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How to write a meaningful obituary

An obituary is an announcement of a person’s death, which includes key details about their life. Obituaries may be printed in newspapers or published online. An obituary is a biographical statement that contains the key facts of person’s life.


Being asked to write an obituary gives you the opportunity to honour a loved one, and create a permanent record about the life the person you have lost.  But you don’t have to be an experienced write to create a meaningful obituary. As you are drafting an obituary, remember to focus on creating something that is clear, concise and correct.


Writing a meaningful obituary sometimes involves doing some research, either on line or by contacting other family members who might be able to offer extra information to be added.  

There are lots of options about what to include, or not include in an obituary. If you have known the person well, you will already know which details about their life seem the most important. If you don’t know where to begin, simply start with the facts.


An obituary is likely to begin with details like the person’s full name, date and location of birth, and names of parents and siblings. Next is typically the name of the person’s spouse. If you are listing more than one marriage, you might wish to indicate if any of the previous spouses are also deceased. It is also completely suitable to use the word ‘partner’ if the person had a spouse but was not married.


The next content would typically be the names of any children, and sometimes grandchildren too. Use your discretion when deciding what other family you want to mention, and if you mention them by name. If the person had lots of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, you may elect to state a number rather than listing individual names.


You may also wish to include the person’s age at death, and also the place of death. If the cause of death is an important part of the story, you may wish to include it, but do so in a sensitive way.


If you are writing an obituary to be published in a newspaper, you will also want to include the funeral details, and any special instructions you might have for the event. Many obituarties also feature a picture. Choose something clear, and formal, rather than a happy snap.


Nowadays, many obituaries are written with the intent of being published online. An obituary allows you to share information about a deceased person with people who are not able to attend the funeral. Because of this, obituaries now sometimes do include a couple of anecdotes or stories. These are likely to be told in a general way. A couple of sentences are all it needs here. It might be a statement about their professional life or career, any special achievements, or even special hobbies or pastimes.


Remember, an obituary is a factual statement about a person’s life. Keep it short and to the point, and avoid sentimentality or emotion. Writing an obituary gives you the opportunity to create a lasting record about the life of your loved one.