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How to Write a Meaningful Obituary

Obituaries. We’ve all seen them fill the pages of newspapers or in today’s world- posted online by the family or funeral home. An obituary is a usually brief synopsis of one’s life, highlighting achievements or important moments. Obituaries also serve the practical purpose of notifying the public of the death and announcing funeral details. Just like each person, each obituary can be unique to capture their life. Here, we will discuss ways in which you can make an obituary more meaningful to the life it celebrates.

Gather Your Facts

Every obituary, be it elaborate or simple, should contain some basic facts. The full name of the deceased, their dates of birth and death, where they lived and service details. This information is what opens the obituary, letting the reader know who the deceased is and that they’ve died. While this information can contain more detail, the main point is to make people aware of the death. As you’re brainstorming, it may also be good to jot down other details you’d like to include, such as schooling, career history, military service, or community involvement.

Reach Out to Family & Friends

There’s no way to know every little detail about one person, so enlist your family and friends. They may remember stories and anecdotes that slipped your mind or may be able to add to facts you already know. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions, such as “What is your favorite childhood memory about my loved one?” or “What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of them?”. These questions may even lead to additional stories and details to add. Not only will it help add to the obituary, it can also serve a healing purpose in talking about your loved one’s life.

Tell Their Life Story

Everyone’s life is unique, and so is their life story. While an obituary’s main purpose is to notify the public of a person’s death, it also is meant to tell us something about their life. A typical obituary starts from birth and progresses through that person’s life in chronological order, touching on accomplishments, involvements and things that person liked to do. But it doesn’t have to stop there. An obituary gives you an opportunity to talk about who that person was, the traits that made them, them. What kind of person was your loved one? Was there a family tradition they were known for in their life? What would they want to be remembered for? Along with the biographical information, these things will help to paint a life-story picture of your loved one to share with everyone.

There is No “Right Way”

Even with all the templates and suggestions available, there is no one “right way” to write an obituary. Everyone’s life is different, and the impact of their death is as well. Some will find humorous anecdotes to share about their loved one, while others will express the great sorrow the death brings. No matter how you share the story, you are doing so to honor that person’s life. The length and content of an obituary does not measure the memory of that person. Emma Goss, an eyewitness news reporter for Bakersfield Now and former producer at NBC News who has written obituaries for celebrities and beloved community members sums it up quite nicely.

“It’s okay for the obit to be short and to the point with just a few lines about the remarkable impressions the departed one has left on the world.”

-Emma Goss in “How to write the perfect obituary, according to professional writers”
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