An obituary is more than just an announcement in the newspaper.
It’s the story and celebration of a person’s life, it’s a record of family history and it’s a notification of where and how respects can be paid. Take a look through the newspaper’s obituary section; notice the individuals that steal your attention. The notices that capture your interest will be the ones that focus on the individual, telling their story from the first sentence to the final phrase.
Understandably, this can feel like an overwhelming task to even begin writing an obituary. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you get started and guide you along through the process.
Talk about the individual.
Tell the world who they were. Mentioning family relations is important for maintaining a record of the family tree, but it should not be the focus of an obituary. Think about their favourite things, what were their hobbies? Describe their passions in life, the moments that made their life light up, what did they love? Mention their quirks that made them endearing to their family and friends.
Imagine sitting and having a conversation with this person; what would they talk about? Can you remember the things that would bring a smile to their face? These are the things that made them who they were and should be celebrated.
Show; don’t tell.
Stating that someone was “charitable, kind and loves animals,” may describe an individual but it doesn’t reflect an individual’s life in the same way as describing that they spent twenty hours a week volunteering at the local humane society and frequently took in stray animals to foster. Actions always speak louder than words, so it’s important to remember that describing how a person lived their life instead of listing attributes will paint the picture you hope to portray.
This is an important time to remember to edit your work; double check the spelling of relative’s names, any places listed and important positions held. For the purposes of family records, it is important to ensure the date of birth and date of death is included and accurate, especially if the person lived to an extraordinary age. Also, ensure that you double check and confirm the date, time and location of a memorial service so that guests attending do not miss it.
Prepare in advance.
When possible, writing an obituary in advance can eliminate the stress of writing quickly under pressure. This can also give you an opportunity to work with your loved one on what they personally would like to say once they’re gone. Although this experience can be challenging and often emotional for both of you, it can also result in some very rewarding conversations and memories in their final days, as well as a beautiful obituary.
If you’re having some trouble finding the right words on your own, there is no reason you have to do this alone. Discuss what you are trying to say with family and friends, sometimes saying it out loud will help you get the right words out. You may find that others who knew the individual may bring things to your memory that you had forgotten.
If you’re still having difficulty, talk to a professional. We are always willing to help a family write an obituary, whether it’s just getting it started for you, phrasing the whole notice based on information provided or simply editing it once you’re complete. We are pleased to offer this assistance to families as a value added service, at no charge.
Please contact us with any questions you may have, we are always happy to talk to you and your family.