Writing an Obituary

Penning an obituary is an opportunity to publicly express your feelings for and the lifelong accomplishments of a loved one who’s passed. Summing up an entire person in just a few paragraphs can feel daunting and overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Following our steps for writing an obituary will ease your stress and help you compose a beautiful farewell message. 

outdoor closeup portrait of handsome freckled smiling male with

Select a Photo and Compile Basic Details

First, choose a photo of your loved one that best represents who they were. The image will be the first thing readers see, so take your time picking it out. 

A well-written obituary begins with the death announcement. This lets the reader know what happened and when. Most obituaries include:

  • The full name and age of the deceased
  • The date and city of birth
  • The date, time and city of death

Talking about the manner of death is optional. You don’t have to give specifics if you’d like to keep the details private. You can simply say someone passed away suddenly or peacefully surrounded by family without mentioning the cause if you’d like the specifics to remain confidential. 

Use Descriptive Keywords

Make a list of words that describe your loved one. This allows you to depict their character as you’re writing. Each time you mention them, include one of the keywords so that readers get a feel for what kind of person they were. Examples:

  • Beloved
  • Funny
  • Inquisitive
  • Brave
  • Fearless
  • Fun-loving
  • Brilliant
  • Sensitive
  • Amazing

Just a few of these descriptors sprinkled onto an obituary can paint a clear picture of why the deceased was so loved.

Mentioning Loved Ones

An obituary often lists those closest to the deceased. If important people in their lives died before them, you can say they were “preceded in death by” and list those who are gone. 

Next are those left behind. Traditionally, parents, spouses, siblings, children and grandchildren are mentioned. First and last names are appropriate, and if the person is married, their spouse can be cited in parentheses next to the relative. 

If their family is very large, it’s OK to say “14 grandchildren” or “many beloved nieces and nephews”. 

portrait of happy aged woman drinking coffee

Milestones and Interests

Next, jot down the milestones and great loves of the person’s life. These events and pastimes will start to fill in the colour of who they were. Think about where the person concentrated their time and energy. Consider:

  • Marriages
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Years spent in a career
  • Beloved hobbies
  • Military service

Reach out to friends and family to get a feel for what everyone thinks was most important to the deceased. This is an opportunity to describe what made your loved one’s eyes light up with pride and joy.

Memorial and Funeral Information

Decide how much you want the public to know about the memorial service. If you’re opening it up to everyone, give the date, time and location of the service and make it clear everyone is welcome. If it’s a private ceremony, you can say there will be a small service for family. 

People reading the obituary may want to send condolences, so let them know the best way to do that. Consider:

  • Asking for a donation to a special charity in place of flowers
  • Where people can send well wishes or flowers
  • Setting up an online board for messages 

Quotes or Passages

A favourite quote, verse or Bible passage can add a beautiful touch to a heartfelt obituary. However, we find adding poetry and other prose to funeral commemoration cards is a wonderful way for people to take a lovely reminder of the deceased home with them after the memorial service. 

Make It Your Own

The best advice is to see writing an obituary as an opportunity to show love. There are no right or wrong ways to approach the process. Take a deep breath, remove any stress you’re feeling and just let your thoughts about your loved one flow.

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Baileys Print Co. is a family run printing business based in Melbourne. We’ve been getting inky fingers for over 19 years.