A Monument in Words: Writing the Obituary

When a loved one dies, survivors often seek to commemorate that individual through an obituary. Obituaries are death notices that often continue a biographical account of an individual’s life. Many funeral homes will assist families in drafting a death notice and publishing the notice online and in newspapers. Funeral home staff will even reach out to out-of-state newspapers (and even newspapers in other countries).  

Writing an obituary doesn’t have to be stressful. Just look at the obituary as an expanded look at the life of the deceased. When you write an obituary, you are writing a biography. Don’t focus solely on your grief, instead focus on remembering those special qualities that made the individual unique. Ask friends and other family members for their remembrances and stories (this is especially helpful for strained or difficult relationships). An obituary may focus on how the deceased lived their life, not necessarily on how they died. Ask yourself, “How would the person want to be remembered? What was their daily routine? Who or what made them happy?  What gave their life purpose?  

Obituaries can be as long as you would like, but remember that if they are being published in a newspaper, so length and pictures may cost extra.  

Remember—obituaries serve to memorialize our lost loved ones, while also reminding us of our own mortality. Take the time to write a truly great obituary—and remember that the funeral home is always available to assist you with formatting, spelling, grammar—and tracking down just about any newspaper imaginable. 

Carson’s Village Advocates can support you in writing the first version of the obituary or can help you create the framework.  You can then work with the family to personalize it based on the deceased’s personality.

Consider the following items to include in the obituary:

  • Name/Announcement
    • Full name of the deceased, including a nickname, if any
    • Age at death
    • City of residence at the time of death
    • Day and date of death (include the year)
    • Place of death
    • If possible, include pictures
  • Life
    • Date of birth
    • Place of birth
    • Names of Parents
    • Childhood – Siblings, stories, schools, and friends
    • Marriage(s) – Date and place with name of the spouse
    • Education – School, college, university, and other
    • Designations, awards, and other recognition
    • Employment – Jobs, activities, stories, colleagues, satisfactions, promotions
    • Military Service
    • Place of residence
    • Hobbies, sports, interests, activities, and other enjoyment
    • Charitable, religious, fraternal, political, and other affiliations; offices held
    • Achievements
    • Unusual attributes, humor, other stories
  • Family
    • Survived by (and place of residence)
      • Spouse
      • Children (in order of birth and their spouses)
      • Grandchildren
      • Great-Grandchildren
      • Great-Great-Grandchildren
      • Parents
      • Grandparents
      • Siblings (order of birth)
      • Others such as nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws
      • Friends
      • Pets (if appropriate)
    • Predeceased by (and date of death)
      • Spouse
      • Children (in order of birth)
      • Grandchildren
      • Siblings (in order of birth)
      • Others, such as nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws
      • Pets (if appropriate)
  • Service
    • Day, date, time, and place
    • Name of the officiant, pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, and other information
    • Visitation information (date, time, and place)
    • Reception information (date, time, and place)
    • Other memorials, vigil, or graveside service (date, time, and place)
    • Place of interment
    • Name of the funeral home in charge of the arrangements
    • Where to call for information
  • End
    • Memorial Funds established
    • Memorial donations suggestion (include address)
    • Thank you to people, groups, or institutions


For additional help with writing an obituary, visit these links:

Tips on Writing an Obituary

Examples/Templates of Obituaries

For Infants

For Children

For Mothers/Fathers/Spouses, etc.

More Light-Hearted Examples

“The goal of an obituary is neither to inspire nor depress. It is to tell the story of a life with accurate details and nuances that distinguish the deceased from all others.”  – Journalism Center on Children & Families



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