After losing a loved one, the grieving period is overwhelming, yet so much has to be done in the days following their death. One of these essential tasks is writing the obituary. Penning down words of remembrance for the departed is a meaningful way to celebrate their lives and honor their memory. 

The law has no specific requirements on who writes the obituary or how it should be written. If you are tasked with writing the obituary and have no idea how to go about it, don’t worry. This article explains clearly how to write an obituary and includes templates in every section to guide you in structuring and writing the obituary. 

What is an Obituary? 

An obituary is a written account of someone's life and legacy after they have died. However, it goes beyond the death announcement to include the person's life summary, list of relatives, and details on the final arrangements. 

Traditionally, obituaries are published in local newspapers. While this is still done, there are also many digital platforms where you can publish your loved one's obituary online.  

Benefits of an Online Obituary

Publishing the obituary online has several key advantages:

  • Interactive - people can comment on the post and send their messages of condolence directly to you. 
  • Accessible - online obituaries can include links to Google Maps for location of services.
  • Customizable - many online obituaries are highly customizable in terms of colors, background, fonts, and themes that can help express the decedent’s personality. 
  • Easily shared - people can share them instantly via social media so friends and family members can be notified quickly, regardless of where they live.
  • Less expensive - online obituaries are less expensive compared to printed obituaries that come with printing costs and advertising rates. 
  • Archived indefinitely - unlike printed newspapers where the obituary is only in circulation for a limited amount of time, online obituaries are archived indefinitely.

How to Write an Obituary

Whether you are planning to publish the obituary online or in a local newspaper, how you write it will make it more meaningful. Here's how to go about it. 

Start with the basic facts about the deceased

Start the obituary by introducing the person to the readers. Such details should include their name, age, date and place of birth, date and place of death, and where they lived. If the family wishes, you may also include the cause of death in this section. 

Example: "Early in the morning of Thursday, 15th February 2020, John Bill, aged 88, left us to be with the Lord. He was born to Tom and Mary Bill on 24th August 1932 at their home in Tampa, Florida." 

Write a short summary of their life

At this point, you can include other details like their accomplishments, important life events, hobbies, passions, activities they participated in, etc. This should help the readers understand what life was for the deceased from their time of birth to death. 

The details in this section should help resonate with what you want the reader to know about the decedent. For example, were they known for something that would reflect their personality? Did they have a mission in life?

Example: "John was an accomplished teacher, having earned his Bachelor's degree from the local university. His greatest joy was seeing his students succeed in their chosen careers around the world. When he wasn’t teaching, John loved fishing, relaxing on his cherished boat, and golfing. After his retirement in 1996, John dedicated his life to coaching golfing and inspiring young lives to accomplish their goals."

Include a list of relatives

The list should include all the relatives – those still alive and those who have preceded him/her in death. You can mention the names of close family members such as the parents, siblings, spouse, children, and any other member considered as immediate family. To include extended family members, you can use a collective phrase or numbers to mention them. 

When indicating the decedent’s family members who have already passed, you can use the phrase "preceded in death by". When mentioning family members who are living, a commonly used phrase is  "survived by".

Example: "John is preceded in death by his father, Tom and his mother, Mary; his brother, Eli; and his sister, Jill. He is survived by his wife, Jane; their four children, Pete, Craig, Anna and Benjamin; as well as many cousins, nephews, and nieces. He was the proud Papa to six grandchildren, and  two great-grandchildren."

Provide funeral details 

This section offers the readers important information they may need in case they want to attend the service. The details should include the day, date, time, place, and location. It can also include the name and phone number of the funeral home or website of the mortuary where your loved one is taken care of. You can also include details of a virtual service for those who would like to attend virtually, or their wishes to be cremated and any plans for the cremated remains. 

Example: "A public memorial service will be held at 11:30 AM on 21st February 2020 at the Church of Christ." 

Include donation details

People may want to send flowers and donations as part of their condolence message. This section should provide information on how to send such donations. Today, some families choose to channel the donations to a charity organization to honor the memory of the departed. 

Example: "If you would like to make a donation in honor of Mr. John Bill, please channel them to his favorite charitable organization, Grace Children's Rescue Center." 

Obituary Examples

Example 1:

Jane A. Doe, 88, passed away peacefully on Aug 9, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. Jane led a very happy, active life filled with family, friends, and many activities, such as: painting, sewing for her family, church, and ballroom dancing.

Jane is survived by her husband, John; children, Joe and Anna; and 4 grandchildren.

The funeral service will be held at 10:00am on Sat, Aug 18, 2012 at Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 141 N.Macdonald, Mesa, AZ 85201, with a visitation beginning one hour prior to the service at 9:00am.

Example 2:

John L. Doe, born Dec 30, 1931, was called home on Tues, June 12, 2012. There to meet him were his wife, Celia, and children, Susanna and Jimmy. Left to carry on his traditions are his children, Irma (Oscar) Montano,David Galvan, LC (Charles) Meyer, and Danny Galvan. His legacy will continue through his nine grandchildren and

28 great-grandchildren. After farming for 44 years, John retired to spend more time with his family. Known for his fast driving, the silver egg, and giving nature, he will be missed by all.

It was John’s desire to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered at the lake where he spent so many cherished days with his family. A celebration of life will be held in his honor at a later date.

Example 3:

Jane A. Doe, 88, passed away peacefully on August 9, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. She was born to John and Bessie Beals in Ottawa County, Kansas in 1924. Jane led a very happy, active life filled with family, friends, and many activities, such as: painting, sewing for her family, church, and ballroom dancing. 

In 1944, Jane married her neighbor boy, John L. Doe and they were lucky to have celebrated over 50 years together, working their farms in Iowa and raising their three daughters, Mary C. Peterson (Gary) of Trenton, Missouri, Patricia E. Sunde (Jim) of Cherokee, Iowa, and Joni L. Hodapp (Roger) of St. Joseph, Missouri. 

Jane was preceded in death by her husband, John; a granddaughter, Sarah Peterson; a son-in-law, Gary Peterson; her parents, John and Bessie Beals; her brother, Wayne Beals (Allie); and all three sisters, Wilma Trott (David), Dorothy Gray (Roland), and Doris Holman (Ted). 

Jane loved her three daughters; her six grandchildren, Julile Klages (Jim), David Peterson (Stacey), Cory Hodapp (Sarah), Garrett Peterson, Katy Travis (Brooks), and Jillian Brown (Chad); and her twelve great-grandchildren, Katie and Braley Peterson, James and Jeric Klages, Sailor Van Loo, Rocco and Vince Hodapp, Teague and Brett Travis, and Calvin, Amelia, and Hayden Brown. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Hospice of the Valley in her honor.

Cremation Services from After.com

Whether you want to hold a traditional burial service or a direct cremation for your loved one, a meaningful obituary is a wonderful way to honor them. There's no one right way to write an obituary, so don't feel as though it has to be funny, exciting, detailed, etc. The goal is to share the person's life and personality with others and let them celebrate him or her. 

After.com provides affordable cremation services for families who lose a loved one, as well as prepaid cremation insurance for those who wish to plan ahead. As a courtesy to the families we serve, we post a free online obituary for their loved ones on our site at after.com/obituaries.