Writing an obituary is never easy, and you might be wondering how you can even get started on this important project. You know you want to get it exactly right, providing a beautiful summation of a life well-lived. Trying to find the words could be a challenge as you are still working through emotions from your loss.
While there are certain elements that should be contained within an obituary, you will certainly want to add specialized touches that ensure anyone reading the obituary will get a sense of your loved one and the impact that he or she had on the world. Whether you are preparing your own obituary for the future or writing for others, here are five examples of obituaries from which you can draw inspiration to capture the personality and spirit of the deceased.
Why You Should Write an Obituary
Obituaries were commonly written to be published in newspapers as a way to let the community know about the passing of your loved one. What started as a brief death notice in the early 1800s has since morphed into a celebration of life in the printed word that is often shared on your funeral home’s website and on social media.
Common Elements in Most Obituaries
Creating a common outline for your obituary allows readers to quickly find the information they need to know, such as service times and where any memorial will be held and where interment will occur. While larger cities may post only a short obituary, more rural communities may allow for greater lengths for this type of notice either online or printed in local newspapers. Some of the elements that are common to most obituaries include:
- Photos. Many family members and friends choose to include a photo in their obituary. Determining whether to use a recent photo or one that is from your loved one’s youth is completely up to you and to their wishes. If you use an older photo, you might want to also include a more recent image so friends will be able to recognize the individual in the photograph.
- Death Announcement. There is a fair amount of leeway in how and when you announce the passing of a loved one. You have the option to share how their death occurred or simply to list their name, age and place of residence at the time of death. Other common identifying elements include the location of their passing and the time.
- Short Biography. Your loved one accomplished a great deal in their lifetime, which can make it extremely difficult to distill that information into a short biographical sketch. Some of the elements that are commonly included are their parents’ names, the date and location of their birth, any key education or work accomplishments and military service.
- Family Overview. Paying homage to those left behind when a loved one passes is a vital element of any obituary. In this section, discuss close family members such as their spouse, siblings, children or grandchildren — although nieces and nephews are often numbered as opposed to being listed individually.
- Date and Time of Service. Contacting all friends and family members after a loss can be overwhelming, which is why having a published obituary is such a blessing for families during this difficult time. You are publicly letting the community know the details of your loved one’s final memorial or celebration of life, so be specific. You can also include the officiant as well as the dates and times for visitation.
There are no right or wrong answers when you are writing an obituary, so stay true to the personal needs of your family.
5 Obituary Examples
When you are writing an obituary, it’s important to keep in mind that you are telling the story of your loved one. You are letting the world know what an amazing human being they were. Don’t feel that an obituary has to be a staid, solemn piece of work. Instead, tease out the amazing details of your loved one’s life — sharing the humor, pain, and love that they brought to the world. Some of the most powerful obituaries include special quotes, family stories or special accomplishments, truly painting a beautiful picture of their lives.
Here are a few recent obituary excerpts that may get your creative juices flowing.
- Delores O’Brien Wise (1931-2019): “She was an excellent cook who embraced her Polish heritage and could make killer cabbage rolls and pierogi. She could even change a light bulb all by herself!… Her pool parties were legendary. It didn’t matter who you were, you could count on three things: Good food, good drink and getting thrown into the pool…. She traveled all over the globe. From smuggling in Poland, hallucinogenic elephant rides in Thailand to table dancing in Spain, there was never a dull moment traveling with her.” (Read Delores’s full obituary on Legacy.com).
- Mary Stocks (1921-2015): ““She was a master cook in the kitchen. She believed in overcooking everything until it chewed like rubber so you would never get sick because all the germs would be nuked,” Stocks wrote in the obituary. “Freezing germs also worked, so by Friday our school sandwiches were hard and chewy, but totally germ-free.” (Read Mary’s full obituary on Legacy.com).
- Aldona Zalnieriunas (1933-2019): “Aldona was clear-eyed about death, torn between leaving her children and their offspring (she was happiest with a well-stocked fridge and family crowded around her dining table) and joining the love of her life, Victor. They met at a wedding in the 1950s, danced all night and never parted until Victor died from cancer, stretching out his life as promised until the eve of their 55th wedding anniversary. They were a romantic, through-thick-and-thin couple, dancing to scratchy records, scrimping to pay the mortgage, cuddling on the sofa.” (Read Aldona’s full obituary on Legacy.com).
- Peter Redfield Hoover (1939-2019): “He busted out of Harvard in 1958, preferring to study Appalachian string band music rather than chemistry. To support himself, he worked as a time-study man at a meatpacking plant in South Boston and recalled riding home after work on the T, with huge baloneys tucked under his arm, benefit of his job. Because he knew how they were made, he would never again eat a hotdog.” (Read Peter’s full obituary on Legacy.com).
- Ashley Alexandra Katherine Allen (1992-2019): “Ashley’s doctor called after her passing and told us, ‘All people die, but not all people live.’ Ashley lived! She packed so much life into her twenty-seven years. She traveled, rode horses, chased her dreams, worked in a profession she loved, fell in love, mended a broken heart and still put one foot in front of the other battling what she knew from the start was an incurable cancer. She did so with grace, dignity, integrity, and courage.” (Read Ashley’s full obituary on Legacy.com).
As you can see, there are no strict requirements for an obituary for brother, sister, mother or friends — simply speak from the heart and share your love, and your loved one’s joy of life!
Writing an obituary for yourself or for a loved one is one of the most personal and intimate things that you can share, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Even if you are not familiar with the practice of writing obituaries, these tips and the support you will receive from the compassionate professionals at Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery will help you create a meaningful statement of life that can be shared with family and friends alike. Whether you are planning your funeral and looking for tips for a self-written obituary or sharing details about your mother, brother or other loved ones, you can find the assistance that you need at Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery. Contact us at 480-832-2850 or via email to [email protected] to speak to our friendly and caring funeral planning experts.