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How to Write an Obituary for a Family Member in 4 Steps (with Template and Example)

After losing a loved one, it’s completely natural to feel daunted by the task of writing an obituary.

If it helps, look at this as a unique opportunity to celebrate the life of your beloved family member. Their obituary can mention the things they enjoyed doing, their unique qualities, and how they chose to spend their precious time on earth.

Below, we’ll go over four steps on how to write an obituary for your loved one, and we’ll follow up with some common questions about writing obituaries that can be helpful to keep in mind.

 

Step #1: Make a list of important information that you will need to include.

Compile the details about your family member into a quick outline before you start writing. Some details are necessary to include, and others are optional.

Necessary details to mention in an obituary:

  • Your family member’s full name
  • Their age
  • Their date of birth and place of birth
  • Their date of death and place of death
  • Their surviving family members
  • Any late family members
  • The details for the wake, funeral, memorial, or celebration of life services

Optional details to mention in an obituary:

  • Their career details
  • Any religious affiliation
  • Their primary accomplishments
  • A few things they loved, such as hobbies or sports teams
  • Their cause of death
  • Any charities you would like people to donate to in their honor
  • A poem, prayer, lyric, or quote
  • A goodbye message to your loved one

Once you’ve compiled these details, reach out to your other family members to assure their accuracy.

With all these facts in one place, writing the obituary will be much easier.

 

Step #2: Choose a photo for the obituary.

Ask the newspaper or funeral home that you will be publishing the obituary on what their requirements are for the image to include. Usually, the image will be a close photo of your loved one’s face. Try to choose an image where you can see them clearly, and one that they would be happy with. Note that including a photo or a colored photo can cost more depending on the newspaper.

 

Step #3: Fill in the following template.

Please feel free to use the below template to create an obituary that will represent your loved one in a positive and affectionate light.

Consider that many newspapers charge per word. That means that you may consider keeping the obituary brief and just mentioning the most important details depending on your budget.

 

Meaningful Obituary Template for a Loved One

[Picture of your loved one’s face]
[Their full name]
[Date of birth – Date of death]
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of [full name] of [home location]. S/he/they passed away on [date of death] at [location of death]. S/he/they was/were [age].

  • You may also mention the cause of death, but always ensure that everyone in the family is comfortable with sharing.
S/he/they is/are survived by…

  • Here, mention the living members of the family and where they are from. It is customary to mention any living parents, siblings, children, children-in-law, and grandchildren. If they had a close group of friends, then you can certainly mention them as well.
  • It is common to place the names of the children-in-law in parenthesis after the name of the child if you choose to include them.
S/he/they was/were preceded in death by…

  • Then, you will share the full names of late family members, the deceased person’s relationship to them, and where they were from.
S/he/they worked for x years as a…

  • To give a little bit more of an image of who this person was, you can here mention their job and accomplishments. This section will help us get an idea of what sort of legacy your loved one managed to leave behind.
  • Another common thing to mention is where your loved one went to school and their graduating years.
S/he/they loved…

  • Talk about the things that were important to your loved one during their life outside of work as well.
S/he/they was/were known for…

  • You can also share a few things about their personality beyond their interests.
The funeral will be held…

  • Be careful to share the location and time for the funeral, service, or celebration of life. With this information, people in the community who knew your loved one can come to share their respects.
  • Many people tend to share both the information for the wake and, if you are having a religious funeral, then you will also share the time and place of the service.
To send flowers or a memorial gift with the family…

  • Some families choose to share an address so that others may send flowers or gifts to commemorate your loved one. This has become increasingly common as there may be family members who live far away or who cannot join for the funeral.

In lieu of sending flowers, please consider donating to…

  • Instead of receiving gifts, you may instead choose to request that people who knew your loved one donate to a certain charity or fund that was important to them. If your loved one died from a certain illness, for example, then you may request that people donate to research for that illness.
A final message or goodbye…

  • Many people choose to include a brief message for their deceased loved one. This could be a prayer, a lyric, or just a simple and heartfelt goodbye.
Consider linking to their online memorial…

  • If you chose to have a more brief memorial for the newspaper, consider that online memorial should not have a limit of text. This means that you can share the online memorial link in the obituary and refer people to where they can read more about your loved one’s life.

Step #4: Proofread

When you compiled the information above, you should have already ensured its accuracy. But once you’ve completed the first draft, send out your family member’s obituary to the rest of the family and friends and get their opinion.

This will be important to the other people who your family member loved, and you want to ensure that no details or misspellings go unnoticed.

Now that you’ve completed your family member’s obituary, you can send it to the newspaper or website that you hope to publish it on. Additionally (and Return Home’s suggestion) you might send the obituary to the funeral home so that they will take care of ensuring that it’s published in the proper mediums.

 

Obituary Example

Maximilian Luscious Chester
July 9th, 1938 – September 6th, 2022
Maximilian Luscious Chester of Pittsburgh, PA, passed away on Tuesday, September 6th, at Green Hills Hospital after a brave battle with lung cancer. He was 84.

Max was a caring and kind father to his three children, Isabella Chester Choi (Alex), Martin Chester (Ellie), and Junie Chester. He dearly loved his five grandchildren, Sean, Lexi, and Arthur Choi, Alanna Chester, and Hope Cooper. He will also be missed by his two best friends from childhood, Mick and Julian, who he still played cards with every Friday.

He was proceeded in death by his parents, Arthur and Mae Chester of Pittsburgh, his only brother Ernest Chester of Pittsburgh, and his beloved wife of 58 years, Esperanza Millousi Chester of New Jersey.

Max graduated from Schenley High School in 1956. He was a courageous firefighter with The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire for 40 years, retiring in 1998.

Max loved cycling and spending time outdoors. In his retirement, he spent much time birdwatching with the Burgh Birds, his birdwatching group with whom he often traveled.

Max was generous and attentive and always ready to lend an ear if you needed advice or someone to talk to. After his wife passed in 2018, he shared most of his time with his rescue pitbull, Louie. Nothing made him light up more than visits from his grandchildren, with whom he always shared a special bond.

Relatives and friends are invited to celebrate Max’s life on Friday, September 9th at 11 am at the Miller and Mendelson Funeral Home, 675 Forest Hill Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15213. A mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, September 10th at 9:30 am at the Our Virgin of Peace Church at 1000 19th St., Pittsburgh PA 15215.

Instead of sending flowers, the family requests that you consider donating to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.

Thank you for everything, dad. We will love you forever.

How to Write an Obituary for a Family Member: Key Takeaways

After losing a loved one, taking care of everything from the funeral plans to the obituary becomes overwhelming, and it’s completely normal for you to feel a bit stuck during your time of grief. To break down the task a little bit more, when wondering how to write an obituary, first, just compile the information you want included, then put it into a template, mentioning personal details about your family member, then you yourself or another trusted source should proofread the document.

 

We hope this article helps you better understant how to write an obituary, here at Return Home, we are committed to gently turning human remains into soil in a process known as Terramation. We believe in the importance of transparency, which is why we are the only facility that allows you to visit your loved one through the whole Terramation process. Please reach out to us if you would like to learn more about green burial and Terramation.

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