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Writing an Obituary

What Is An Obituary?

More than merely a 'good-bye' to the deceased, this is a farewell which can, in chronological order, detail the life of the deceased. An obituary also serves as notification that an individual has died and details of the services that have taken place. An obituary's length may be somewhat dictated by the space available in the newspaper it is to appear in. Therefore it's best to check how much room you have before you begin your composition. Remember that it is common that the obituary usually appears in print within a month at the latest following the funeral service. There are some cases where this may not be possible, therefore give some consideration to the guidelines below when composing the obituary.

In a concise manner, write about the significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include the schools he or she attended and any degrees attained; you may also include any vocations or interests that the deceased was involved with.

Additional information any pallbearer's names or a list of favorite hymns that were played may be mentioned.

What Is A Funeral Notice?

The funeral notice deals with the information at hand, naturally, it is vital that the full name, along with the location and date of death is included so that there is no confusion over whom has died.  There are usually extra charges applied if you are thinking of using a photograph. If you wish, mention where the deceased resided. This will normally only include the town or city. The street number is not normally included for reasons of security. You should only deal with the names of the immediate family, as follows.

Survivors

It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Parents
  • Spouse and children
  • Adopted children
  • Half & step children
  • Siblings
  • Half & step siblings
  • Grandparents

The surviving relatives listed above may be listed by name. Other relatives will not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the funeral notice may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren; 7 nieces etc. However, exceptions to the above rule can be made if, for example, the deceased only had one grandchild or a nephew who was the only person living in the newspaper's distribution area. These exceptions are obviously made based on each individual case.

Also, anyone listed as a special friend or companion is not normally included amongst the list of survivors unless the deceased's blood relatives request that it be so. The funeral notice's traditional purpose is to list survivors either related through the bloodline or marriage.

At this point list the details of the time and location of any visitation and funeral services for the deceased. As well, the place of Interment/Cremation should be mentioned along with any request you may have regarding memorial donations.  

Some Do's & Don'ts

If you don't know where to start, do read other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching an obituary may be.

Do use such terms as "visitation will be from" or "friends may call from" or "the family will receive friends". Do not utilize the phrase "lie in state" as that only applies to a head of state such as the prime minister or president.

Don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers..we suggest, using the term "As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations may be made to...................................

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