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Posted on August 13, 2020 by jhcadm

How to Write a Meaningful Obituary

An obituary serves multiple purposes; it’s not only a celebration of your loved one’s memory that is shared with the wider public, but it also informs others in the community about their passing as well as the time and date for the funeral or memorial service(s) taking place.

Writing an obituary may seem intimidating initially. After all, how are you supposed to condense all of your best memories into only a few lines of text? The simple answer is: you’re not. Unlike a eulogy, which fully celebrates and reflects upon the memory and life of the deceased, often in the form of stories, obituaries are much shorter and condensed, communicating details of the deceased’s passing, surviving family members, and the funeral service (if applicable).

Don’t let the thought of this overwhelm you! If you’re tasked with creating the obituary for your loved one, there are a few simple steps you can follow to make sure the content is just right.

  1. Start with the basics. Include important information such as the deceased’s full name (married name and maiden name if applicable), date of birth, date of death, hometown, etc. – basic information that can help readers identify their relationship with the deceased.
  1. Summarize the life of the deceased (but don’t feel like you have to fit it all in). Obituaries are short by design. If you’re not sure what to include, keep the biographical portion of the obituary short and sweet, highlighting the most important events in the deceased’s life. Some people choose to keep these events in chronological order while others sort them by importance based on what played the largest role in the deceased’s life.   
  1. Include family – surviving and deceased. Just as the “basics” section is to help readers identify their relationship to the deceased, the “family” section does much the same thing. While the reader may not have had a personal relationship with the deceased, they may be connected in some way to one of the family members and want to show their respect and support.  
  1. Make sure to add funeral details. One of the key roles of an obituary is informing the reader about the funeral service. Regardless of the type of service you are having, you will want to include the location, date, and time in the obituary. If in-person visitation is welcome, this provides readers with the necessary service information. On the other hand, if the service is private or the family has opted for a service without visitation, people have the information they need to send condolences to the family should they so choose.
  1. Pick a good photo. How recent of a photo you want to include is entirely up to you. Depending on the circumstances, some people choose to include a recent photograph while others opt for a photograph that depicts the deceased at a younger age. Based on the available space for the obituary, you may want to include both in order to help readers (especially those who may not have been in recent contact with the deceased) identify who they’re reading about. On the other hand, you may not want to include a photograph at all, and that’s okay too.
  1. Add more detailed information as space allows. If you’re looking for meaningful ways to fill up the remaining space in the obituary, consider including things like quotes, special messages, or possibly even information about charities the deceased was involved with and/or passionate about. Some families choose to have donations set up to charities important to the deceased so guests can donate on their behalf.

More than anything, when it comes to writing an obituary, make sure you check your facts. The accuracy of the information you include may affect how people remember the deceased. If you’re stumped with what information to include (especially when it comes to the bio), reach out to family and friends for their most memorable stories of the deceased – they may inspire you. Finally, keep in mind that an obituary does not “have” to be any one thing – funny, sad, or otherwise – in the same way that it doesn’t have to be dull.  Do your best to represent the personality of the deceased as much as possible through your writing, but don’t go crazy with it. At the end of the day, the obituary is meant to inform, and that’s exactly what it should do.

If you find the thought of this overwhelming, you are not alone. That’s why, at James H. Cole Home for Funerals, we are more than willing to walk you through the steps of the obituary creation process. In fact, we work closely with four different printing companies to help our clients  write and publish the obituary of their loved ones, and these services come at discounts up to 20%. These industry professionals will help you craft the perfect words. For more information, helpful resources, or to ask questions about the obituary writing process, you can reach out to us at (313) 873-0771 or

Posted in Funeral Industry, General Topics