Writing a Meaningful Obituary: Telling Your Loved One’s Story

Whether it be brief or long, obituaries acknowledge the passing of our loved ones and share a little about their life and the joy their presence brought to the world.

In the end, we’ll all become stories.

Margaret Atwood

Each life is special. From the day we’re born to the day we take our final breath, we encounter countless others, sharing interests, world events, family traditions, joys, tragedies, common community experiences, and unique, solitary moments. Every person’s life is a story and every story is fascinating. Roper & Sons Funeral Home in Lincoln, Nebraska has served tens of thousands of people since we opened our doors in 1901. We hear countless stories and we cherish them all.

Yet when it’s your loved one that passes on, it may feel daunting to try and capture their life story. Whether it be a brief obituary or a longer life sketch, the purpose is to acknowledge the passing of our loved one and share a little about their life and the joy their presence brought to the world. The information that follows will help you gather the information you need and write a meaningful obituary.

Writing for the Newspaper

The obituary that appears in the newspaper is typically shorter and features the deceased’s birth and death dates, the names of the survivors, and the service information. The length of the obituary or inclusion of a photo can vary the price dramatically. It’s a good idea to ask for a price quote and edit as necessary. The following information is typically included in the newspaper submission and is a good place to start.

Basic Biographical Information

  1. The full name of the deceased
  2. Their age
  3. Their date and place of birth
  4. Their date and place of death
  5. Where the deceased lived
  6. The cause of death (optional, but can be included if it’s meaningful in some way)
  7. List of relatives, living and deceased
  8. Funeral / Memorial / Visitation Information
  9. Details about charities or memorial funds to honor the deceased

Everybody has a story. And there’s something to be learned from every experience.

Oprah Winfrey

Writing for Websites and Service Programs

In addition to the newspaper, obituaries are often posted to the funeral home’s website and can be used in the printed service program as well. This version of the obituary will include the information discussed above but can add many more details about the person’s life. Because most funeral homes don’t charge to post a digital obituary, brevity is not the objective.

Making it Personal

There are so many things that made your loved one special to their friends and family. To make a more personal obituary or life-sketch, find ways to express the spirit or personality of the one who has passed. Focus not only on what the person did, but what they were like. Here are some things you might want to think about and include:

  1. Hobbies and Passions: Was there a favorite recipe this person was known to make? Did they have a favorite song or band? Were there things they liked to collect?
  2. Personal Characteristics: Did they have a common utterance that they said all the time? Were there any interesting personality quirks that made them unique? Were they known for their quick wit or infectious laughter?
  3. Community Involvement: Were there organizations they supported or from which they benefited? Did they receive any awards or honors through their work or in the community? 
  4. Professional Life: Did they stay involved in one career their whole life or make changes along the way? What projects were they involved in? What impact did they have? 

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

Rudyard Kipling

What Made Them Special

There is no one correct way to write your loved one’s obituary, but it is helpful to try and think like a historian. Imagine future generations reading this obituary about someone they know nothing about. This may mean writing things that you assume everyone already knows. Everyone is unique and your loved one possessed qualities that were unique to them. What things made them truly special? Is there an anecdote that would convey the individuality of your loved one? Readers living now will enjoy these details as much as those reading in the future.

Proofread and Proofread Again

When you’ve finished writing out your thoughts, go back and read it through several times. When you think it looks good, have someone else read it who knows your loved one. For good measure, find a dispassionate third party to read it through. There are a lot of details included and the process can be emotional. Allow others to help you! When your writing is finished and reviewed, you will have an obituary that is meaningful and ready for publication.

Our team of professionals at Roper & Sons Funeral Home are here to assist you in any way we can throughout the funeral process. Serving families at three locations in Lincoln, Nebraska. Call 402-476-1225.

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