How to Write an Obituary
Writing an obituary may seem like an easy task. After all, how difficult can it be to write a little something about a person's life and their family, particularly when you have read so many other obituaries and it looks so simple? The reality is an obituary is much more than just a notice of a person's death. In many respects, it is a brief composition that is designed to sum up the significance of a person's life. Thus, when you begin to think about an individual's existence and how it impacted you and others, it can be very difficult to find the right words to describe the importance and beauty of a life in a single paragraph.
If you find yourself struggling to write an obituary, the following are 4 simple steps to help you in your task:
Step 1 – Create an outline - This will help you find and maintain your focus. State the name of the deceased, their age, birth date and the time and date of death. You may also include the cause of death but this is not necessary. Also include a short biography or brief background of the person who has passed along with information regarding the surviving relatives. Mention the immediate family (i.e. spouse, children, grandchildren, etc.).
Step 2 – Write something about the deceased – To start, you may want to describe who the individual was in detail, such as their beliefs, values, attitudes, good attributes, accomplishments, what they were proud of, etc. Essentially, you want to inform the reader who the person was and why they will be missed. Avoid saying anything negative about them, unless it is necessary. If something unpleasant must be included, make it very neutral and follow up with something positive. Finally, do not include your own personal opinions about them. An obituary is not about you, it is in honor of the deceased's memory for everyone to share.
Step 3 – Mention the immediate family – Once you have created the short background, create a list of the immediate family members related to the person who has died. Begin by mentioning their spouse/significant other if applicable, followed by their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, parents, grand-parents, brothers and sisters. You may also include nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, as well as the names of close friends or co-workers. Who you include may depend on the size of the family. Look at different obituaries to see how relatives are mentioned to gain a clearer perspective if you need help.
Step 4 – Have passion – While an obituary is not a eulogy, it is still a depiction of a person’s life. Therefore, do not write without emotion. Carefully think about what you want to say and use strong and powerful words to give the right meaning you wish to convey to readers. For instance, "he had a good, long life with many friends and family" can be transformed into, "he had a long and beautiful life that was enriched with friends and family." The idea is to use colorful words and descriptions to infuse meaning into the script. After all, while death is a tragic and somber event, it is also a celebration of someone's life. Treat it with this outlook and make your announcement a respectful and positive one.