How to Write the Best Obituary — Funeral Etiquette

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino via Unsplash

An obituary is a lasting tribute that you share with others. Knowing how to write an obituary is a way to keep your loved one’s memory alive. Below there’s everything you may need on how write the best obituary for your loved one. But let’s start with the basics.

What is an obituary?

An obituary is a short, written account of a person’s life. You can usually publish it in the local newspaper and so people who knew the deceased an read it.

An obituary should be a factual account of their life. However, it can include special messages from friends and family members too. A funeral director can work with you to write a good obituary. Or maybe you prefer to work on it alone. Regardless, your obituary needs to capture all the important details about your loved one’s life. This way your text will help others remember your deceased loved one fondly.

Who pays for an obituary?

You may be wondering who pays for an obituary. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the funeral home. The fee for an obituary falls on the family and friends of the deceased person. It could be that your loved one had many friends, but you don’t want to burden them with this cost of an obituary as well as funeral expenses. Or perhaps they had few relatives and no close friends. In this case you’re looking for another way to cover these costs.

You can always turn to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe or YouCaring if money is tight. That’s especially useful if your loved one did not have any life insurance policies in place. These sites will help raise funds from donors who wish to contribute toward expenses about their death and memorial services.

Sometimes several non-profit organizations out there may offer helpful grants. These grants are specifically for those who cannot afford traditional burial services due to insufficient funds.

What are the different types of obituaries? 

The three main types of obituaries are:

  • Traditional. These are the standard obituaries with a few paragraphs on your loved one’s life and accomplishments, as well as information about their funeral.

  • Memorial. This type of obituary is a condensed version of the traditional one. This doesn’t include information about where or when the burial or cremation will take place. A memorial obituary can be helpful if you’re getting it in print form. This way you can save space for important details like their favorite color was or how much they loved pickles.

  • Condolences. This type of article typically includes an acknowledgement that someone has passed away, but does not go into detail about who they were. This is often a good idea when there aren’t any family members left behind to write an obituary.

Who writes an obituary?

Any member of your family can write an obituary. This includes you, the deceased’s spouse or partner, son or daughter. A professional funeral director or obituary writer may also write it (a service which often includes free obituaries). A friend can write an obituary too if they have permission from the next of kin. If you do not know how to write an obituary yourself, consider asking a trusted family member or friend. We’re also here to help you get started.

What to include in an obituary

Here is a list of the things most people tend to include in an obituary:

  • Name and age of deceased

  • Date and place of death

  • Cause of death. If you don’t know, ask someone who was there. If that’s not possible, make a guess (like “natural causes”). You can also include a quote from a friend or family member about how they are coping with the loss. This could be an especially nice touch if you’re close to the family. That would mean that you know them well enough to speak on their behalf. Just be sure to ask before writing anything down!

  • Where to send condolences: The best way is through email, but maybe they don’t have an email address listed. Then consider sending it via mail instead. The other option is paying tribute via social media. This is great for those who aren’t able to attend any memorial services. It also shows respect by keeping up with current trends.

How to write an obituary

The most important things to keep in mind when writing an obituary are the following:

  • Determine the type of obituary you want to write.

  • Write the obituary in past tense and third person.

  • Write about the person’s life and accomplishments. For example, their academic , professional and personal milestones.

  • Include a photo or other personal information that will help others connect with them. This also helps to better understand why the people who loved the deceased will remember or miss them.

More tips on writing an obituary

  • Remember to make it personal. An obituary is an opportunity to capture the essence of a loved one. Therefore, don’t feel obligated to include every fact you know about them. Instead, let your personality shine through. You can achieve that by telling the story in a way that best represents your relationship with this person.

  • Include a photo of the deceased. A picture is worth 1,000 words, after all. One reason for that is that it helps readers identify which person was being mentioned in the article. It also helps bring them closer to their connection with that individual. The reason for that is because it allows them to see what they looked like in real life.

  • Include a favorite quote from or about the deceased. Remembering someone’s last words can be both touching and funny. That is especially true if it wasn’t something they said all too often. And if there’s no quote available from them, consider using something that was said about them. The most important thing is that whatever quote you choose reflects who this person really was deep down. Don’t just try to sound good on paper. We’ve learned from our own experiences with writing obituaries, there’s nothing worse than awkward phrasing!

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, an obituary is a remembrance of the person’s life. It tells people about the deceased and can be published by the funeral home or family members. Obituaries usually appear in local newspapers and online, but may also appear in magazines or on social media sites.

We hope that this article has helped you learn how to write the best obituary. You may also want to check out our other resources on funeral etiquette, including what to wear at a funeral. And now with Myend’s Funeral Plan, you can leave behind instructions about your own obituary. Sign up today completely for free and experience the end-of-life services of the future!

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