to write one for a spouse, other family members, or a close friend. Exactly what factual information should it include and how can you find a balance between dry facts and engaging storytelling? We have the answers to those questions along with an obituary outline & examples. Hope you will find this information about how to write an obituary helpful.
Writing an Obituary
The first of the details when writing an obituary would, of course, be their full name. If she was a married woman, you'll want to include her maiden name and if he or she was commonly known by a nickname, you may want to add that as well.
Here are the other essential details to include when writing an obituary:
Their age upon death
A list of the surviving relatives
Date of death
The location (city/state) where they died
Details about the funeral service: date, time, place
Where the person lived
When writing an obituary for your loved one, you have the opportunity to serve future generations — not only of your immediate family but of the society as a whole. You are, in effect, recording history on an individual scale. It's a humbling yet inspiring thought.
It's very easy to find examples of obituaries that are worthy of attention. There are interesting obituaries for everyday folks that inspire us; maybe even make us cry or laugh. Obituaries which, when we're done reading them, we say to ourselves, "I wish I'd had a chance to get to know that person." Obituaries are scattered in cyberspace, acting as digital records of a life, a time, and a place; and recently, some very funny obituaries have been written.
Will writing our own obituaries become a trend? Maybe. We know many more people are writing their own obituaries today as it's often given as an assignment in certain college and university courses.
How you document your loved one's life story is up to you. With that said, we recommend that in addition to the facts of a death notice listed above, the enhanced death notice, known as an obituary, could also include these details:
Information about the spouse and children
Job or career information
Personal and professional accomplishments
Personal character and interests
Influence on his or her community
It's now time to push the facts aside. Sit back and think about the anecdotes and memories you could share to shed some light on your loved one's character and personal interests. Bring factual details into play whenever you can to help the reader clearly see who your loved one was, how they lived, what they did, who and what they loved. The more rich in detail, the more memorable the obituary becomes.
Double-Check Spelling & Grammar
Before you give a copy of the final draft of your loved one's obituary, be sure to read it through twice or even three times. You're looking for errors in spelling and grammar but you also want to make sure your facts are straight.
Simple Obituary Example
The below example is fairly simple and short. You can use this as a sort of template where you add in the information applicable to your loved one and your situation. For the most part we have colored in red where to add in your specific information. Hopefully, this gives you a framework if you are looking for a simple obituary that still captures the essence of your loved one.
[Full Name], aged [age of the deceased], passed away peacefully on [date of death], at [location of death]. He/she was born on [date of birth], in [birthplace], to [names of parents]. He/she was a proud resident of [city of residence] and was a 1975 graduate of Holy Cross High School. He/she married [name of spouse] on [date of marriage], in [location of marriage]. He/she worked as a financial consultant with Truesdell Managemet, displaying wonderful problem solving skills. [First Name] was very outgoing and loved exploring and going on adventures. His/her family and travel were his/her two biggest passions. [First Name] always had the ability to make anyone smile. He/she is survived by her wife/husband, [spouse’s first name]; an older brother, [brother’s name] (name of brother’s spouse) Robertson; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Family, friends, and others are invited to the [Funeral Home name],[Funeral Home address/location], from [time of ceremony] on [date of ceremony], to reminisce and honor the life of [deceased’s first name].
A More In-Depth Obituary Example
Writing a great obituary is very similar to writing a eulogy. In both cases, you want to convey who the deceased was a person, what made them unique, how they influenced others, and highlight their personal and professional accomplishments.
An excellent example of this is the New York Times obituary written for legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams written by Dave Itzkoff. The obituary that was published is quite lengthy and can be read in full here
The following sections are excerpts from the obituary and serve as excellent examples of how to write an obituary.
Mr. Williams, as a boy, hardly fit the stereotype of someone who would grow to become a brainy comedian, or a goofy one, but he was both. Onstage he was known for ricochet riffs on politics, social issues and cultural matters both high and low; tales of drug and alcohol abuse; lewd commentaries on relations between the sexes; and lightning-like improvisations on anything an audience member might toss at him. His gigs were always rife with frenetic, spot-on impersonations that included Hollywood stars, presidents, princes, prime ministers, popes and anonymous citizens of the world. His irreverence was legendary and uncurtailable.
This first excerpt does a good job of explaining what Mr. Williams was best known for, his comedy. The excerpt outlines the style of comedy he was best known for while highlighting the talents he had to perform improv and impressions on the spot. It paints a picture of the comedic genius that Robin Williams was.
He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his roles in films like “Good Morning, Vietnam,” in which he played a loquacious radio D.J.; “Dead Poets Society,” playing a mentor to students in need of inspiration; and “The Fisher King,” as a homeless man whose life has been struck by tragedy. He won an Oscar in 1998 for “Good Will Hunting,” playing a therapist who works with a troubled prodigy played by Matt Damon.
This section is a great example of how to highlight successes the individual had during their career. While many people were fans of Mr. Williams for his comedy, he was also an accomplished actor being nominated and winning several awards throughout his career. This shows how there was much more to Mr. Williams than just comedy. He was a talented dramatic actor and had a range of skills that were often under appreciated.
In a statement, President Obama said of Mr. Williams, “He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”
It is always a great idea to include a quote or some kind words about the impact the individual had on others. In this case, a quote from President Obama is used to show the charitable side of Mr. Williams and how he enjoyed helping others and giving back.
He is survived by a son, Zak, from his marriage to Valerie Velardi, and a daughter, Zelda, and a son, Cody, from his marriage to Marsha Garces.
An important part to include within an obituary is a reference to the deceased’s family. In this case, Mr. Williams had preceded his immediate family in death so it lists who he is survived by. If he had lost someone before him, the obituary would say preceded in death by… and then list who he is survived by.
Don't Hesitate to Call Us
We would be happy to offer some suggestions if you're stuck. Call us at (585) 436-7730 to discover how we can help you to shine a brighter spotlight on their life.