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How to Write an Obituary: Four Steps to Capturing a Loved One’s Life Story

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Writing an obituary for a loved one may feel overwhelming. It may be difficult to keep track of the important details you wish to include as you deal with the intense grief of losing someone close to you.

Although an obituary should include basic facts about your loved one—their name, age, list of relatives and funeral arrangements, there are additional details you can incorporate to capture the essence of your loved one. These personal details will help to tell their meaningful and unique life story.

Here are four steps to help guide your writing. It is our hope that these suggestions make the process a little easier. We encourage you to find peace and comfort as you recall fond memories and honor your loved one’s legacy.

1. Incorporate basic details into your loved one’s obituary.

Obituaries serve as a way to inform the community of a death. They also outline funeral arrangements and identify donation opportunities. Most obituaries list basic details such as:

  • The full name of the deceased.
  • Where they lived.
  • Their date and place of birth.
  • The date and place of death.
  • Names of surviving family members.

Many obituaries start with a sentence or two regarding the death. Some opt to mention the cause of death and whether it was unexpected or a result of a terminal illness—but this is entirely up to the family.

2. Summarize your loved one’s life and the legacy they will leave behind.

While the basic facts are important to include, you can craft a more memorable and meaningful narrative by weaving them into a compelling story. For instance, you can tell a story from your loved one’s childhood to creatively share where they grew up.

Providing a summary of your loved one’s life is a way to honor them and their life. Including personal details such as where they went to school as a young adult can help classmates remember them if they’ve since lost touch.

While some prefer to be straightforward and move from one fact to another, others prefer to be more heartfelt or even humorous when writing an obituary.

In some cases, the deceased may have already written their obituary, therefore, surviving family members should stay faithful to their loved one’s wishes.

3. Highlight your loved one’s notable interests and accomplishments.

To capture the true essence of your loved one, you can choose to highlight their most notable hobbies, interests and accomplishments. Focus on the positive aspects of their life and reveal details that made your loved one special. Use your memories and the stories of others to enhance these details.

To help spark ideas for your writing, consider these tips:

  • Create a list of their most notable life accomplishments.
  • Find a quiet space for undisrupted personal reflection.
  • Sift through old photos of your loved one.
  • Speak with close family and friends about your loved one.
  • Go to a location your loved one most frequently visited. 

If you try all these steps and are still unsure how you’d like to structure your obituary, consider using this template to help guide your writing.

4. Work with a funeral director to craft your loved one’s life story.

Trusted funeral directors have useful resources on-hand and can offer support, advice and guidance as you begin writing an obituary. 

At Busch, our caring staff is dedicated to helping you through the entire planning and bereavement process. Contact one of our caring professionals to learn how we can help you craft an obituary that honors the legacy of your loved one for years to come.

Plan Ahead by Writing Your Own Obituary

Preplanning your funeral makes it easier on your loved ones when it comes time to write your obituary—after all, many of the details can be gathered ahead of time. Download our Senior’s Guide to Final Arrangements for more information on planning ahead.

Download our preplanning guide

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Amy Boyd-Kirksey
Amy Boyd-Kirksey
Interested in what makes each one of us unique and special. Amy says she is privileged to have the opportunity to help families and friends honor those qualities in their loved one. She has a passion for music and words, and enjoys using these tools to remember and celebrate a life.

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