Obituary Templates and Writing Advice to Celebrate Your Loved One’s Beautiful Life
Losing a loved one is always hard. Celebrating their lives in a touching obituary needn’t be an additional burden on top of the grieving process, overwhelming emotions, and the hundred other details that go along with the death of a loved one. We believe that writing an obituary can be a beautiful and cathartic opportunity to commemorate, remember, and celebrate a beautiful life through words.
As you prepare to write the obituary, keep the following two items in mind:
1: The reason you are writing the obituary – Remember that your ultimate goal is to celebrate the deceased’s passions, and accomplishments, and to recognize their surviving family.
2: Structurally, an obituary is pretty simple – The typical obituary has just 5 parts:
- The death announcement
- A short bio
- Survivor information
- Announcement of the scheduled ceremonies
- Contribution requests (if appropriate).
Keeping those two facts in mind will not only help you understand and get a handle on writing the obituary itself, but you may even come to see writing it as a valuable part of the healing process, allowing you to reminisce about and cherish the memories of your loved one.
To make the process a bit easier to handle, we’ve put together 7 tips on how to write an obituary, along with a few obituary samples and obituary templates to help you with the process.
7 Steps to Writing an Obituary
1. Decide who will write the obituary.
This can be a difficult decision, as anyone who is close enough to the deceased to write an effective obit, may be too emotionally drained and swamped with funeral planning and other details to perform the task.
While anyone who is literate, and who has some knowledge of the deceased can write an effective obituary, someone who was closer to them will be better equipped to share touching memories, funny stories and to capture their personality in words.
If you are preplanning, consider writing your own obituary (leaving blank the date of birth and cause of death), and be sure that your survivors or next of kin have access to it.
2. Check with your newspaper or funeral home before you get started.
Funeral homes often provide forms to collect basic information, and many will actually write the obituary for you. In addition, some newspapers have specific style guidelines, or only accept obituaries directly from funeral homes, or that are written by newspaper staff.
3. Decide where you will publish.
This will help determine the format of the obituary, as well as the word count, and perhaps the level and types of details to include. In addition to local newspapers, many opt to announce the death of their loved ones on Facebook, Legacy.com, college alumni magazines, even industry publications. Keep in mind that some publications charge a per-column-inch or per-word fee.
4. Gather relevant information.
The most basic obituary will include the following:
- name (including maiden name and nickname)
- age and city of residence of the deceased
- the dates and cities of their birth and death
- where and when any services will be held
- survivors’ names
- instructions for sending flowers or donations
For more detailed obituaries, you may want to talk to other close friends or family members to collect stories and anecdotes, hobbies, etc. These details are what allow you to celebrate the life and personality of your loved one. See the obituary template questionnaire at the end of this article for more ideas regarding the information you may want to include.
5. Write it.
Once you’ve gathered the information and decided where to publish, it’s time to sit down and actually write the obituary.
- Find or create a peaceful time and space to reminisce and write.
- Reading a few obituary examples will give you an idea of the level of detail to include, the types of stories to tell, and the overall flow of an obituary (see samples below). You may also find one of of the obituary templates we’ve included below as a helpful aid.
- Remember to proofread carefully, especially for correct spelling of names, and correct birthdates.
- Let someone else read it over to make sure it is appropriate, accurate and includes all the necessary information.
“Listen to your families: Your families knew the deceased best, and have the best insight into how their loved one wanted to be remembered. Don’t just talk to them about when their loved one was born and who they are survived by. Really listen to what your families have to say about them and try to capture the emotions they share in the obituary.” -Rochelle Rietow, blog.FuneralOne.com
6. Select an appropriate photo.
Finally, if the publication accepts photos, decide which pictures you’d like to include. If you will be publishing just one photo, a head shot is probably most appropriate, as they tend to clearly show the person’s face. Choose a photo that the deceased would have been happy with, but remember that you want to select one which will allow people to recognize the person’s face. You may need to scan and email a digital copy of the photo to the publisher.
In the past, if you only had old, damaged or poor quality photos of the deceased, you were pretty much limited to either using a bad photo, sending it to a lab for expensive professional correction, or purchasing and mastering Photoshop or some other powerful software (assuming you were even tech-savvy enough to know about it). Today, the wide availability of inexpensive digital cameras and camera phones has led to the creation of a number of options for digitally repairing, cropping, correcting the color, or otherwise improving your digital or scanned photo, and producing a relatively good quality copy to include with the obituary, and even to display at the services.
Here are a few online photo editing and correcting services:
- Picmonkey (www.picmonkey.com) is a simple (even fun) to use online photo editing tool that allows you to easily crop or resize photos and apply a number of Instagram-like filter effects. You can also create decorative frames and easily add text or make photo collages. Rather than the ugly, Photoshop-lite style interface of most online editors, which seem to assume you are at least a serious hobbyist photographer, Picmonkey walks you through each step with big, colorful buttons and clear instructions. Besides printing and emailing, it allows you to easily share your photo to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites. You don’t have to have much more than the same basic abilities you’d need for Instagram to use Picmonkey.
- BeFunky (www.befunky.com) is a relatively easy to use and powerful online photo editor with simple tools for cropping and resizing, fixing color and focus issues, and a number of Instagram-style filters. It is pretty closely integrated with Facebook (for example you can automatically size a photo for your cover photo), which would make it useful for sharing information on social media. You can create collages via drag and drop interface once you’ve uploaded a few photos. Downloading to print or share is pretty simple as well.
7. Plan to publish the obituary at least 1-2 days prior to services.
Make sure that friends and family have the opportunity to make arrangements to attend. If you are publishing in the newspaper, make sure you know when the services will be held so that you can work out the scheduling with the publisher.
Obituaries that appear in industry, alumni, or employee publications will not need to include dates of services because they will tend to publish after the services would have taken place.
Our guide for quickly organizing a wake or funeral reception contains information, tips, and other suggestions for organizing a moving service quickly, and with as little additional stress as possible.
The obituaries page of the New York Times is one of the finest sources available for obituary examples of almost any type. The following samples may help you find the appropriate tone for your loved one:
- Celebrity Obituaries: Harris Wittels, Shirley Temple Black, Leonard Nimoy
- Politician Obituaries: Jane Byrne, Ariel Sharon
- General Obituaries: New York Times Daily Obituaries (hosted at legacy.com)
We’ve assembled the following templates that will help you write a moving, respectful obituary that honors the deceased, and truly captures their personality. In addition, we’ve assembled a brief questionnaire that will help you collect the biographical information you will need.
Losing a loved one is always hard. Celebrating their lives in a touching obituary shouldn’t be.
Your questions, suggestions, and ideas regarding writing obituaries are welcome. Please contact us and share your thoughts at 1-877-659-2305 to help make this guide as useful as possible.