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Writing a Death Notice or Obituary

When a loved one passes away, it can sometimes be too difficult to come up with the words that encapsulate the life of someone so special. Writing a death notice or obituary may seem like the last thing on your mind, but other family members and close friends of the deceased will appreciate the time you took to prepare such a meaningful summary of the deceased's accomplishments and passions. The act of preparing an obituary is best approached with care and consideration. In this step-by-step guide, we highlight some of the essential steps to take to make your loved one's obituary a success.

Drafting a Death Announcement

Before you start typing or writing away, you should double check with the funeral home to see whether a death notice is part of the services they provide. Some funeral homes provide forms for basic information. You should also consult your local newspaper to see whether there are any style guidelines or restrictions in length. Start the notice with the name, age, and place of residence of the deceased. Depending on the circumstances, you might also include the time and place of death. There are many statements you can use to communicate that a loved one has died. However, you do not have to list the cause of death if the family would rather keep the cause private.

Creating a Biographical Sketch

It is important to remember that an obituary is not necessarily a biography. Instead, an obituary is a summary of the most important contributions, events, and qualities of the deceased. Your loved one's death announcement should include information pertaining to his or her parents, spouse, and children, as well as the date and place of marriage, education, work, or any military service. It can be helpful to list events chronologically, but the outline is ultimately up to you. When in doubt, you should encompass as many contributions and recognitions in as few words as possible.

Remembering the Survivors

Although an obituary is the official account of a loved one's death, the announcement is meant to be read by the living. With that in mind, you should list any surviving family members of the deceased and those who preceded your loved one in death. You should consult surviving relatives to ensure that you aren't missing anyone or misrepresenting familial relations, especially where stepchildren and other relatives are concerned. Avoid confusion by listing the maiden name of any family member whose name has changed. If there is enough room, you might also consider adding the names of any partners in parentheses.

Detailing Service Information

Every element of an obituary is important, but it is critical that you include accurate information for the funeral service or memorial ceremony. A funeral director will be able to help you list this information in the best possible way. As a rule of thumb, you should list the time, date, and location of the service and/or the burial, as well as the name of the officiant performing the ceremony. If your family permits visitation, you should list the time, date, and place of visitation as well.

Choosing a Photo or Video

Sometimes we all need a tangible reminder of the person we love and miss. Photos or videos provide a way for readers to recognize the deceased among all the other obituaries listed in print or online. This personal touch will help surviving relatives and friends come to terms with the loss and remember the face of someone that will live on in their memories.

Writing a death notice or obituary doesn't have to be difficult or painful. Don't be afraid to infuse as much personality into the obituary as the deceased would have wanted or appreciated.