Writing an Obituary: when it is hard to find the right words
While unfortunate, death is an inescapable reality that confronts all humans. The trauma of death instills tremendous anguish and unimaginable pain into the living. Many approach death with anxiety and fear. However, this needs not be the case. Instead of living in dread, individuals should regard death as an indispensable component of the human experience. Learning how to write an obituary is among the few steps that you can take to better prepare yourself for the deaths of loved ones and gain a clearer understanding of your own mortality.
What is an Obituary?
In order to understand how to write an obituary, it is necessary to begin with a look at the essence and meaning of obituaries. Essentially, an obituary refers to a report of a person’s death. In addition to announcing the death, the obituary also offers a brief account of the deceased’s life. Furthermore, in a typical obituary, one includes details of the location and date of the funeral. Identified below are among the essential components of an obituary.
- Fundamental facts: The basic facts concerning the deceased are among the details that are usually included in an obituary. For example, the obituary should mention the name of the deceased as well as the date of their death. In some cases, it may be appropriate to provide information on the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased.
- Summary of account of the life of the deceased: Details of the life of the deceased are also often included in obituaries. For example, you may want to mention where the deceased attended school or the organizations for which they work. Professional positions held may also be highlighted as part of the obituary.
- Names and details of relatives: It is common practice to inform readers about the relatives of the deceased. This is done by offering details of the relatives’ names and the nature of their relationship to the deceased. The names should be listed on the basis of some order. For example, the deceased’s children are usually mentioned before more distant relatives.
- Details of memorial and funeral: Among the purposes that obituaries serve is as an invitation to attend the memorial of funeral of the deceased. Therefore, when writing an obituary, be sure to include such details as the date and location of the memorial and/or funeral.
- Information for donations: In some instances, the family of the deceased may need support with such issues as burying the deceased. An expertly-written obituary enables the family to solicit support. For example, the family could in the obituary the number of the account to which donations should be directed.
Tips for Writing Meaningful Obituary
Not all obituaries are equal. There are some which are rather forgettable and others which have a significant impact on readers. If you truly wish to write an effective obituary, consider adopting the tips, techniques, and strategies in the following list:
- Adopt a personal style and approach.
- After writing the obituary, you should read it and make any revisions that you deem necessary.
- Seek feedback regarding the appeal and impact of the obituary.
- Consider the type of audience for which the obituary is intended.
- Carefully consider the type of information you include in the obituary.
- Seek to provide a balanced, sufficiently detailed, and complete account of the life of the deceased.
The tips listed above are discussed in greater detail in the following sections:
Personal Style and Approach
If you are to resonate with the readers that you target, you should adopt a personal style. Ensure that all the details you provide are relevant and enrich the obituary. Moreover, be careful in your word selection. Only work with words that honor the deceased and help you to create a meaningful and impactful obituary.
Proofread and Revise
In some cases, obituaries are written well before an individual has died. Such situations offer one ample time to obtain as much information as needed to create an effective obituary. Suppose that you are pressed for time. In such instances, be sure to proofread and revise the obituary you have written. For example, after reading it, you may notice that you failed to include some vital information. Incorporate this information as part of your revision.
Consult and Seek Feedback
You should consult before you complete the final version of the obituary. For example, you could speak with the family of the deceased or an individual who knew the deceased intimately. The purpose of the consultation should be to obtain information and gain a deeper understanding of the person that the deceased was. Additionally, after you have written the obituary, seek feedback, particularly from people with whom the deceased had a close relationship.
Keep it Audience-Appropriate
As you write the obituary, you should have the audience for which you are writing in mind. For example, the information you include in an obituary designed for the family should be vastly different from the details that you share with the general public. The target audience will also inform the tone that you adopt for the obituary.
Consider Type of Information
Be extremely careful in determining the type of information to include in the obituary. For example, you should refrain from sharing deeply personal details. Understand that in the world of today, such information can be used for such purposes as identity theft. Even as you use your own judgment to establish what information to include, you should also seek feedback.
In closing, obituaries are a sensitive type of writing. However, they serve an essential role. Therefore, as you engage in obituary writing, you should adopt the strategies proposed above. In particular, you should strive to deliver an obituary that fully celebrates the life of the departed while serving practical purposes.