Obituaries are often written in haste and under duress, in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death. As a result, they may fail to capture the beautiful essence of the unique individual being eulogized. You can do better for your dearly departed, even if you’re not a writer, by following a few simple steps.
1. Do Your Homework First
Writing the obituary is actually the middle step in the process. Before putting pen to paper – whether literally or metaphorically – make a list of all the important events, dates, places and people in the subject’s life. Make sure to check facts and spellings. Then, write down a few things that made the subject special. A good obituary will include that.
2. Start at the Beginning
Most obituaries begin with the death announcement, including the name, age and place of residence of the deceased. Some obituaries include the cause of death, which is particularly valuable when the subject has lost their life suddenly at a young age. Ultimately, the decision to list the cause of death is up to the family and their comfort with supplying that information.
3. Tell Their Story
Many obituaries are a recitation of names and dates, but the best ones make us feel as if we knew the subject. “People who really take the time to describe the deceased and explain what made them unique write the most revealing obituaries, says Sandy Stuhr, Sr., CEO of Stuhr Funeral Home. “Don’t worry about being eloquent as long as what you write is heartfelt.” Remember that telling a story about the deceased is more powerful than listing attributes.
Although obituaries can be somber announcements, they can also include a spot of humor, if that is in keeping with the life of the deceased. A funny story about the subject is relevant if it encapsulates how they lived.
4. Don’t Forget the Key Events and People
Storytelling shouldn’t replace the critical facts of the individual’s life. Note lifetime milestones like birthdate and place, education, work, military service and marriage. Most obituaries name the deceased’s parents when noting their birthdate and location.
5. Include Important Family Members
If the obituary is going into a newspaper, it may have a template for listing family members. Start with the spouse – whether they are surviving or not – and then list children and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Others, like nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, best friends and pets, are not traditional parts of obituaries. However, a longtime girlfriend or boyfriend may be appropriate instead of a spouse.
6. Funeral Particulars
It is essential to provide clear and complete information about where and when the various services will be held. The funeral home can help with this element of the obituary.
7. Closing Message
At this point, the reader knows who has died, the essential facts of their life and the date, time and place of their service. That can conclude the obituary, or you can close with a final message, either about the deceased or about contributions in place of flowers. If you’re asking for donations to a charity, make it clear where to send them. If the message is about your lost loved one, a single closing line can be powerful.
If you need help, here are some obituary templates.
Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those whose lives have ended. Stuhr Funeral Home is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions. For more information about funeral services available, visit JHenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.