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Monday June 27, 2022

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Write a Loved One's Obituary

Can you provide tips on how to write an obituary? My father, who has terminal cancer, has asked me to write his obituary that will be published in the funeral program and run in our local newspaper.

Writing your father's obituary would be a nice way for you to honor him and sum up his life, not to mention avoiding any possible mistakes that may occur when obituaries are hastily written at the time of death. Here is what you should know, along with some tips and tools to help you write it.

Contact the Newspaper


Before you begin writing the obituary, your first step is to check with the newspaper you want it to run in. Some newspapers have specific style guidelines or restrictions on length, some only accept obituaries directly from funeral homes, and some only publish obituaries written by newspaper staff members.

If your newspaper accepts family-written obituaries, find out if they have a template to guide you, or check with your father's chosen funeral provider. Most funeral homes provide forms for basic information and will write the full obituary for you as part of the services they provide.

You also need to be aware that most newspapers charge by the word, line or column inch to publish an obituary. Your cost will vary depending on your newspaper's rate and the length of your obituary – ranging between 200 and 600 words.

Note that many newspapers offer free public service death listings too, which only include the name of the person who died, along with the date and location of death and brief details about the funeral or memorial service.

Obituary Contents


Depending on how detailed you want to be, the most basic information in an obituary will include your father's full name (and nickname if relevant), age, date of birth, date of death, where he was living when he died, significant other (alive or dead), and details of the funeral service (public or private). If public, include the date, time, and location of the service.

Other relevant information you may also want to include: cause of death (optional); place of birth and his parents' names; his other survivors including his children, other relatives, friends and pets and where they live; family members who preceded his death; high school and colleges he attended and degrees earned; his work history and military service; his hobbies, accomplishments and any awards he received; his church or religious affiliations; any clubs, civic and fraternal organizations he was members of; and any charities he feels strongly about that he would like people to donate to either in addition to or in lieu of flowers or other gifts. You will also need to include a photo of your father.

Need Help?


If you need some help writing your father's obituary, there are free online resources you can turn to that provide tips and articles to help you gather the details of your father's life so you can write an obituary that will reflect his personality and story. These resources can be located by searching for them using your preferred search engine.

Online Memorials


Many families today also choose to post their loved one's obituaries online and create digital memorials. These sites provide a central location where family and friends can visit to share stories, memories and photos to celebrate your father's life.

Additionally, if your father uses social media platforms such as Facebook, you could also turn his profile into a memorial (you will need to show proof of death) where family and friends can visit and share anytime.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 21, 2022
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