How to Write a Meaningful Obituary for a Family Member

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In This Article

Losing someone you care about is incredibly difficult, and the task of writing an obituary can add to the emotional weight.  However, an obituary is a meaningful way to honor their life, celebrate their unique spirit, and share lasting memories with others.

What Is an Obituary?

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An obituary is a short article announcing a person’s passing. Traditionally published in newspapers, they’re increasingly found online.

The core purpose of an obituary is to inform the community about the death (providing service details) and serve as a brief biographical record. It usually includes the deceased person’s full name, city of residence, and date of death.

An obituary may also list surviving family members, highlight aspects of the person’s life, and provide details for any funeral or memorial services. Beyond the practical announcement, an obituary offers a space to publicly honor the person and share their memory with others.

Step 1: Gather Essential Information

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Start by compiling the factual details you’ll need for the obituary. This includes:

  • Full name (including maiden name, if applicable)
  • Dates of birth and death
  • City/town of residence
  • Names of immediate family members (spouse, children, parents, siblings)

To keep things organized, consider having a dedicated notebook or digital folder for the obituary and any related information you gather.  This makes it easier to find what you need as you’re writing.

Step 2:  Choose an Obituary Structure

Obituaries do not come with a manual. The best one simply helps you communicate whatever it is you want to share. Here are two common templates to help you get started. Choose the one that best suits your needs and comfort level:

Template 1: Traditional

This template offers a formal and straightforward approach, focusing on key biographical details and a factual announcement of the passing.  It’s a good choice if you prefer a concise structure or are unsure about including personal anecdotes.

[Deceased’s Full Name] passed away peacefully on [date] at the age of [age], in [city of residence]. They were born on [date of birth] in [birthplace].

[Brief statement about career/life highlights].

[Deceased’s Name] is survived by [list of surviving family members].

[Details of the funeral or memorial service, if known].

Template 2:  Emphasis on Personal Story

This structure allows for more personalization.  By including a sentence about the person’s personality or passions, you create a more vivid picture for the reader. Work with this template if you’d like to share a glimpse into their life and what made them special.

[Deceased’s Full Name], of [City of residence], passed away on [date] at the age of [age].

[A sentence or two capturing their personality or passions].

[Brief life highlights – career, hobbies, community involvement].

[Deceased’s Name] is survived by [list of surviving family members].

[Details of the funeral or memorial service, if known].

Once you’ve chosen a basic structure, you can tailor it to reflect the person you’re honoring. Don’t worry if you want to make changes to the templates – these aren’t set in stone.

Step 3: Capture Their Special Qualities

This is where your heartfelt obituary truly takes shape. Think about what made the person special and the memories you treasure. Here’s how to translate this into your writing:

  • Personality Traits: Were they kind, funny, adventurous? Use descriptive words to paint a picture. For example: “Her infectious laugh and love of storytelling lit up every room.”
  • Hobbies & Passions: What did they enjoy doing? Gardening, volunteering, traveling? Include these details to show how they spent their time.
  • Unique Quirks: Did they have a signature catchphrase, a beloved collection, or a knack for solving crossword puzzles? These details add a touch of individuality.
  • Stories & Memories: A specific anecdote can be incredibly powerful. Perhaps recall their famous apple pie recipe, a funny family trip, or a cherished piece of advice.

Don’t feel pressured to list everything.  Choose a few details that resonate  and tell a story about who they were.

Step 4: Photos, Proofreading, and Obituary Publication Options

Choosing a photo that reflects the person you’re honoring is a lovely way to personalize the obituary. Don’t feel limited to recent photos. If an older photo better captures their spirit, go with that!

Before submitting the obituary, proofread carefully. It’s easy for errors to slip through, especially when emotions are involved.  Ask a friend or family member to read it over. They can check for typos and offer feedback on whether the tone feels right.

Finally,  let’s explore publication options.

Most local newspapers have an obituary section, and many funeral homes include obituary postings on their websites. There are also dedicated online memorial websites where you can create a more extensive tribute.

Understanding Obituary Costs

Writing an obituary can be emotionally draining, bringing up memories and a deep sense of loss.  Acknowledging your feelings during this time is important, and so is seeking support if needed. It can be hard to process those feelings alone.

Here are a few ways to find comfort:

Finding Support During a Difficult Time

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Writing an obituary can be emotionally draining. It brings up memories and a deep sense of loss.  It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and seek support if needed. Here are a few ways to find comfort:

Lean on Others

Talk to friends, family members, or a spiritual leader about what you’re going through. Sharing your grief can lighten the burden.

Grief Support Groups

Many communities offer grief support groups, either locally or online. Connecting with others who understand your loss can be incredibly helpful.

Professional Counseling

If your grief feels overwhelming, consider individual therapy sessions with a grief counselor.

Everyone grieves differently. While no one will know exactly how you feel, take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to go through it alone.  Sharing your grief and your feelings, whether with someone close to you or a professional, can help you navigate this difficult time.

Losing someone you care about is deeply painful, and the task of writing an obituary can stir up difficult emotions. But the obituary you write becomes a lasting tribute to their life — a way to preserve their memory.

It’s okay to take your time and allow yourself the space to grieve as you create this meaningful tribute.

Crafting an obituary can feel like a daunting task, but it’s a profound way to honor your senior family member’s life and legacy. By taking the time to gather information, choose a meaningful structure, and capture their unique spirit, you’ll create a lasting tribute that resonates with others.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to write an obituary. It’s a personal expression of love and remembrance. Allow yourself the space to grieve and honor their memory in a way that feels meaningful to you.

At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we understand the importance of honoring the lives of those we hold dear. Our compassionate team is here to offer support and resources during this difficult time. If you’re seeking a welcoming community for yourself or a family member, we invite you to contact us to learn more about our personalized care and enriching lifestyle options.

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