How to write an obituary and what to include

Writing an obituary lets you remember someone who has died and do their life justice by immortalising them online or in print.

Our caring team can support you with funeral arrangements for a loved one. To talk through our funeral options please give us a call.

What is an obituary?

Writing an obituary is a way to announce a person’s death and acknowledge their life's achievements in a newspaper or online. Conventionally, an obituary includes key details about a person including their basic information and lifetime accomplishments.

Publishing an obituary can be a helpful way to share the news of your loved one's passing and the details of the funeral, especially if you're finding it difficult to talk about the death with your friends and family in person.

Writing an obituary for your loved one can also be a way to memorialise them as a lasting reminder of their life.

Types of obituary

There are three main places where you might like to consider publishing an obituary when you plan a funeral service.

Newspapers

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Publishing an obituary in a newspaper is the traditional way to publicise a person's death and life.

If you would like a newspaper obituary your options include:

  • Local newspapers
  • National newspapers

There may be a charge associated with having an obituary in the paper.

Online obituary sites

Couple Looking At Laptop At Kitchen Table

A more modern approach is writing an obituary online via a dedicated obituary website.

  • Funeral Notices offer online obituaries and can also facilitate printed obituaries in newspapers.
  • Ever Loved lets you publish a free memorial page with an obituary.
  • Funeral Guide allows local funeral directors to set up an obituary on someone's behalf.

Free online resources

Lady Sitting In Garden With Laptop

There are also several other places where you can memorialise your loved one online for free.

  • Your funeral provider may offer the option to set up an obituary on their website.
  • Many charities allow you to set up memorial pages where you can also make funeral donations to charity.
  • Social media can also be used to share news of a loved one's death.

If your loved one was particularly influential in their career or pastime, the university, publication, organisation, club or company they worked for may also wish to publish an obituary.

Who writes the obituary?

The person who plans the funeral usually arranges the obituary as well. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed with the funeral arrangements including writing an obituary, there are alternatives.

  • Ask friends and family for support
    There may be someone who knew the deceased whose writing style you like in which case you can ask them to write the obituary on your behalf to support you.
  • Remember your loved one in your own way
    If you're finding writing an obituary difficult, you don't have to have one. Obituaries aren't a legal requirement so you can remember your loved one in a different way that feels more natural if you prefer.
  • Consider having a simplified funeral arrangement
    To remove stress from planning the funeral itself, a simple funeral that includes all the essentials but without the costly extras could be best suited to your arrangements.

Pen And Notepad On Kitchen Worktop

How to write an obituary

Not sure how to write an obituary or where to start? To help inspire the obituary you're writing, read other obituaries to familiarise yourself with them. This will give you an idea of conventions and help to spark inspiration.

These three tips are useful to remember when you start writing.

  1. If you find an obituary you like, you can copy the format of it and adapt it with personal details to make it unique to your loved one
  2. Be aware of word limits especially if your obituary is in printed format. You may need to keep what you'd like to say very concise.
  3. Focus on your loved one not just practical details like funeral dates. An obituary is a lasting reminder of a person's life.

Obituary example

Gillian "Gill" Smith (née Jones) passed away peacefully in her sleep on 13th October 2023 aged 93. Whilst studying art history at the University of Birmingham, Gill met the late Cecil Smith who was her committed husband of 39 years. Gill was a loving mother to Ben and Sally and a devoted grandmother to her five grandchildren. An avid sculptor, Gill achieved many local prizes, held several well-attended exhibitions and taught art at Lower Farm Primary School. A funeral will be held at Mercia Forest Crematorium, Broad Lane at 11 am on Thursday 26th October. In lieu of funeral flowers, the family has requested charitable donations be made in Gill's name to Age UK.

What to include in an obituary

Depending on space limitations, these are some of the details you might like to include when writing an obituary for your loved one.

Personal information about your loved one

  • First name and surname
  • Any nicknames
  • Maiden name if applicable
  • Dates of birth and death
  • Place of birth and death/your loved one's hometown
  • Cause of death or your loved one's age

You don't have to include any information you, other family members or your loved one would prefer to keep private.

Key details about your loved one’s life

  • Education and academic achievements
  • Career and professional accomplishments
  • Hobbies and clubs
  • Passions and interests your loved one was known for

Whether or not to include these details depends on what feels right for your loved one and what they were most proud of or passionate about.

How to include family members in an obituary

  • Partner or spouse (and how long they were together)
  • Children and grandchildren
  • Any especially close friends it would feel wrong to exclude

The personal relationships mentioned in an obituary are usually kept to immediate family. Thanks to carers or hospital staff are not usually included. You may like to send a card and thoughtful gift to these people instead.

Funeral service details

  • The date and time of the funeral
  • The address where the service is taking place
  • The details of the wake if you are holding one

If you are arranging a direct cremation, you can share the details of any celebration of life events instead.

Meaningful quote

  • A song lyric, poem, saying or book quote
  • A phrase your loved one referenced often
  • A family motto

Choosing words that remind you of your loved one or represent the way you would like them to be remembered can bring you comfort.

Photo of your loved one

Some obituaries have space for a photo which can be:

  • A recent picture or an older shot.
  • A serious photo or a photo which reflects your loved one’s personality

An obituary photo is usually a solo head and shoulders photo of the person who has died.

What should you not say in an obituary?

Whether you were already aware of their passing or not, reading the obituary of a lost loved one can be upsetting.

  • You can speak to friends and family about what they don’t want to include. If certain details cause upset, it's best to leave them out.
  • Consider your loved one themself. There may be information that you don't think they would have been happy sharing.
  • Dwelling on an illness or other cause of your loved one's death may be painful for you or others. This information can be excluded.
  • Usually, it is just immediate family who are mentioned. If you include more people, you run the risk of offending those not included.
  • Including your home address for funeral flowers or the wake may seem useful but if you are also sharing the time and date of the funeral you are advertising when your house will be empty.

Couple Looking At Papers In Kitchen

Overall, instead of focusing on death and sadness when writing an obituary, acknowledge and celebrate a person’s life and the positive impact they had instead.

Bonnie Street

Cemetery & Crematorium Officer, New Southgate Crematorium

"Having worked at New Southgate Crematorium for over 22 years, I have met many families as they say their last farewell to their loved ones. Every single funeral service is different but love and warmth are the emotions that consistently shine through as the family is united together in grief and remembrance.

“An obituary is by no means essential, but like the funeral service itself, it may bring comfort to those mourning. Having an obituary offers the opportunity to remember and celebrate a loved one and the lasting impact they have had on those around them.”

Difference between obituary, eulogy and death notice

An obituary, as described above, shares the news of someone’s death usually with some additional details about their life and what was important to them. Death notices and eulogies are sometimes mixed up with obituaries but have key differences.

Death notice

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Like an obituary, a death notice is published either in a newspaper or online when someone has died to notify friends, family or the general public of that person’s passing. Death notices are shorter and more factual though, whereas obituaries tend to go into greater detail and focus more on the person.

Eulogy

How to write a eulogy

A eulogy also has similarities to an obituary. Both go into greater detail about a loved one's life, achievements and milestones. However, the eulogy is read out by the celebrant or a family member at the funeral or celebration of life event whereas the obituary is published, usually beforehand.

You may find that writing an obituary for your loved one has you thinking about your own life and how you would like to be remembered.

Planning your own funeral in advance

Setting up a funeral plan lets you take control of planning and paying for your funeral in advance.

We offer affordable funeral plans for attended cremation funerals as well as unattended cremations for those who would prefer to avoid fuss or have their life celebrated in a less conventional way.

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Other useful resources

Whilst you are considering how to write an obituary, you can lean on your funeral provider to support you with the funeral itself.

At Distinct Cremations, we can arrange a no fuss cremation for your loved one and provide guidance about planning other aspects of the funeral service too.

Arrange a funeral

Arrange a Funeral

Let us support you with your funeral arrangements. We collect your loved one, help you with the paperwork, facilitate a respectful cremation and personally return the ashes.

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Write an order of service

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Whilst writing your loved one's obituary, you may like to think about what to include in their funeral service too. Find out more about popular order of service ideas to consider.

Funeral order of service guidance

Choose a funeral urn

Man Passing Funeral Urn With Ashes To Woman

If you have chosen a cremation for your loved one, you will need to decide what you would like to do with their ashes. Different types of funeral urn are suited to different choices.

Funeral urns

We offer the highest level of support, but don't take our word for it

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