There's an Art to Writing a Special Obituary
Like people, obituaries come in a variety of types and sizes. They can be long or short, sophisticated or simplistic, entertaining or dull. At one time, death notices contained only the very basic information: who died, what day and how, surviving family members, and details about the funeral or memorial service.
But today, obituaries have become a place to celebrate and honor the life of the deceased. They have evolved into moving literary portraits that can be riveting, heartwarming, and sometimes even amusing. It doesn’t matter if your loved one was an executive, a bricklayer or a musician. Everyone has a life story to tell, but it takes some effort to put it together in a meaningful way.
If you are in the position of writing an obituary for a loved one, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed by the task. It’s an emotional undertaking at an already stressful time, and it’s further complicated if you’ve never written an obituary before. On the upside, writing an obituary can also be a deeply healing experience. Recalling fond memories of a life well-lived and transforming it into a public tribute to a beloved family member or friend is a great way to deal with grief in a positive manner. The following five tips can help you create an obituary that will honor the deceased in a most significant and memorable way.
1. Decide on what basic information you’ll include. The amount of information included in an obituary is entirely up to you and depends on how many personal details you wish to publish. The basics typically include:
- The full name of the person who died, including maiden name or nickname
- Date and location of death
- Cause of death (optional)
- Names of surviving family members (optional)
- Details of the funeral service, if public
- If applicable, the name of the charity to which donations should be made in lieu of flowers, along with contact information or a link to the website
Additional biographical information may also be included, such as:
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of marriage, and name of spouse
- Educational history, including schools attended and degrees or honors received
- Military service, including any honors or awards received
- Employment history, including positions held, awards received, or special achievements
- Membership in organizations
- Special accomplishments
- Hobbies and interests
2. Capture the decedent’s essence. Work collaboratively with your family to come up with five to eight words that best describe your loved one’s spirit. Make sure those key concepts come through in the obituary. If the deceased was a light-hearted jokester, don’t be afraid to throw in some well-placed humor. If he or she was on the quiet or on the serious side, keeping the obituary on the conservative side may be more appropriate. Incorporate personal examples or vignettes to vividly illustrate his or her personality.
3. Seek out intimate details that will keep your loved one alive in memory. Think quirks, hobbies, favorite sayings, travels, or unusual pursuits. What was his or her daily routine? Where did he or he find most happiness? Be creative and look outside the box to find personality traits and unique characteristics to recall. For example: “A member of the ‘Senior Club’ at McDonald’s, Mary loved to spend her mornings there, drinking her tea, chatting with friends and reading her mystery novels. She was like a celebrity. Everyone loved Mary’s sweet personality, her fabulous assortment of colorful blazers, and the stunning cross pendants that always adorned her neck.”
4. Revise, edit and proofread your work. As with any writing endeavor, an otherwise great product is compromised when there are errors, misspellings and omissions. Taking the time to revise and re-read your work will improve the end result. This process not only spots errors, it also improves the overall style and story you’re telling. An excellent approach is to set aside your completed obituary for a day and then review it again with a fresh pair of eyes. Include other family members or friends in the review process to ensure that the final product is the very best it can be.
5. Be prepared for the expense. People are often surprised at how costly paid obituaries can be, particularly if you submit a photograph. But unless your loved one was famous, it’s likely no one will write so thoroughly and affectionately about him or her again. Any funds you put out for this tribute will be well worth it, especially in the way of memories that will live on forever.
Many step-by-step guides, templates and other resources exist to help you with the task of writing your loved one’s life story. Keep in mind that most meaningful and special obituaries are those that come from the heart. If you need help with the details related to a loved one’s death or have funeral planning needs, our compassionate funeral directors are available to assist you anytime. Please reach out to us with your questions or concerns.
About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. For more information, please call us at 215-549-4700 or visit our website.