A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing an Obituary for Someone You Love

The concept behind an obituary isn’t much different from that of the funeral itself. It acknowledges the devastating loss of a loved one while expressing the joy their presence brought and the pain caused by their absence. The most immediate purpose of the obituary is to communicate the news of the passing and inform the larger community about visitation, burial, and the memorial service.

It should also include a meaningful note that acknowledges the significant contributions of the deceased and the attributes that made them special. Often, in haste or in the fog of grief and the stress of preparing for the funeral, people fail to provide a tribute as meaningful as they would have liked.

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Here is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the essential elements of an obituary and how to prepare a sincere and detailed one:

Death Announcement:

An obituary should begin with the name, the place of residence, and the age of the deceased. It can be followed by the time and place of death. The word ‘died’ can seem too blunt sometimes, so you can replace it with words such as ‘passed on/away’ or ‘rest in peace’ and/or phrases such as ‘passed surrounded by their loved ones’ or ‘is now in the hands of the Lord’.  

Short Biographical Sketch:

Newspapers have word limits when it comes to obituaries, so you need to keep that in mind as you write it. Usually, they include important events, unique qualities of the person, major milestones in their life, and their contributions to society.

Certain events such as divorce or any legal issues should never be added to an obituary. The events and details are normally in chronological order and should be written in a touching way rather than as a formal description of facts.


It is also important to list whether the deceased is survived by any family. Obituaries are for living people and mentioning this helps them know who to contact for condolences. This can be children/set-children, siblings, parents, and/or the spouse.

Service Details:

This part includes the time and place of the funeral, the place of burial, and any memorials that have been planned for the deceased. You can also include any special instructions for visitation in this section. Just make sure everyone who wishes to pay their respects and say their final good byes are all on the same page as to where and when.

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Special Message and Photos:

Any special messages such as ‘special thanks to the staff at the X hospital’ or ‘in lieu of flowers’ can be added at the end of the obituary. You can also add a personal message such as ‘Gone but Never Forgotten’ or share a small quote or poem. This is optional and adds a personal touch to the obituary.

Similarly, adding photos can increase the cost of the obituary but can be a pleasant way of reminding the community of the person who is missed. It is better to use a current photo so that people are able to recognize the person.

Accepting condolence gifts:

Friends, neighbors, and co-workers may wish to help you by offering flowers, meals, and/or starting a care calendar for you. Although these acts of service are much appreciated, it can be difficult to accept and coordinate the help because you are busy with so many other things you need to take care of. Rest assured, KikuPal is a great way to accept and “bank” the help from our friends without having to decide what it is we need right now. When friends ask how they can help, ask them to send you KikuPoints. You can then exchange the points for services such as house cleaning, lawn care, meals, rides, and more. KikuPal also provides referrals to fantastic grief counseling centers as well as individualized information and support specific to the type of loss. We are here for you now and throughout the grief journey!