Ten Steps to Writing a Fitting Obituary

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The loss of a loved one which necessitates the writing of an obituary is far from a happy occasion, and in the midst of grief it can be difficult to imagine writing anything at all. But with proper preparation and a little guidance, you can write a fitting tribute to a life well lived. An obituary serves an incredibly important function: it alerts friends and colleagues that a death has occurred and provides essential information regarding planned services. It also can act as a remembrance, both for the writer and the readers, as a way of connecting and processing the loss.

Here are some basic steps to writing a touching obituary:

  1. Decide How Much You Can Spend. If you have an unlimited budget to run your obituary, you won’t need to worry at all about length, but if you are on a budget you’ll want to find out exactly how much the newspaper charges. Most newspapers charge by the column inch, which is how much of a page your obituary will take up. Since font sizes and margins differ from paper to paper, it’s a good idea to call in and ask how many words fit in a column inch on average, how much that will cost, and if there is a word limit. With this information, you can decide how long you can afford to make the obituary. Your funeral director can help you with the preparation and placement of the obituary.
  2. Find Inspiration in Other Obituaries. Each newspaper follows a slightly different format for obituaries, and you will want to try to match their tone and structure as closely as possible. A good place to start is by reading current obituaries in the paper or on their Web site. If the obituary you submit is significantly different from their baseline, then they will likely have an editor rewrite your obituary for you, which creates an opportunity for mistakes to be made which are beyond your control. Many newspapers may provide you with an obituary template so you may wish to call the newspaper before you begin writing. If you plan on submitting an obituary to multiple publications, get copies of each and write specific obituaries to match each style.
  3. Find Out Deadlines. Most newspapers have deadlines when all content has to be in by for the next edition, and this goes for obituaries as well. For a daily paper this deadline is usually by 5 p.m. the day before the obituary will run. But, times will vary from one publication to another. Make sure you call to verify the newspaper’s cut off time. It’s also a good idea to submit the obituary as early as possible, to make sure the editor has plenty of time to review and catch any potential mistakes.
  4. Make Notes on Content. It sounds obvious, but one of the best first steps you can take to writing a strong obituary is simply writing down all of the information you want to include. At this point, don’t worry about format or length, just take the time to outline what bullet points you want to be present, and call around or gather that information so that you have it all easily available when you start writing the obituary itself. At the very minimum, an obituary should include the name of the deceased, their date of birth, and their age. Many obituaries will also include information on their surviving family members, where they were living when they passed, and information about any services. Some obituaries will also include information such as place of birth, service organizations they belonged to, military service, schools attended, hobbies, accomplishments, and cause of death.
  5. Write the Obituary. Once you have notes collected on the different things you want in the obituary, you can sit down and actually write it. If the newspaper or funeral home provided you with a template, it may be as easy as plugging in key information into the designated fields. If you wish to write the obituary on your own, trying to match the style, tone, and format to the target newspaper.
  6. Proofread. If you have time, let the obituary sit for a day or two, and then pick it up again and go through it, making sure everything is exactly as you want it. Check for spelling errors and typos, and also double-check all of the information you’ve included to make sure it’s accurate. Once you’ve submitted the obituary, it’s difficult to make changes, so be absolutely certain you’ve included all the information you want, and haven’t included anything you don’t want made public.
  7. Have Someone Else Proofread. Ideally you want another family member or close friend to proofread the obituary as well. They should be looking for spelling errors and typos as well, but also making sure that the information you’ve included is all accurate. Another set of eyes can also determine if something you’ve included may not be appropriate for a public announcement, or if any important information has been overlooked.
  8. Submit Via E-Mail. Although many people still submit obituaries as typed documents, almost all newspapers accept emailed submissions. Email is the preferred method of delivery simply because it removes an added opportunity for typos and mistakes. If you submit a printed obituary, an editor or intern at the newspaper will simply have to retype it, and it’s possible they will make a mistake that won’t be noticed. Sending your submission by email greatly reduces a chance that an editor will mistype your obituary.
  9. Ask For a Proof. Not all papers will provide you with a free proof of the obituary, but many will if you ask. If you want to be extra certain that the submission you gave is what gets printed, this is your last chance to catch any mistakes. Many newspapers can fax you a copy of the obituary page before press, so that you can make sure everything is exactly the way you want it.
  10. Check the Paper. Especially if you didn’t request a proof, make sure to get a copy of the newspaper on the day your obituary is printed. Look to see if everything appeared the way you wanted it. If there is an error, it is entirely appropriate to call the newspaper and let them know. Almost all newspapers will gladly print a corrected version in the next day’s paper, along with an apology.

Obituary Template

What follows is a sample template for a basic obituary. Do note, however, that many newspapers have specific styles and formats for their own obituary sections. Before writing an obituary for a paper, contact them first and see if they have their own template. If they do, use that first; if they allow a range of formats, then this should serve as a good starting point.

[Name], aged [Age], of [Town] died at [Place of Death] on [Date and Time of Death] of [Optional Cause of Death].

He/She was born [Date of Birth] in [Place of Birth], to [Parents]. He/She attended [Schools and Graduation]. He/She [Military Service, Businesses Owned, Great Accomplishments]. On [Date of Marriage] he/she was married to [Name of Spouse].

[Third Paragraph is Often a Biographical Paragraph, Perhaps with an Anecdote if Space Allows].

[Additional Paragraphs May Include Expanded Information on Military Service, Church Membership, Business Ownership, Awards Won, Honors Earned, or Other Important Information].

[Name] is survived by [Children, Grandchildren].

A [Funeral/Wake/Service] will be held [Date and Time of Service] at [Place of Service].

[The Final Paragraph May Optionally Include Information About Donating Funds Either to the Family or to a Memorial Fund]

Sample Obituary

John Dear, aged 79, of Modesto, CA, died at Union Hospital on Thursday, November 13th, 2008, of natural causes.

He was born November, 4th, 1929, in Deerwater Michegan, to the late Roger and Dorothy Dear. He attended Deerwater High School, and graduated valedictorian from Duke University in 1951. John served in the United States Marine Corps, during the Korean War, with the 5th Marine Regiment 3rd Battalion 1st Division out of Camp Pendelton. He attained the rank of Captain. On June 22nd, 1957, he was married to Cathleen Strom.

During his time in Modesto, John touched the lives of countless youth through his tireless efforts with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Generation after generation learned the value of teamwork, both on and off the courts, from John.

John Dear is survived by his wife, Cathleen; his two daughters, Elizabeth and Victoria; his four grandchildren, Scott, Avery, Diana, and Samantha; his three sisters, Jane, Annie, and Karen; and his two brothers, Jacob and Ronald. He is further survived by nephews, nieces, other relatives, and many friends.

Funeral services for John Dear will be held at 3 p.m., Monday, November 20th, at First Church of Cavalry, 866 State Street. Father Thomas Olivier, S.J., S.I., will officiate.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Now that you know how to write an obituary, let’s take a look at some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

These six pitfalls to watch out for, combined with the ten-step guide to writing an obituary, should ensure that you are able to create the perfect piece to honor the life of your loved one. Just remember, ultimately an obituary is a way to show your appreciation for a great life lived, and to let others know how they can say their farewells. Stick to these two guiding principles, and you can’t go wrong.

  1. Avoid Making the Obituary About You. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing the obituary directly from your perspective, or from the perspective of the bereaved. It’s important to remember that the obituary should be about the deceased, and showcase them at all times. For example, you don’t want to begin the obituary with a line like, “It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing…” you want to start immediately with the name of the person who has passed.
  2. Don’t Focus Just on Death. It’s easy to write an entire obituary that jumps straight from the date and place of birth to the date and place of death, and misses everything in between. An obituary is not just an announcement of someone’s death, it is also a celebration of their life. Make sure to spend ample time fleshing out the things that made the deceased’s life so amazing.
  3. Don’t Thank Only Those Present at the End. Similarly, if you are thanking people who helped make the loved one’s passing a little better, try to mention people who helped during life as well. This helps bring some of the focus away from death and captures a more full appreciation of the life lived. Generally, thanking people at all can be a tricky road, as some people may feel slighted, so it may be best to forego thanks altogether in the obituary, and instead send out individualized cards.
  4. Avoid Clichés. Sentences like “After a long/courageous battle…” or “Only saw the best in people…” or “Will be sorely missed…” are all seen so often in obituary writing that they run the risk of reading like clichés. Although all of these sentiments might be entirely accurate, they are diluted by being placed in a form that is so familiar to people. Try to come up with novel, more descriptive ways to convey the message, as it will make the impact even stronger.
  5. Steer Clear of Abbreviations. The temptation to use abbreviations as much as possible can be great, especially if you’re on a tight budget, but for all but the most common abbreviations this isn’t recommended. Many clubs and groups that are referred to by abbreviations well-known to you won’t be understood by others, and your goal is to create an obituary that is easily readable and accessible to everyone who knew the deceased.
  6. Don’t Over Describe the Funeral. Giving the basic information for the funeral or services is one of the main purposes of the obituary, since it allows those who knew the deceased to say their farewells, but the funeral itself is not the point of the piece. Give a date, time, place, and officiating person, but don’t go into too much more detail than that, as it runs the risk of distracting from the life and death of the deceased themselves.

How to Write and Deliver a Eulogy

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Writing and giving a eulogy is a way of saying goodbye to someone who has died while at the same time leaving loved ones with a fond memory of the deceased. Not an easy task. While some people welcome the chance to speak during a funeral service, for others it’s too difficult a job. There is no wrong or right way to write a eulogy, however, each one is as individual and unique as the speaker who’s delivering it and the person whose life it is celebrating. If you’ve volunteered to write and deliver a eulogy for a friend or relative, below are some tips and advice on how to give a fitting tribute.

What to Say

Even if you’re used to speaking in public, such is the occasion of a funeral that it can be difficult to find the right words. Not only will you be concerned with getting it right and setting the appropriate tone, but you’ll also have your own grief to contend with. But remember that you have the opportunity to talk in personal terms about someone who has meant a great deal to you – as well as to others – and therefore you can bring that person to the minds of all present and help them too say their goodbyes.

When thinking about what to say, consider your audience. Will it be comprised of close friends and family only, or will others be present like co-workers or neighbors? Think about what they will want to hear. That doesn’t mean suppressing your own thoughts about the deceased – people don’t automatically become saints once they die – but rather being a little selective about what memories you share with the audience.

People want to hear something uplifting and inspiring about someone they’ve lost and who meant something to them. As well as an opportunity for people to say goodbye, a funeral is a celebration of someone’s life. While the occasion will be highly emotional, there’s no need to make it one full of somber and depressing words. Don’t be afraid to include a little humor in your eulogy.

A eulogy should bring the deceased to life in the minds of the audience and give them something with which to remember him or her by. You can do this by telling little stories about the deceased; the sad as well as the happy times they had, and the out of the ordinary events that they experienced. Talk about the deceased’s enduring little habits, their hobbies and interests; this will help build a picture in people’s minds. Also talk about what he or she meant to you, and the relationship you enjoyed with them. Recount one or two tales of times the two of you spent together to illustrate the true nature of the deceased and why you will miss them.

You may want to speak to others who were close to the deceased to make sure that your facts are correct. If you’ve been asked to write a eulogy for someone you didn’t know personally, then you should base it on the impression you’ve gained about the deceased through talking to his or her friends and family.

How to Say It

When delivering a eulogy some people like to have it written out in front of them, word for word. If you adopt this method, then make sure that you read your eulogy out as you’re writing it to ensure that it doesn’t sound too stilted or forced. Remember that we don’t speak in perfect sentences. Some people prefer to have a page of key points with them and use these to help them during their delivery. If you’re reading a poem, however, it’s obviously best to have that written out word for word, unless you are able to memorize it.

Most eulogies are structured in chronological order, starting with the deceased’s childhood and running through the highlights of his or her life. However, there’s no rule that says you have to do it this way. You can use a theme for your eulogy, perhaps something that everyone associates with the deceased, and decide on a number of key points based on this theme.

There’s no real need to tell your audience why you’re doing what you’re doing – they will know. You can, however, tell the audience what your relationship to the deceased was, which will almost certainly be touched upon in your eulogy anyway. End with a short note of farewell to the deceased, perhaps the last thing you would have wanted to say to him or her. If you choose to end the service with a piece of music, you can explain why you’ve chosen it and its significance.

Final Points

Dress appropriately for the occasion; keep any individual statements strictly to words for the deceased. While you may feel a little exposed standing while delivering your eulogy, this will mean that the audience will be able to hear you better. Practicing delivering your eulogy before the funeral service will help you not only to polish the text, but also to control your emotions when speaking. Try not to fidget or give way to nervous gestures as these will only distract your audience. Speak slowly and calmly and let your audience take in what you’re saying.

Don’t worry if your emotions get the better of you on the day; everyone will understand. Delivering a eulogy is never an easy task. No one’s expecting you to give a word-perfect delivery, nor are they expecting you to remain completely stone-faced while doing so. Your audience is on your side and you are all sharing the one goal: to say goodbye to someone you loved, and remember them for the unique person they were.

You Can Make A Special Tribute to Your Loved One

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Often it does not seem enough to hold fond memories of a loved one who has passed away. You may want to do more to honor his memory. If this is a thought you have in mind, you can make a special tribute to your loved one which will continue on for years to come.

One lovely way to honor him is to make a contribution in his name to a special charity. This can be even more significant if the particular charity was meaningful to him. You will not only be helping others with your thoughtfulness, you will be creating a lasting tribute to your family member.

Setting up a scholarship fund is another wonderful option. While this is an excellent method in most situations, if your loved one had a personal connection to a school, an academic area, or a sport, it is a tribute which can last forever. The recipients of the scholarships will not only appreciate it, but will gain personal knowledge of how important your loved one has been in your life.

A memorial brick, plaque, or bench is another idea. When one of these engraved or embossed objects is placed at a location which has been meaningful to your loved one, his connection to that place will continue. When other people see it, they will know that it is honoring someone very special.

These are only a few ideas of how you can make a special tribute to your loved one. When you think about him, you may come up with other ideas as well. A lasting tribute will keep his memory alive in many ways. He will have a profound connection with people whom he never knew. You will know that you have made a decision to make his memory even more personal.

You will also have the peace of mind of knowing that you have done one of the most significant things you could do. You may wish to consult with other family members or friends for ideas about a memorial tribute. Everyone can share in the special memory of the person who has had a special place in your life.

What You Need To Know About Planning a Funeral Service

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Sometimes people hesitate in planning funeral services because they are afraid the services mean sadness and pain. This is unfortunate, because it can come to mean putting off planning until there isn’t enough time to organize a truly personalized service. While sorrow is a part of the grieving process, so is gathering together with others who cared for your loved one. A service is to honor a special person and to celebrate his life.

One thing you should know is that there are a number of different types of services. A standard funeral service can take place at the funeral home, in a church, or at another designated location. Whenever possible, the choice of location should reflect something of meaning to your loved one and your family. The service can be religious or spiritual in nature, patriotic, or symbolizing a special meaning.

Graveside services are also popular. Although they are usually quite simple, a graveside service can be customized to be a special honor to your loved one, as well as a lasting remembrance. Graveside services can be conducted by a member of the clergy, a family member, or a close friend.

Some people prefer memorial services. While there are a number of situations in which a memorial service is most appropriate, they are often held after a cremation.

Whichever type of service you decide to have, keeping the main purposes in mind is the best way to ensure that you will make the choice that is right for your family. The service is a way to gather everyone together to honor someone who has meant the world to you in each of your lives. It is also the nicest way to create and hold fond memories of the person who has been so dear to you.

When you are planning a service, personalizing it to focus on your loved one is the best method. Whether this includes readings from the Bible, favorite songs, or sharing personal stories, the service will aid in your grieving process while deeply honoring the person whom you have lost. Celebrating his life is the very first step toward healing.

What You Need to Know About Funeral Planning

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One important fact about funeral planning is that pre-planning is the best method whenever it is possible to do so. First, when you pre-plan your funeral, nothing is left to chance. While this partially means that you will not have the risk of essential details being left out or your wishes not adhered to properly, it also means that your funeral will not be left up to your loved ones. Even though you trust your family to do what is best, during a time of loss people are generally not in a position to make clear decisions on the spur of the moment. When you pre-plan your own funeral, you will relieve your loved ones of this responsibility, as well as ensuring that everything will proceed as you yourself have decided.

A second reason for pre-planning a funeral is it will keep the costs at a minimum. As costs of funerals rise over the years, pre-planning means that you can lock-in the cost of your funeral at today’s rates. If you choose to pre-pay for your funeral also, your family will not need to deal with the costs later on.

If the details of a funeral have not been planned in advance, it is often necessary to make numerous decisions within a short period of time. In order to ensure that everything is done properly, it is a good idea to consult with a funeral arranger. Your funeral arranger will help you to understand the specific types of documentation you need, assist with the obituary, and plan the funeral or memorial service itself.

If you have recently lost a loved one, it can be helpful for you to take another family member or close friend when you consult with your funeral arranger. This person can be supportive to you at a time when you need it the most, as well as assisting you in making decisions about the arrangements.

Whether you are preparing to plan your own funeral in advance, or dealing with the loss of a loved one, it is important for you to keep in mind that you are not alone. People care, and are here to help.

What is the Best Way to Plan a Funeral?

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Planning a funeral is stressful under any circumstances. When you are faced with the loss of a loved one, it can be more stressful and much more emotional. There are some tips to make planning a funeral easier, and ensure that it will be a positive experience for everyone who participates.

One important factor in planning a funeral is to consider your loved one’s wishes. Whether he was clear about the kind of service he wanted, or whether you have a general idea about what he would have preferred, honoring his memory by keeping his preferences in mind is the best way to plan the service.

You can also discuss the subject with other members of your family, and possibly your close friends. They may have a considerable amount of input which you might not have thought about yourself. This may include personal memories and anecdotes which they would like to share, ideas about music and flowers, and other factors. When everyone is involved, it will make the service even more special.

Your funeral arranger can also help you to plan the funeral. While each family’s situation is individual and personal, his assistance can help you to customize a service that is best suited to your needs. He can also help to ensure that even the smallest details of the service will not be overlooked. While planning the funeral service is essentially up to the family, your funeral arranger’s assistance can be very valuable.

When you are short on time to plan a funeral, it is not necessary for you to take on the entire process alone. There are plenty of people in your life who will be more than willing to lend a hand. If you think about it, your loved one had many people in his life who cared about him. Their help in both planning and participating in the service will be a healing step for them, too. When you welcome their assistance, you will be doing much more than organizing the funeral service. You will be helping them to create a lasting remembrance which they can carry with them in their hearts.

What a Funeral Arranger Can Do For You

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When you are facing a loss, it is a very difficult time for you. The assistance of someone who is compassionate will help to make this time easier. Your funeral arranger will help you with all of the essential details in a way that is easy for you to understand.

Your funeral arranger will let you know what you need to do regarding necessary documents and your loved one’s obituary. Everything will be explained in a clear, concise manner, so you will know that you are entrusting all of this important information to someone who cares.

Your funeral arranger will listen carefully to your concerns and wishes, and help you to make the decisions about a funeral or memorial service. You can be assured that the service you choose will be personalized to be appropriate for your loved one. Whether you select a funeral or a memorial service, your family’s needs will be taken into consideration. This special remembrance of your loved one is the most important way to honor his or her memory. It is a tribute to your loved one’s life, as well as bonding your family and close friends together at a time when sharing is most important.

Whether you have opted for burial, cremation, or have not yet made the decision, your funeral arranger can help with this, also. He will assist you in making the choice that is best for your particular situation. He will answer any questions which you may have, including memorialization, your personal preferences, costs, and any other factors which you may be concerned about.

All in all, the role of your funeral arranger is to make this difficult time easier for you, while ensuring that everything is done promptly and correctly. When you place your trust in your funeral arranger, it will ease your concerns and help you to have peace of mind. As each family’s situation is unique, you can be assured that every aspect of your loved one’s funeral or memorial service will be customized with this in mind. Your funeral arranger is there to help you every step of the way.

Planning a Funeral for a Special Person

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When you lose a loved one, one of the most important things on your mind is how special this person was in your life. When you plan the funeral with this in mind, you can convey his uniqueness to everyone who attends the funeral.

When you think about your loved one, what are some of the first thoughts you have? They can include his relationship to you, other members of the family, and close friends. It can also include his hobbies, interests, and everything which he was passionate about in life.

Planning a funeral around these ideas will make it much more personal. Not only will it be the loveliest way to honor his memory, it will also allow everyone who is present to feel closer to this very special person. What he loved, did, and cared for can be the basic focus of the funeral service.

The memories which other people can contribute will also serve to make the service a sharing experience. Each person who has been in his life has unique memories to add to the service. From elderly relatives to the youngest children, giving each person the chance to share something in his honor will bring everyone closer together in addition to making the funeral service truly personal.

A personalized funeral service can include various types of mementoes which shows your loved one as he was in life. From hobby collections to photographs, the possibilities are nearly limitless. You can tell your loved one’s story through the special objects you include at the service.

Sharing stories, music, poems, or readings from the Bible will also help to tell his story in a unique way. When you know what mattered the most to him during his lifetime, you can customize his funeral service to be a living tribute.

The funeral service is meant to honor the person who was dear to you and to others. It is a place where everyone can share memories and be supportive of each other. The funeral service you plan can show how special a person he was, and how much he meant in everyone’s lives.