How do I Write an Obituary?

Writing an obituary for a friend or family member can be a difficult and daunting task. If you plan to run the obituary in a newspaper, be sure to check with the newspaper regarding its deadlines, length/word count and cost. The funeral home staff will often help with this process and may be able to help you submit the obituary or a simple death announcement. You may also want to read a few examples from that newpaper’s obituary section.

You’ll need to gather basic information, such as name, age, date of death, city of residence, birthdate, spouse/partner’s name, names of family members and so on (see checklist below). Be sure to include the location, date and time of services, if available. If services have not yet been arranged, then list the funeral home that will be handling the services, so people can inquire about services.

It’s also important to include details and memories that celebrate the person’s life, such as memorable quotations or descriptions of their unique character.

Use this checklist to walk you through this challenging task.

Note: This is a comprehensive list, which means not everything on the list might be relevant to your specific situation. Feel free to omit some items as you and/or family members see fit.

NAME / ANNOUNCEMENT

Full name of the deceased, including nickname, if any

Age at death

Residence (for example, the name of the city) at death

Day and date of death (include the year)

Place of death

Cause of death

LIFE

Date of birth

Place of birth

Names of parents

Childhood: siblings, stories, schools, friends

Marriage(s): date of, place, name of spouse

Education: school, college, university and other

Designations, awards, and other recognition

Employment: jobs, professional organizations (if active), stories, colleagues

Places of residence

Hobbies, sports, interests, activities of particular enjoyment

Charitable, religious, fraternal, political, and other affiliations; positions held

Achievements

Disappointments

Unusual attributes, humor, other stories

FAMILY

Survived by (and place of residence):

Spouse

Children (in order of date of birth, and their spouses)

Grandchildren

Great-grandchildren

Great-great-grandchildren

Parents

Grandparents

Siblings (in order of date of birth)

Others, such as nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws

Friends

Pets (if appropriate)

Preceded in death by (and date of death):

Spouse

Children (in order of date of birth)

Grandchildren

Siblings (in order of date of birth)

Others, such as nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws

Pets (if appropriate)

SERVICE

Day, date, time, place

Name of officiant, pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, other information

Visitation information if applicable: day, date, time, place

Reception information if applicable: day, date, time, place

Other memorial, vigil, or graveside services if applicable: day, date, time, place

Place of interment

Name of funeral home in charge of arrangements

Where to call for more information (even if no service planned)

END

Memorial funds established

Memorial donation suggestions, including addresses

Thank you to people, groups, or institutions

Quotation or poem

A few words or a phrase that sum up the person’s life

For further reference

Wiki How: Write an Obituary

For sample obituary templates, click here.