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How to Write an Obituary

22nd May 2017   Advice

The purpose of an obituary is to acknowledge a passing of a loved one, to celebrate the joy that the person’s life brought us, to share the parts of a life to raise awareness, and to express the grief of our loss.

Preparing and understand how to write an obituary for a loved one is an exercise best approached with care and thought. After suffering a loss, you are likely to need a little guidance with this. An obituary commemorates the loss of the deceased in a special way expressed through words.

Traditionally, obituaries were published in two versions; a shortened newspaper format and a more detailed online version that is held on the funeral directors website, or other memorial sites. However, today, it is common to publish an obituary online through the website of the funeral directors the ceremony is held with.

When preparing an obituary it is wise to look over the conventional form used in your local paper, as you get given a chance to include longer, more personable words that can be shared online for others to view.

At ISCA Funeral Services, we are trained to provide you with all the relevant information that is recognised in your specific locale and will assist you in preparing and placing the obituary for your loved one in a timely and proper manner.


What to include in an obituary

Announcement of death

The identifying statement is often something along the lines of ‘[name] sadly passed away’, ‘after a long battle with cancer [name] s now at peace.’ Some feel that ‘died’ is abrupt; however, others think euphuistic phrases cloud the acceptance of death.

It all comes down to what you feel comfortable with. Below, is a list of items you may want to include as a starting point.

  • Full name of the deceased (including maiden names, nicknames or other names of which they may have been identified).
  • Cause of death
  • Names of close family and friends
  • Schools attended
  • Place of employment and position held
  • Memberships and organisations they were part of (places of worship)
  • Special interests and hobbies

obituary guide

A biographical summary

An obituary is not a biography, but a chance to highlight key points of your loved one and to convey the most relevant information. Do remember that it’s ok to make them personal and heartfelt.

You could consider listing some events chronologically. Additionally, you can make the obituary memorable by relaying times where the deceased made a real difference to the lives of others. Everyone has a unique story to tell and you can convey this by sharing what made them happiest and their special characteristics.

Mentions of family and loved ones

Obituaries are always going to be read by the living, and to include the names or numbers of those closest to the deceased is favoured in the piece. Commonly known as the ‘survivors’, this list will primarily include the most relevant parties and those closest to the deceased. Spouses will usually be included first, followed by children and other optional survivors including siblings, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and pets.

Service times

You should consult local newspapers for a specific order of service times or leave this to the funeral director. If services are public, include the full-service information including:

  • Date
  • Location
  • Memorial or funeral service
  • Details of burial/cremation (private or public)

Special messages

At the end of an obituary, special messages are sometimes found. It is up to you whether you’d like to include a statement or not. It may be a statement like ‘ special thanks to the staff at the care home’ or ‘as an alternative to funeral flowers, we warmly accept donations to..’, or a personal message such as a prayer or line from a poem.


Photos add value to the obituary and are a visual reminder of the person lost and missed. If you’d like to use a dated photo, include a recent image as well so that the deceased is recognised by all.

obituary tips

Final tips

You should plan to publish the obituary 1-2 days before the service so that extended family and friends can make the arrangements in order to attend.

An example obituary:

It is with great sadness that the family of [name] announces his passing after a short-term illness, on Thursday, May 3rd, 2017, at the age of 55 years. [Name] will be dearly missed by his wife of 21 years, [name], and his children, [name], [name] and [name.] [Name] will also be lovingly remembered by his two grandchildren, sisters and cousins.

A private funeral service in memory of [name] will be held on Tuesday, May 13th, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., at the [funeral home], [address] with [funeral director name] officiating. Interment will follow at the [name or crematorium or cemetery].

Those who wish to send flowers should instead make donations to [charity] in memory of [name] to the (name and mailing address of foundation/society).

ISCA Funerals

We hope our guide on how to write an obituary has been somewhat useful. We are a modern, compassionate and trusted funeral directing service based in Devon and specialising in funeral arrangements throughout the South West. To learn more please get in touch.

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ISCA Funerals