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How to Write a Meaningful Obituary May 20, 2021

Person holding a candle in their hands in a dark room

If you are asked to write an obituary, it is understandable you may approach the task with a certain amount of apprehension. An obituary, after all, is not only a summary of a person’s life but to some degree, places a punctuation mark upon it. When understanding the responsibilities of writing an obituary, it can help to know you are not alone. Your funeral director can serve as a guide, and you are certainly able to have as many people offer their insights as you care to. You will also want to recruit a proofreader.

There are two primary keys to writing a meaningful obituary. The first is accuracy. If the obituary contains spelling or factual errors, it can sidetrack the reader from an otherwise brilliantly written piece. The second key in writing an obituary that is meaningful is creating one that conveys the essence of the life of the deceased. It should communicate the interests of the subject and what they found meaningful in life.

Here are some helpful thoughts in writing a meaningful obituary.

Begin by organizing your thoughts about the key details that should be included. This should include:

  • Personal Information. The name of the deceased (including any common nickname), age at death, date of death, birthplace, and birth-date. Including the cause of death is optional.
  • Information About Final Services. This would include date and time of final services including visitation hours and church services (if applicable).
  • Biographical Information. Who were the deceased parents, who they married, children and other close relatives. Obituaries can note those who preceded the personal in death. Frequently grandchildren and great-grandchildren are listed as a number, rather than by name.
  • Likes and Life’s Benchmarks. If the person attended college, was in the military or served on boards or volunteered for a specific non-profit this should be at least noted. If they were a person of faith, that too, could be noted.
  • Minor Details. A minor, unknown detail or two in an obituary can add real meaning to it. Favorite sports teams, travels even favorite TV shows or hobbies can provide insights the reader may not otherwise know.

Obituaries often begin in the present tense and move to past tense as they progress. If you have been asked to author an obituary, odds are you have some personal insight into the deceased you may wish to share. They don’t always have to be funny or entertaining, but they should be thoughtful, meaningful and provide insight to the life and personality of the departed.

The tone of any obituary is usually framed by the age and circumstances surrounding the death. The obituary of one who passed away unexpectedly or in a shocking manner should be handled more seriously than one that although sad, was somewhat expected.

A good place to start is with a conversation with the family about the deceased and their thoughts on how to proceed. Being asked to write an obituary is not a burden, it is an honor. Accept it as such and do your best.

At Fares J. Radel Funeral Homes, we have proudly served families of Cincinnati and the Northern Kentucky area for generations. We are also honored to serve families who are either new to the area or who have not yet decided on a funeral home for final services. We invite you to contact us with any questions you may have.

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