The Story of a Lifetime: How to Write an Obituary for a Loved One
In the aftermath of a loved one’s passing, writing the obituary may seem like one more daunting chore on your checklist during a sad and exhausting time. You may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of writing about your loved one.
The task can be an emotional one. You might worry that you’ll forget to include important facts or that you won’t do you loved one justice. But with careful thought and preparation you can write a meaningful obituary that honors your loved one’s memory in a beautiful and special way. This recorded tribute has multiple functions and each one is vitally important. It acknowledges your loss, informs the community of the death, and invites friends and family to attend the funeral service and offer their sympathy and support.
More than just a death announcement, the obituary is where your loved one’s life story is recorded and immortalized forever. Obituaries are an important way of remembering the people who meant the most to us and they offer the unique opportunity to demonstrate that love in a public written document. They also pay tribute to the deceased by sharing with the world the unique attributes and characteristics that made him or her so special. Everyone’s life has value and significance. Think of the obituary as your opportunity to pay homage to your beloved with a meaningful written farewell. Read on for some tips to help you create a lovely and lasting written tribute.
Write from your heart. The most honest and potent impact you can make when drafting an obituary is by writing the way you speak. Skip the euphemisms and flowery language. Do away with stale and trite, and keep it real instead. Obituaries are the last words written about someone you care for very much. If you make your obituary open and honest, you can’t go wrong.
Include pertinent information. Some of the most common details that are weaved into an obituary include:
- Name of the deceased (including maiden name and nicknames)
- Dates and locations of birth, marriage, and death
- Schools attended
- Place of employment and position held
- Military service and status
- Organization affiliations or membership (religious, civic groups, etc.)
- Interests, hobbies and passions
- Cause of death (if you wish to include this information)
- Family members who are predeceased and names of surviving loved ones (typically immediate family and partners or companions only)
- Funeral or memorial service details if open to the public, including the date, time and location
- One or two charities people should donate to in honor of the deceased instead of sending flowers, if you wish. You can use the phrase "in lieu of flowers" when memorial donations are requested. State the charity’s name and address or include a link to their website.
- Special messages, such as a bible verse or a meaningful line from a favorite poem
- A photo of the deceased
Keep balance in mind. A long laundry list of dry facts isn’t going to pique anyone’s interest in your beloved. While you need to include basic relevant information, you also want to be an engaging storyteller. Your goal should be to craft a write-up about your loved one that makes readers say to themselves, “Gee, I wish I had the opportunity to know Joe better. What a guy!” Take time to think about the anecdotes and memories you could share to shed light on your loved one's personality, character and interests. Don’t be afraid to inject a little humor, especially if the deceased was known for his or her wit. You want readers to clearly see who your loved one was, how they lived, and what they loved. If you don't know where to start, read some other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching a well-crafted obituary can be.
Accuracy matters. Correctness and completeness are of the utmost importance when drafting your loved one’s obituary. Names can easily be misspelled, dates can be incorrect, and information can be missed. Remember, there are no do-overs or second chances with this exercise so check and double-check your facts. All information to be included in the obituary should also be verified with at least one other family member. The best way to ensure accuracy is to proofread your document carefully several times. Another good approach to catching errors is to set the document aside and review it again later or the next day prior to submitting it.
For many people, their obituary may be the only thing that’s ever publicly published about them. It can be read now and also saved for generations, so its significance can’t be overstated. There are many templates and step-by-step guides available for writing an obituary. Keep these resources in mind, but also feel free to be creative. The most beautiful and memorable obituaries are often the ones that don’t follow the standard formula. If you need help with the details related to a loved one’s death or have funeral planning needs, we can be a great resource. Our compassionate funeral directors are always ready and available to assist you. Please reach out to us anytime.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.