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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 they should say. Whether you become responsible for someone else’s or they become responsible for yours, here is everything you need to know about obituaries.

What is an Obituary?

An obituary is nothing complicated, but it is always helpful to have a definition. In its simplest terms, an obituary is merely a written notice of an individual’s death. It includes various details of a person’s life as well as their passing, and it serves as a public announcement (usually on a public platform) of someone’s passing, life achievements, and other pertinent biographical information.

What an Obituary Is NOT

Obituaries and death notices are not the same thing, although they are often confused 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 such as the date and time of death, the full name of the deceased, and dates and times for the memorial service and funeral service. On the other hand, 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 an individual’s preferences or on the opinion of their close friends and family. 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 the occurrences within a human life are far more interesting and intricate than those of a book, an obituary acts as a synopsis of 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, and their job.

  • Life Achievements

What accomplishments was the deceased individual most proud of? This is, of course, different for every person. Examples include raising children, establishing a business, 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, brother (name), aunt (name), and uncle (name).” 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 your personal favorite moments in their obituary.

  • Miscellaneous Information

Finally, an obituary should contain any facts that people need to know regarding the individual. For instance, did the individual leave a donation to any charities or organizations? 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, proofed, 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 to 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, make 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.

  • 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 anywhere you are considering posting the obituary to ensure that the price is right. 

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