Writing an obituary for a friend or family member isn’t as easy as some may think. While you likely know this person extremely well, summing up an entire life in a few paragraphs can seem daunting. There’s an underlying pressure to get it just right and do right by the deceased to ensure every reader fully understands who they were and how special they are.
This pressure is the first hurdle to overcome. It’s important to understand that not even Hemingway could adequately describe the full grandeur of a person’s life, so don’t put that burden on yourself. The purpose of an obituary is simply to inform the public of the passing, and to briefly tell their story.
The boilerplate information is often a good place to get started. Age, the cause of death, job, education, family, hometown, and places they’ve lived can serve as low hanging fruit to start writing. From there you can get more detailed by talking about any military service, hobbies, education, interests, anything they were particularly passionate about, community involvement, and church membership.
Now that the basics are out of the way, you can move on to describing personality traits and discussing who the person really was. To do this, it can be helpful to talk with other friends and family members to see how they described the deceased. Look for trends with words used in the multiple descriptions, and use these trends in the obituary. Once you’ve identified the right words to use, try to find a story that exemplifies these characteristics.
An obituary doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you can make it as intricate as you feel the deceased would have wanted. It can be helpful to try to write the obituary as they would have written it. If they would have cracked a few jokes, then crack a few jokes, but if they were more reserved and dry, keep it simple. Whichever way you go, just remember to tell the basics and then move onto the details.