Preparing an Obituary

Obituaries serve as an announcement of a death, but also share the important memories from the life of a loved one. An obituary is also traditionally used to announce details for any public funerals or memorial services, viewings or gatherings, or other events held to honor the deceased. Writing an obituary can feel overwhelming because you are trying to summarize a person’s lifetime with a relatively small space. Here are some helpful tips to consider when writing the obituary. Many newspapers charge for obituaries so you may want to write a shorter version for newspaper publication and then a longer version for use online or in printed materials such as funeral programs or memorial items.

Opening Paragraph

The first paragraph of the obituary should include the deceased person’s full name, including any nicknames they may have used, their age, date and place of death. Some people choose to include cause of death, but this is optional depending on how much information you would like to share. Generally any dates, times, and locations for public gatherings or services are also listed in the opening paragraph.

Second Section

This section is most commonly used to summarize the life of the decedent, usually beginning with date and place of birth, names of their parents (including mother’s maiden name), schools attended, marriages, military history, significant career history, and any memberships, organizations or other achievements that were important to the person. You may choose to make this part as detailed as you wish.

Survivors and Preceded in death by

It is traditional to include names of family members, both survivors and those who have already passed away. How you choose to do this is a personal choice to be made by your family. Usually people include names of a spouse, parents, children (with any spouse’s names listed in parenthesis), grandchildren and great grandchildren. You may choose to list grandchildren and great grandchildren individually by name, or simply include the number of each. Typically siblings and their spouses names are also included. Survivors are generally listed first, followed by any preceded in death names you would like to include. This section can be personalized and may include important friends or significant people in the deceased’s life, even if they are not family.

Concluding Paragraph

The closing paragraph is typically rather short and includes details regarding services or gatherings, as well as any requests regarding donations being made to charities or organizations that are meaningful to the deceased. This is also a good place to include any notes of gratitude or appreciation for people who helped during your loved one’s final days, such as doctors, nurses, hospice workers, friends etc.

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