Sharing a life’s story

How do you sum up the life of loved ones in a few hundred words? It can be a difficult process to capture their achievements and life goals in one obituary. Family members who are already grieving may find it challenging to sit down at the computer and articulate the essence of a spouse, parent, sibling or dear friend.

To make the process easier, start with the basic information that’s included in all obituaries:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Residence
  • Date of death (optional to include cause of death)
  • Place of birth
  • College degrees
  • Spouse name
  • Surviving family members
  • Details on funeral or memorial service as well as visitation times

Much of that information can pulled together quickly and easily. Then you can move on to adding more personal details (career, awards, membership organizations, hobbies) that truly showcase the impact your loved one had on the people around him or her.

Mark Mandel, obituary manager at The Post and Courier, said often the most difficult part for families is personalizing the information for a summary of their loved one’s life.

His advice: “Take a breath, relax and open your mind to thinking about wonderful memories and accomplishments of a loved one.”

Mandel suggests writing down five to seven bullet points for the funeral home to create the obituary or to use as a guide in writing the obit yourself.

“During the funeral planning process, emotions run high and people are not able to think as clearly as they might normally,” he added. “This calming process also allows for the person helping create the obituary to remember family members to be included, civic and religious associations, clubs, hobbies and other important information they feel would be meaningful in their public ‘good-bye message’ to a loved one.”

Also include in the obituary any details on contributions people can make in honor of loved ones. If they were fond of a particular charity this an excellent way to recognize that interest and honor their memory.

Typically the funeral home can submit the obituary to the local newspaper on your behalf. You can submit the obituary to other publications, such as the hometown newspaper where your loved one grew up. Make sure any obit is submitted electronically. Sending in a hand-written or typed obit can lead to errors because someone has to re-type the document.

Also make sure at least one other family member has read the obituary to look for any errors or omissions.

Some people also may opt to write their own obituary and store it with other important documents, such as a will or insurance policies. This is an excellent option if you feel strongly about the information you want shared and it saves your grieving family members a step in the funeral preparation process. Just make sure you review the obit annually to make updates and edits as needed.

If you need a starting point, download an obituary template here .