How To Write An Obituary

How To Write An Obituary

An obituary is a personal record of a person’s life. It will typically communicate the most important details of a person’s life including their birth, life, death and how they are being honoured after they have passed. The family usually publishes an obituary as an opportunity to share the news of a death in the community and with extended family.


While an obituary is an important way to inform others of the family’s loss, there is no legal requirement to publish an obituary. In some cases though, an obituary can serve as a legal death notice when required by the estate. Your Funeral Director can help you to better understand any legal obligations that may need to be considered when writing an obituary.


Obituaries have customarily been published in newspapers, but because they are costly and digital resources such as online obituaries and social media are now common, many families opt to use those instead. Here are some of the various locations you may want to publish the obituary:


  • Local newspapers
  • Social media platforms
  • Online obituary websites
  • Community or organization newsletters


When writing an obituary for your loved one, you have the opportunity to serve future generations — not only of your immediate family but of society as a whole. You are, in effect, recording the history of this individual and their impact on the world around them. It’s a humbling, yet inspiring, thought!


There are 6 things that are standard to include in an obituary.


  1. Announcement of death
  2. Important details and life events
  3. Family members to list
  4. Funeral/memorial/visitation times
  5. Flower or memorial donation information
  6. Photos



To announce that the death has occurred, you will want to share the following details:


  • The deceased’s name (including any nicknames)
  • Age
  • Location of residence
  • Location of death
  • Date of death
  • Cause of death (optional)


When looking at important details and life events to include, the following is a suggested list to consider:


  • Hometown and other locations lived
  • Schools and degrees earned
  • Employer names and positions held
  • Military service and rank
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Place of worship belonged to
  • Memberships or organizations they were a part of


Family Members to List


Family members can be listed as those who are survivors and also those who have preceded the deceased in death. You can list key family members in the following order: spouse, children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents and siblings. Grandparents, cousins, in-laws and nephews or nieces may also be listed. You may wish to include pets as well if they were particularly important to the deceased.


It is also customary to include the funeral information in an obituary and if there will be a memorial or visitation as well. This is also a good opportunity to mention how flowers or memorial donations can be made.


Lastly, you may also want to incorporate anecdotes and memories to shed some light on your loved one’s character and personal interests. This is a chance to show who your loved one was, how they lived, what they did, who and what they loved. The richer in detail, the more memorable the obituary becomes.


Here are a few ideas to consider:


  • How would you describe your loved one’s personality? What did people say most often about him/her?
  • What are some of your favorite memories of your loved one?
  • What were your loved one’s proudest accomplishments?
  • What were your loved one’s hobbies/favorite things?
  • What was the thing you loved most about your loved one?
  • Any foibles/quirks or other personality traits that made your loved one extra special?


And don’t forget to set the tone of the obituary based on what is an appropriate way to represent the person you are writing about. It may be serious, light-hearted, family-oriented, funny, candid or whatever type of tone best suits the person you are writing about. You want to capture their essence in how you write the information rather than what is written.


The manner in which someone passed may also affect the tone of the obituary. An unexpected, tragic passing will be written about differently than someone who had time to comes to terms with their death and you can channel the lighter side of the situation.


Writing an obituary helps to encapsulate the life of the person you loved. It is a way to tell their story to their current community – and for many years to come. Be sure to include important details and let the rest come from your heart in a way that truly represents them. The information above is intended to guide you, but honouring your loved one is a personal choice, so be sure to follow whatever feels right for your situation.


Your Funeral Director will be happy to help you put together an obituary for your loved one. It may even be included as a service in the funeral package you have selected. Call us at (403) 274-0576 to find out more.

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