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Everything You Need to Know About Obituaries

The average individual knows little about obituaries. After all, “What do you want on your obituary?” isn’t exactly a hot topic at the family dinner table. That said, it is important to know what they are, how they work, and what is appropriate. Many people feel leaving an obituary is a tribute to their life.  It was once said, “You are not part of history until you are written in the books”.  

What is an Obituary?

In its simplest terms,  serves as a public announcement of the recent death of a person.  It is a reflection of ones life, their achievements, and other pertinent biographical information about that person’s life.  Sometimes an obituary includes information about the upcoming funeral. It reflects on many of the significant events and attributes of the deceased.  This is a time when the family expresses the impact their loved one had on their family and the people around them. 

What an Obituary Is NOT

Obituaries and death notices are not the same thing, although they are often confusing at times.  The terms are used interchangeably, but actually, they are different. A death notice is typically released immediately after an individual passes away. It provides brief details of the deceased, date, time, and location for the memorial service and funeral service.

An obituary is typically released a day or two later and provides more details as to the deceased individual’s death and life. Both obituaries and death notices, however, serve as public announcements and can be placed on numerous platforms.

What Should You Include in an Obituary?

So, what exactly should be included in an obituary? This largely depends on the immediate family’s preferences.  However, if you aren’t sure where to start, many obituaries contain the following information about the deceased individual.

  • Personal Biography

If you have ever picked up a brand new book that intrigued you with its cover, you have probably turned it over and read the synopsis on the back. This synopsis provides its readers with a relevant, well-expressed summary of the book’s contents. While our loved ones’ life are far more personal than those of a book, an obituary acts as a synopsis and tribute to an individual’s life. This means that it should fully capture the personality, characteristics, and overall essence of the person in a neat, expressive paragraph. Be sure to include pertinent biographical information about the person. This includes the person’s name, where they are from, their family, their job, and interests.

  • Life Achievements

What accomplishments was the deceased individual most proud of? This is, of course, uniquely different for every person. Examples include raising children, establishing a business, hobbies, volunteering for various organizations, traveling the world, donating to charities, educational achievements, and long-term careers.

  • Surviving Family

It is also traditional to mention the surviving family members of a deceased person. For example, “X is survived by his father (name), mother (name), sister (name), etc.  Some obituaries mention those who preceded the individual in death. For example, “X was preceded in death by her husband (name) and mother (name).” These are not rules, but merely suggestions. Again, the point of the obituary is merely to inform the public.

  • Interests

Additionally, many people consider their hobbies or interests to be lifelong accomplishments, such as cooking, art, music, sports, etc. Ultimately, you should include their passions and accomplishments in their obituary.

  • Miscellaneous Information

Finally, an obituary should contain some personal attributes that others can reflect on about the individual. For instance, did the individual have a sense of humor or a gift of gab?  It is always touching to tell a story or incident reflecting their personality. 

Is there a scholarship set up in their name? Additionally, if a death notice was not put out, details concerning the memorial service or funeral service can also be included in the obituary.

Which is Better: An Obituary or a Death Notice?

Again, death notices and obituaries are similar, but not exactly the same. That said, neither one is “better” than the other, and truly, there is no rule that says you or your loved one has to have either. However, it is entirely up to the family whether or not to publish a death notice or obituary or where to publish them.

What Should You Include in a Death Notice?

So, what exactly should you include in a death notice, and where should you post that? You can post a death notice on a public website, in a news article, on social media, etc. Generally speaking, you should provide the following information.

  • Full Name
  • Age
  • Funeral Details 
  • Memorial Service Details

Additional Tips for Creating an Obituary

Finally, it is important that the actual construction of the obituary is clean, proofread, and ready to go. Both the content and the presentation should honor the deceased individual, and you can ensure both are up to par by taking the following steps.

  • Get a second pair of eyes.

No matter what you write in life, it probably needs another pair of eyes. Even if the obituary is only a paragraph long, it can be incredibly easy to miss mistakes in something you write yourself. Ask a friend or family member to proof the obituary and look for errors or even make content suggestions. Sometimes, it is even a good idea to request a third pair of eyes.

  • Describe achievements that the deceased individual was most proud of.

Again, take special care to ensure that the obituary captures what the individual lived for. If you are making plans for your own obituary, be sure you let your loved ones know what you would like to have included. Or, if it’s really important to you, write it yourself.  I have read obituaries that were written by the deceased that are actually funny, reflecting their true sense of humor.  One was actually titled, “I did it my way”.  

  • Check the cost of a platform before committing to it.

Some platforms are free, but most are not. Additionally, some platforms charge based on the number of words. Check with different forums to ensure that the price is right.   The U.S. Will Registry offers death notices and obituaries at no fee.  

  • Make sure not to leave out any family members.

You only get one chance to post a death notice and obituary, therefore it is critical to not leave anyone out.   Leaving out a family member is hurtful and creates even more tension at a time when people are already grieving.

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