Copyright 2007-2017 Sally Jennings at Speak-Read-Write.com

Tips for Writing an Obituary, Eulogy, Memoriam, or Condolences

by Sally Jennings

A difficult task when a family loses a member can be writing the obituary. Some families tackle the task when they know a loved one has a terminal illness, sometimes asking their loved one for advice. Some families wait until after the passing, but they can be overcome by expressions of sympathy at that time. Sometimes the passing is unexpected, and there is no time for planning. In any, case, it is an important and necessary task. Hopefully the information below will make this task easier.

Usually obituary information includes:

Basic information to include is the name of the deceased, date they died, town of residence, and funeral location, time and date (or private service, or no service by request).

Obituary style has changed somewhat since the advent of the Internet and identity theft, so sometimes the birth date is no longer mentioned, although the age might be. Sometimes the age is skipped, and a phrase like "after a long and fulfilling life" added instead. There are still people who don't want their ages known, even after they are gone from this world. The date of death can be shown in the heading, or in the text.


Two example obituaries are shown below. This is the information for Julia Doe, a fictitious person (not based on anyone in the real world) on which I based my example obituaries:

Example of a short obituary for Julia Doe based on the information above:

DOE -- Julia Roper (Nee)

September 17, 2006

It is with great sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of our mother at age 80, in Boise. Julia was predeceased by John Roper, her first husband in 1962, Brian Doe, her second husband in 1995, and her oldest son, David Roper in 1997. Left to cherish her memory are her children Bob Roper (Marie), Bill Roper (Debbie), Sandra Doe House (Steve), and her daughter-in-law, Lisa Roper. Also left to remember her are her brothers Eric, and James, and her sister Judy, all of Denver. Her grandchildren, Jeff, Leanne, Nathan, Erin and Jill will greatly miss Nanna. Service will be held on September 20, 2006, 10am, at Bowden's Funeral Home, 12345 Sixth Street, Boise. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Red Cross.

Example of a long obituary for Julia Doe based on the information above:

DOE -- Julia Roper (Nee)

September 17, 2006

It is with great sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of our mother at age 80. Julia was the youngest of four children, and leaves her siblings Eric, James, and Judy, all of Denver to mourn her. Julia was born and raised in Denver, becoming an R.N., specializing in midwifery, at which she excelled. Through her work she met the first love of her life, John Roper (d. 1962), an obstetrician, following his career to Spokane, where they raised three sons, Dave (d. 1997) (Lisa), Bob (Marie), and Bill (Debbie). During these years, the Roper family travelled to many exotic places in the world, enjoying Asian sunrises, Spanish siestas, and sunsets in Russia. Soon after John died, Julia met and married the second love of her life, Brian Doe (d. 1995), moved to Boise, and along came daughter Sandra (Steve House). Julia's five grandchildren Jeff, Leanne, Nathan, Erin and Jill will greatly miss Nanna. She was so proud of all their achievements. Throughout her life she continued to love and cherish children of all ages. For twenty years she was an active member of the Sweet Adelines singing group, and gained a group of close friends with whom she pursued her hobbies of sewing, knitting, and needlework, leaving many family heirlooms for us to treasure. She was an excellent cook, a family legend. For the final three years of her life, Julia received loving care at Whispering Pines Lodge. She often mentioned the special attention she received from Sylvia and Stephanie. Flowers gratefully declined in lieu of donations to Julia's favorite charity, the Red Cross. Please come celebrate Julia's life with us at her memorial, September 20, 2006, 10am, at Bowden's Funeral Home, 12345 Sixth Street, Boise.



Alternately, a text version might mention Julia's two husbands and son who predeceased her as "Julia is now reunited with her first husband, John Roper, and second husband, Brian Doe, and her son Dave Roper." Or, "Julia has joined her first husband..." (and so on). Sometimes this sounds awkward when the deceased has had more than one spouse.

Somewhat like the example above, Julia might have been the kind of person who was well known, had a dedicated group of friends, had outstanding accomplishments, or who had special caretakers before she passed away. It is always nice to mention accomplishments, whether they were higher degrees, or dedication to immediate family or the larger community. It is one way to honor Julia to mention some of the things she found important in life, and to thank the people who cared for her.

Adjectives and descriptive verbs are an important part of describing achievement, expressing thanks, or showing the essence of your loved one's character. They turn a list into something special.

Here are some more phrases to help you make an obituary more personal (with Julia's name as an example, replace the capitalized words):

Julia was the best Cook in the world. Her creations were well known in our family.
Julia always enjoyed Activity.
Julia was always interested in Activity, and supported A Cause throughout her life.
Julia was a Veteran of War, and served her country with pride.
Julia was proud of her Country of Origin heritage.
Julia received Award for her involvement as a volunteer at Organization, where she worked for over Number years.
Julia will also be deeply missed by her co-workers at Employment or Volunteer Organization.
Julia greatly enjoyed Activities, and was the best Noun ever.
Julia would often Verb with/for family and friends.
Julia was gracious and kind, frequently thinking of others and their needs first.
Julia was described as "Quote" by her friends/co-workers.
Julia will also be missed greatly be special friends Names, of Place.
Nickname to her grandchildren, she will be sorely missed in Activities with grandchildren.
Julia's family thanks Caregiver Names at Institution for the excellent care they provide during her last days.
A celebration of Julia's life will be held on Date, Time, at Place.
A short poem or quote can end the obituary.

Lastly, here is a list of adjectives you might find useful:

active, awesome, beautiful, beloved, boisterous, careful, caring, cherished, compassionate, dedicated, demanding, deserved, elegant, energetic, excellent, exquisite, famous, good, graceful, greatest, hard-working, honorary, loving, original, persistent, precious, quality, quiet, rewarding, selfless, special, special, talented, timely, tireless, true, understanding, unflagging, unique, unrivalled, untiring, unusual, vigorous, well known, well loved.

For original sympathy poems, verses, and sayings to use on cards and notes, or in memorial books and eulogies, and a menu for our free greeting cards:
Speak Read Write Sympathy Card Poems, Verses, and Sayings

Speak Read Write Educational Resources
Speak Read Write Home