The Ultimate Guide to Writing an Obituary: Tips, Examples, and Templates

December 31, 2023

Writing an obituary can be a difficult and emotional task, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. An obituary is a written notice of someone's death, usually published in a newspaper or online, that includes information about their life, family, and funeral arrangements, as well as a tribute to their memory.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the steps of writing an obituary that is respectful, informative, and memorable. We will also provide you with some examples of obituaries that you can use as inspiration or templates for your own writing.

Here are the steps to follow when writing an obituary:

1. Gather the basic facts

Before you start writing, you need to collect some essential information about your loved one, such as their full name, date and place of birth, date and place of death, cause of death (if desired), and names of surviving and predeceased family members. You may also want to include their educational and professional background, their marital status and spouse's name, their children and grandchildren's names, and any other significant details about their life.

2. Choose a tone and style

Depending on your preference and the personality of your loved one, you may want to write an obituary that is formal or informal, traditional or creative, solemn or humorous. You may also want to consider the tone and style of the publication where you plan to publish the obituary, and follow their guidelines and format. Some publications may have word limits, fees, or deadlines that you need to adhere to.

3. Write a catchy headline

The headline is the first thing that readers will see, so it should capture their attention and summarize the main point of the obituary. It should include the name of your loved one and their age, as well as something that makes them stand out, such as their occupation, achievements, hobbies, or personality traits. For example, "Jane Smith, 75, Beloved Teacher and Gardener, Dies of Cancer" or "John Doe, 80, World Traveler and Philanthropist, Passes Away Peacefully".

4. Write a captivating introduction

The introduction is the second thing that readers will see, so it should hook their interest and provide some context for the rest of the obituary. It should include the date and place of death, the cause of death (if desired), and a brief overview of the life and legacy of your loved one. For example, "Jane Smith, a devoted teacher and avid gardener, died on Monday, June 5, 2023, at her home in Boston, after a long battle with cancer. She was 75. Jane touched the lives of many students, colleagues, friends, and family members with her kindness, generosity, and wisdom."

5. Write a detailed body

The body is the main part of the obituary, where you tell the story of your loved one's life and achievements. It should include the most important and relevant aspects of their life, such as their education, career, marriage, children, hobbies, interests, community involvement, awards, honors, and any other highlights. You can also include some anecdotes, quotes, or memories that illustrate their personality and values. For example, "Jane was born on April 10, 1948, in New York City, to Robert and Mary Jones. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English literature and pursued her passion for teaching at Lincoln High School, where she taught for 35 years. She married her college sweetheart, James Smith, in 1972, and they had three children, Mark, Lisa, and Amy. Jane loved gardening and spent hours tending to her beautiful flowers and vegetables. She also enjoyed reading, traveling, and volunteering at the local library. She was an active member of the Garden Club, the Book Club, and the Rotary Club. She received several awards for her excellence in teaching and her contributions to the community. She was known for her warm smile, her gentle humor, and her positive outlook on life."

6. Write a concise conclusion

The conclusion is the last part of the obituary, where you wrap up your message and provide some practical information for the readers. It should include the names of the surviving and predeceased family members, the details of the funeral or memorial service, and the information about any donations or charities that you or your loved one supported. For example, "Jane is survived by her husband, James; her children, Mark, Lisa, and Amy; her grandchildren, Jack, Emma, and Noah; and her siblings, Peter and Susan. She was predeceased by her parents, Robert and Mary. A private funeral service will be held on Friday, June 9, at St. Paul's Church, followed by a public memorial service on Saturday, June 10, at the Lincoln High School Auditorium. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be made to the American Cancer Society, an organization that Jane supported throughout her life."

7. Add a photo. A photo is a great way to personalize your obituary and make it more appealing to the readers

It should be a clear and recent image of your loved one, preferably smiling or doing something they enjoyed. You can use a photo editing tool like Canva¹ to crop, resize, or enhance your photo. You can also add a caption to your photo, such as "Jane Smith, 1948-2023".

Writing an obituary is not an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one. By following these steps, you can write an obituary that honors your loved one's life and legacy, and reaches out to the people who cared.