How to write a personalized obituary?

Losing a loved one is emotionally challenging. And if you’re tasked to write a meaningful obituary, it may be like sprinkling more salt to your wounds and adding to the weight of grief you already carry. However, it’s important to remember that an obituary is essential to letting go and moving on. 

It is not just a formal announcement of a person’s passing but a tribute to the life of the deceased and a way to celebrate their accomplishments. An obituary also offers a sense of finality, providing a means to offer closure to family and friends. Let’s explore the art of writing a heartfelt obituary that captures the essence of the departed and provides comfort to those who mourn.


The Purpose of an Obituary

Before delving into the writing process, it’s essential to understand the purpose of an obituary. It’s not just a death announcement. Obituaries serve the following key functions:

  1. Informing the Community

An obituary’s primary function is to announce an individual’s passing to the community. It provides vital information such as the deceased’s name, birthday, date of passing, and details about the funeral or cremation services.

  1. Honoring the Deceased

Obituaries are an opportunity to celebrate the life of the departed. They allow you to highlight their achievements, character, and the impact they had on others. It’s a chance to remember and honor their legacy.

  1. Providing Closure

Obituaries offer a sense of closure to family and friends by allowing them to express their grief and share their love and memories. Reading about the person’s life can help those who mourn feel a deeper connection to the deceased.


Crafting a Meaningful Obituary

Now that we understand the purpose of an obituary let’s dive into the steps to create a heartfelt one that people will remember.

  1. Gather Essential Information

Start by collecting all the necessary details, including the deceased’s name, birthday, date of death, and location of both events. Double-check details and ensure that they’re accurate. 

  1. Choose a Tone

Consider the tone of the obituary. While it is a formal document, it should also reflect the personality and spirit of the departed. Decide if you want the obituary to be somber, celebratory, or a mix of both. It can even be humorous.

  1. Begin with a Compelling Lead

Your obituary should begin with an engaging lead sentence that entices people to read the entire essay. This first sentence or opening line sets the tone for the entire piece. For example: “John Smith, a dedicated teacher and loving father, passed away peacefully at the age of 72.”

  1. Highlight Key Achievements

Share the significant accomplishments and milestones. This may include their career achievements, educational pursuits, and community involvement. Be concise and focus on the most impactful contributions because readers don’t have time for lengthy, verbose pieces.

  1. Share Personal Stories and Anecdotes

Make the obituary more personal and relatable by including anecdotes. Share personal stories that illustrate the individual’s character and quirks. These unique stories humanize the person and help readers connect more deeply.

  1. Mention Family and Relationships

Acknowledge the deceased’s immediate family members, including spouse, children, and grandchildren. You can also mention close friends and their importance in the person’s life.

  1. Express Gratitude

Consider expressing gratitude to the medical professionals or caregivers that played a significant role in the person’s life, especially during their final days.

  1. Provide Funeral Details

Include information about the funeral or memorial service. Mention the date, time, location, and any special requests or donation preferences in place of flowers.


Dos and Don’ts

Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind while crafting an obituary:


  • Don’t Overshare: While personal anecdotes are valuable, avoid sharing excessively intimate or private details.
  • Don’t Be Negative: Focus on celebrating the person’s life rather than dwelling on their struggles or challenges.
  • Don’t Rush: Take your time to write a thoughtful obituary. It’s a meaningful tribute that deserves careful consideration.


  • Do Be Sensitive: Write with empathy and understanding, considering the feelings of the grieving family.
  • Do Proofread: Ensure the obituary has no spelling or grammatical errors. It should be a well-crafted piece.
  • Do Include a Photo: A recent photo of the deceased can help readers connect more personally.


An Accompanying Photograph

Including a picture in an obituary is a common and meaningful practice that helps personalize the obituary and allows readers to connect more deeply with the person being remembered. The photo you choose should portray the individual in a way that reflects their personality and the essence of their life. When selecting a photo, consider the following tips:

  • Choose a Clear Image: Select a high-quality, clear image where the person’s face is easily recognizable. Avoid using overly edited or heavily filtered photos.
  • Recent Photo: Use a recent photo that accurately represents the individual at the time of their passing.
  • Consider the Theme: The photo should align with the tone and theme of the obituary. A smiling photo may be appropriate for a celebratory obituary, while a more solemn obituary might call for a more serious image.
  • Incorporate Personal Preferences: If the deceased had a specific preference for a photo, honor their wishes.
  • Digital or Printed Obituaries: If you publish an online obituary, you can typically include a digital image. You may need to provide a physical photograph to be scanned or digitized in printed publications.


Final Thoughts

Writing an obituary is a way to ensure that the memory of a loved one lives on in the hearts of those who knew them. It’s an opportunity to share their legacy and provide solace to those left behind. By following these guidelines and infusing your personal touch, you can create a meaningful obituary that honors a life well-lived and offers comfort to those in mourning.