Obituary: A Complete Guide

Death is an inevitable truth. An obituary is a great way to pay a tribute to the deceased by informing the wider local community about death and how he/she celebrated life. An obituary is generally a written announcement about the details of the upcoming funeral service and a description about the life and personality of the departed soul. 

There is a subtle difference between an obituary and a death notice. An obituary can be either paid or free and contains detailed biographical information of the departed person while a death notice is always paid and does not cover much of the personal information. National or Local publishing newspapers are the primary places where obituary and death notices are typically published nonetheless, in recent times online memorial pages and social media are also in demand.  

Letting the extended community know, be it a friend or old colleague whose contact details are difficult to manage, is the primary reason why you would plan an obituary for your beloved one. Although no strict structures are followed, an obituary might contain the following information: 

  • It should have the introduction of the departed, but it should omit extra information (like the middle or maiden name, exact death of birth, address and so on) in the obituary to avoid ‘identity theft’
  • The cause of death
  • An overview of their life and achievements
  • A brief mention of their surviving family members 
  • A special message, a short prayer or funeral poem
  • An appropriate obituary photo
  • The place, time and details of the funeral plan or arrangements

Failing to publish an obituary on time can result in disappointment. Also deciding which newspaper to publish the obituary on, can be a challenge. You should therefore publish an obituary as early as possible so that family and friends can arrange the time and travel arrangements accordingly; specifically if they are travelling from a distance. Throughout his or her lifetime, if the deceased lived in multiple locations, publishing the obituary to respective local newspapers would be an idea worth considering.

As every newspaper has its pricing structure, no uniformed cost can be found when dealing with an obituary or death notice. It is necessary that you decide whether to publish the obituary for one day or to run up till the funeral day. Local newspapers are far inexpensive than the national or large urban ones with large circulations. You are likely to be charged on a ‘per line’ basis and adding more information and photographs will cost you more. If cost is a concern for you, it is better to publish a death notice than a detailed obituary. 

Once you are ready to write, it’s a good idea to go through some of the examples. Here is an example of an obituary:

Jane Elizabeth Malcolm, 64, of Essex, UK, departed on Monday, June 25th, 2020. “Jane”, daughter of Mark and Rose Malcolm (predeceased), loving wife of Andrew Philip, departed at her home in Essex, UK, surrounded by family after a long battle with cancer. Jane was born in Essex, on December 6th, 1962 and graduated from Colchester County High School for Girls and later received her Bachelor of Sociology from the University of Essex. She married Andrew Philip on August 14th, 1986 and is survived by Andrew and their two children Oliver and Freya. She has also survived by two grandchildren Lili and Joseph. Jane worked as a teacher in her alma mater until her retirement in 2010, using her passion and love to inspire numerous students. She also loved climbing, cycling and spending time with her family. Adventurous by nature and possessor of a beautiful smile and warm heart, Jane will be critically missed by family and friends. 

Finally, once you have prepared the draft, make sure one or two people proofread it for you. Proofreading one’s work is tough as your eyes are looking at the same words for too long. Therefore, a fresh pair of eyes before finally publishing the draft always increases value and precision. During the proofreading, be extra careful about the spellings of family members’ names to avoid confusion. Double-check your work with the checklist provided above to avoid unintended and vital information gaps.   

An obituary allows you to collect memories, photos and videos from friends and colleagues and extends to crowdfund for charity or funeral costs. Writing an obituary or preparing a funeral plan can be demanding particularly when you are likely to be heartbroken, you can read more tips here

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