Why Write an Obituary: Understanding Its Significance and Mastering the Process
Why write an obituary? When an individual passes away, one common way of acknowledging and honouring their life is through an obituary. For instance, after losing my father, I crafted his obituary and realized how much of a tribute they can be. Obituaries are not just simple announcements of someone’s death. They are tender homages, detailed biographies, and emotional eulogies that capture the essence of the person’s life—highlighting their influences, accomplishments, values, and the legacy they’ve left behind. The act of creating an obituary allows a person’s existence to be acknowledged and honoured in a beautifully articulated manner.
The Significance of Writing an Obituary
The significance of writing an obituary transcends various emotional, practical, and historical aspects serving key purposes. I have seen this first hand, having helped hundreds of grieving families write obituaries:
- Official Acknowledgment: The act of writing an obituary offers a formal and public acknowledgment of the loss of an individual. Irrespective of the cause of death, this admission allows the grieving process to commence for the closest relations, friends, acquaintances, and even distant admirers.
- Service Details: Obituaries usually carry the details of the funeral or memorial services, thereby communicating the necessary information to all who would like to pay their final respects.
- Celebration of Life: Beyond the grief, an obituary allows for the celebration of the deceased’s life, painting a picture of their journey, outlining their achievements big or small, revealing their personality and values. This celebration can bring comfort during a time of mourning.
- Collective Mourning: Obituaries can become spaces for collective mourning, as they present a chance for many grieving individuals to come together and share their grief, thereby aiding in the healing process.
- Historical Record: Obituaries play a significant role in creating a record of local, national, and family histories. Not only do they document the lives of the individuals, but they can also shed light on their social and cultural contexts.
Components of an Obituary
Each obituary is unique, reflective of the individual whose life it commemorates. However, there are certain common elements that most obituaries contain to provide structure, coherence, and completeness:
- Announcement of Death: A brief statement of the individual’s death, mentioning their name, date of death, place of death, and optionally the cause of death, if the family wishes to disclose it.
- Biographical Sketch: A short biography of the deceased, such as their date of birth, place of birth, information about their childhood and adult life, and significant milestones and achievements.
- Surviving Family Members: A list of immediate and sometimes extended family members who survive them, typically listed in a particular order such as spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, etc.
- Funeral or Memorial Service Information: Details about the date, time, and location of the funeral or memorial service. In some cases, visitation or wake information is also included.
- Special Messages or Instructions: Any messages that the family would like to share or special requests, such as asking for donations to a favorite charity instead of flowers, for instance.
Format of an Obituary
While there’s no strict format that an obituary must adhere to and the writing style can vary based on cultural, regional, or personal preference, an obituary generally unfolds in the following sequence:
- Announcement of Death: This is usually the opening of the obituary, providing basic information like name, age, residence or birthplace, and the date of passing.
- Biographical Information: This part chronicles the persons life and should be written in chronological order; touching on birth, education, marriage, career, and significant milestones. It might also evoke aspects of the individuals character and contributions.
- Family Survivors: A segment dedicated to the surviving relatives follows. This list usually commences with the closest relations like spouse, children, and grandchildren, and thereon extends to siblings and other relatives, if desired.
- Service Details: It is important to clearly provide the date, time, and location of the funeral or memorial services as people reading the obituary may wish to attend and pay their respects. If it’s private, that should also be stated.
- Closing Note: Obituaries often end with a short personal note, possibly thanking the medical staff or caregivers, calling attention to special requests for donations, or a sweet final message to the departed.
With over a decade of experience guiding people through this process, here’s my Step-By-Step Guide to Writing an Obituary
The process of writing an obituary involves deep reflection and a touch of creativity. While there’s no ‘correct’ way to compose it, the following step-by-step guide that I’ve developed can help you create an obituary that beautifully encapsulates the life of the departed: This article does not have any affiliate links or sponsored content. As a company, we offer digital memorial products to help people remember and honor their loved ones. For the rest of the entry, I see no need for alterations!
- Begin with the announcement: Start with the full name of the deceased, their age, and the city of residence at the time of death. You might also want to include a positive characteristic of the deceased with the announcement. For instance, “Sarah M. Williams, a loving mother, and cherished friend, passed away at the age of 75 in Toronto, Ontario.”
- Life sketch: Give an intimate account of their life milestones, achievements, interests, and anecdotes, if possible. Here, you can talk about their education, career, passions, hobbies, or public service, and how they impacted the lives of others.
- List immediate family: Mention the surviving family members along with deceased relatives significant to the individual. This is where you acknowledge the close-knit circle of the departed’s life.
- Provide service times: It’s essential to list all the relevant funeral services with complete details. If there is a request from the family for privacy, this too should be mentioned.
- Add any special messages or instructions: At the end, any additional messages, requests, or instructions can be penned. These may range from gratitude towards a caregiving team or hospital, a request for charitable donations in lieu of flowers, or a touching tribute to the deceased’s life.
Striking the Right Tone in Your Obituary
The tone of the obituary is an essential element that needs careful consideration. It requires a balanced approach – a blend of respect, solemnity, affection, and celebration. While it’s important to note the obituary handles the gravity of death, it also functions as a historical document that celebrates life. Balancing these can be tough, but achievable. Try to write in a way that reflects how the person lived, their personality, and how they will be remembered. If humor and high spirits defined their lives, try to ensure the obituary reflects that while maintaining a tone of respect.
Obituary Writing Tips & Suggestions
Perfecting the heartfelt craft of obituary writing often takes time, here are some additional tips and suggestions to aid the process:
- Keep it honest and simple: The best obituaries are the ones that reflect the person genuinely, and succinctly encapsulate their life without being overly complex. There’s no need for ornate language, stick to the simple truths of the individual’s life.
- Fact-check all the details: Wrong information can upset readers. Ensure all the information, especially regarding service details and survivor information, is accurate.
- Make it personal: The obituary should paint a picture of the person’s life and character. Try to include special personal attributes, unique hobbies, or characteristic phrases to lend a touch of the person’s character to the piece.
- Be emotionally sensitive: Understand that readers may be handling a complexity of emotions. Strive to comfort the reader, keeping a positive, respectful, and honoring tone throughout.
Conclusion: The Personal and Cultural Significance of Obituaries
We conclude our guide on a note emphasizing the innate cultural and emotional weight carried by obituaries. An obituary is not merely an announcement or record; it acts as a bridge, connecting personal loss to relate to those around us, holding a mirror to our collective mortalities. It’s a celebration of life that transcends death, as each obituary builds up a mosaic narrative of our society and times. Every obituary is vital each one, written out of love, gives us a chance to remember, to appreciate, to mourn, and, in time, to heal. Writing an obituary is a final act of love that puts into perspective the life that was lived, and keeps their spirit alive in our memories.
9. FAQs on Writing an Obituary
Q: How long should an obituary be? A: The length of an obituary can vary greatly, depending on the individuals life experiences, the writer’s closeness to the deceased, and the publication guidelines, if relevant. It should be long enough to provide the necessary details, honor the deceased’s life, and express the loss felt by the bereaved, while being concise and respectful.
Q: Who can write an obituary? A: An obituary can be written by anyone close to the deceased and is typically written by a loved one such as a spouse, child, or close friend. However, it is also common for funeral directors or professional obituary writers to be tasked with this responsibility.Q: How long should an obituary be?Q: Who can write an obituary?
In conclusion, writing an obituary is a profound and poignant process. It is an exercise in recollection and respect, in love and loss. Your obituary is not just your final farewell to a cherished one; it is a testament to their life, a message to the living, and a poignant reminder of our mortality. A beautifully composed obituary is a tribute that lingers on, a whisper in the annals of time, a footnote in social history, and a comfort to the ones left behind. So test the limits of your creativity, dive deep into your heartfelt reminiscences, take your time, and pen an obituary that truly commemorates the individual to keep their spirit ignited in the hearts of those whose lives they’ve touched.