How to Write an Obituary – Steps & Examples

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More than once in our lives, we may have already encountered obituaries in the obituary pages of newspapers. Unfortunately, there will come a time that we will get to write obituaries for our loved ones who will be going ahead of us.

If you are given the task to write an obituary for a loved one that has passed, the first question that pops into your head is how you are going to start writing it. Do you just simply write out the details as if you are following a conventional fill-in-the-blanks format with the mere purpose of informing the public about your loved one’s death?

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Not all obituaries that get published in the newspapers are written with much care and thought. Some are just written simply to inform about someone’s passing. In actuality, you can express the pain of your loss as well joyful moments in a creative manner. Some obituaries are written in a rush, like that of a news story hastily written due to a looming deadline. Obituaries should be more than that.

Before getting into the steps, make sure you know the guidelines and restrictions of the newspaper where you are going to publish the obituary you are going to write. Make sure you follow the newspaper’s publication guidelines and restrictions so you won’t have to waste any time and effort.

Also, know what type of obituary you would want to write. It could be a standard obituary, a death notification obituary, and a news or feature type of obituary.

In this article, we give you six simple steps in writing a standard obituary that goes beyond the conventional format of an obituary you would often read in newspapers.

1st Step: Include Facts About the Deceased

First and foremost, you have to write the name, age, residence, and time and place of death of your loved one. You don’t have to go on to deeper details such as the cause of death since obituaries can be a sensitive write-up to some people.

You can state the facts using flowery words and euphemisms that you feel comfortable with. There are also some people who get sensitive reading direct and blunt words so make sure you consider other’s feelings when writing an obituary.

Double-check the accuracy of the facts that you are going to state in the obituary.

2nd Step:  Recounting Memories

You have to keep in mind that obituaries, no matter how informative it can get, are not biographies. An obituary is a biographical sketch wherein you can recount and reminisce the contribution, milestones, and qualities of the deceased.

You don’t have to put every single detail; you just have to write a fond memory (or two) you had a with your loved one or list down one of his achievements. For example, some people might think that the promotion that your beloved one had received was the most valued achievement he or she ever had but in truth, being a father or a mother was the most fulfilling experience they ever had in their lived.

Oftentimes, the simple things in life can be overlooked; make sure you don’t.

3rd Step: Information on Funeral Service Schedule

Obituaries can be a medium where you can give information about the death of your loved one to his or her family members, relatives, or friends.

Make sure you check the schedule of the funeral service so people who may know the deceased can attend at a time when they can offer their prayers and other sentiments.

Include the essential details such as the time of visitation, the exact date, and the place of service. You may also include the time, date, and the interment or burial.

4th Step: Special Messages

You have numerous options and ways on what kind of special messages you would want to write in an obituary.

There might be people who helped you in the funeral services (i.e. relatives, family, friends, or an acquaintance of the deceased) — you can express your gratitude to them in an obituary.

You may also include a short, personalized prayer for your loved one.

While these special messages are optional, it is also good to add something in the obituary that is different to the previously listed contents.

5th Step: Photos with Captions

Adding photos is optional but this can add color and design to an obituary page. But more than the design of an obituary page, the main purpose of adding photos is to remind us of all the memories we have spent with our loved ones.

Photos contain special memories and adding captions adds a different element to the obituary so that those who were unfamiliar with the captured events will be able to know the meaning behind the said photo.


Obituary Examples

The following examples are fictitious and for example purposes only.

1. Sample Obituary for a Mother

Pamela “Pam” Sharon Reed was born in Henderson, Nevada on January 15, 1922. She entered Heaven’s gates on March 30, 2012.
A consummate mother and homemaker, Pamela was an excellent cook and enjoyed preparing meals for her family and friends. Over the years she collected a large library of cookbooks from around the world. She also loved to watch food and cooking channels. She was also a sports fan and enjoyed attending and watching TV football and baseball.

Pam had an unwavering faith in God. She was a member of St. David Lutheran Church. Over the years, she had become very involved with the church and assisted with numerous fundraising events. She was also a talented musician and was a member of the church choir. She passed her musical talents on to her children.

Pam was predeceased by her loving husband of 65 years, Walter J. Reed. She was also predeceased by her daughter Jane H. Reed and her two brothers, Bill N. Johnson and Herald D. Johnson. Pam is survived by her son Anthony Reed and his wife Julie, daughter Jane Smith and husband Andrew. She is also survived by five grandchildren, Marcia Smith, Betty Smith, Johnny Smith, Betty Reed, and Kelly Reed. She had two grandchildren, Simon Jones and Bobby Smith.

Her niece, Jane Walters lovingly cared for her the last 10 years of her life. Jane’s brother Bill Smith also provided assistance with her care in recent years. The family gives them and everyone else who cared for Pam their greatest gratitude.

The family will receive friends on Wednesday, April 1, 2012, from 5:00 – 7:00 PM at Smith and Sons Funeral Home. A funeral service celebrating her life will be held the following day on Thursday, April 2, 2012, at 3:00 PM at St. David Lutheran Church 5930 East Paved Road, Henderson, Nevada.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10


2. Sample Obituary for a Father

Mark William Turner, age 35, passed away on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. He was born on February 10, 1977, in Eugene, Oregon. He was a longtime resident of Portland, Oregon, but recently returned to Eugene only months prior to his passing.

He is survived by his father and mother, Andrew Michael Turner and Marilyn Michelle Turner, two loving sisters, Cathy Michaels (John) and Trina Roberts (Bob), three nephews, Blake Michaels, Bobby Michaels, and Him Roberts. One niece, Jenny Roberts, and aunts, uncles and other loving relatives.

Mark graduated from Eugene City High School in 1995. He went on to the University of Portland and graduated with a degree in Psychology. Following University he got a job as a teacher at Little Rock High School in Portland. He enjoyed athletics and was a black belt in Karate. He was also a member of soccer, basketball and baseball teams. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading and spending time with friends. He had a very kind heart and quick wit and will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.

A funeral service will be held at Reed and Cook Funeral Home, 5553 East 12th Street, Portland, Oregon on Friday, March 9, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. Visitation will begin prior to the funeral at noon. The family will be there to greet relatives and friends.

Memorial donations can be made in lieu of flowers to the Heart Association of America PO Box 5555, Washington, DC 55005.

Let us not take obituary writing lightly. We hope that with the help of the steps mentioned in this article, you will be able to write an obituary for your departed loved one that is not only informative but also with written with care and thought.

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