How To: Write an Obituary Notice

Taking memorials online are quickly growing in popularity. Therefore how do you write an Obituary in today’s digital age? They have been, and continue to be, a very important part of how families announce and communicate the news of the passing of a Loved One. 

Obituaries are also known as death notices and funeral notices.

They also give valuable funeral service information as the community come together and prepares to honour their Loved One.

How to Write an Obituary
Traditionally Obituaries were in the local paper.

Here is an example of how to write an obituary:

SMITH, Peter Andrew (Pete), 07 April 1940 – 25 June 2004. (peacefully/suddenly) at…… aged ……passed away surrounded by family at home in Auckland.

Dearly loved husband and best friend of …….  Loved father and father in law of …….  Loved and cherished grandfather of ……

(other people you may wish to consider – son and son in law of, brother and brother in law of, uncle of…..)

Treasured uncle of…. Adored brother of….

Friends are invited to attend a funeral service for Pete at New Zealand Funeral Home on Tuesday 29th June 2004 at 11 am.

Followed by (private cremation/followed by burial at the …… Cemetery).

Returning from the cemetery, all are welcome to join the family at home for a gathering to celebrate Pete’s life.

EXAMPLE OBITUARY – Joyce Mary Labrum (Copeland)

07 April 1940 – 25 June 2004 (aged 64 years)

Passed away peacefully surrounded by family at home in Kerikeri. A courageous battle to the end.

For more details:

While the contents of an Obituary will vary depending on the age and personality of a Loved One, the base of a notice remains the same. Writing an Obituary is a task that requires dignity, tact and grace. It also serves as a celebration of the life led as well as their family, achievement, and passions

  1. Public Announcement

    Full name
    Date of birth
    Date of Passing
    Nick name
    Maiden name
    Former names

    LABRUM (nee Copeland, formerly Parker), Joyce Mary (Joycey)
    07 April 1940 – 25 June 2004

    Supporting words:
    It is with great sadness that we advice…
    Passed away peacefully….
    Went to heaven on…

  2. Acknowledgement of the Loved One’s family

    Names of spouse, children, grandchildren

    Example words to support the family names:
    Cherished, loved, much loved, dearly loved, devoted, adored, beloved, most precious…..

  3. Biography for your Loved One

    Mini biography featuring…
    Major life events
    Achievements of note
    Contributions and causes
    Profession or trade
    The lives they have touched

    Along with being devoted to her family, Joyce was an avid gardener, keen golfer and proud member of the Kerikeri Golf Club. Travelling from North Wales to live in New Zealand illustrated her pioneering spirit.

  4. Service Information

    Date, time and address of funeral service
    Location of the funeral service
    Name of the funeral home

    Tuesday 29th June 2004 at 2pm
    Fantail Room
    New Zealand Funeral Home
    1 Queen Street,

  5. Special Requests

    If service is private
    if application, date and time of visitation
    Particular cause they were partial to

    All are welcome to join the family at their home to celebrate Joyce’s Life
    In lieu of flowers, a donation link to….

  6. Words of comfort

    Anything that represents how you feel
    A quote
    A poem

    “She will be greatly missed and forever in our hearts”
    “Gone too soon, always in our hearts”
    “Rest in peace”
    “(name) will be remembered forever”

From the media – RNZ Secrets of Obituary writing:

Quoted directly from The Detail, on 30 April 2021

Last month, when Prince Philip died, newsrooms around the world will have opened their own obituaries folders.

A story, likely started decades ago and gradually updated over the years, will have been printed out. Specific details will have been added – the date of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death and his funeral arrangements, for example.

Broadcast reporters will have voiced the stories up, print reporters will have given it one last glance over. 

And, within minutes of Buckingham Palace’s announcement, stories painstakingly crafted over a period of years, in some cases involving five, maybe even 10 journalists, finally saw print. 

Gavin Ellis has an abiding memory of an obituary he wrote – for the Queen Mother. It was written so long ago that it was set in hot metal, that the Herald stopped using in the 1980s.

The Queen Mother lived till 101, dying in 2002. Her daughter the Queen is 95 and still going strong so her obits have likely sat around for decades.

Ellis says the rationale for who gets an obituary varies.

“One of the problems we face now in doing that is the loss of institutional knowledge in our newsrooms. As the number of journalists has been cut alarmingly, as older journalists retire and are replaced by young and much cheaper journalists, we’ve lost institutional knowledge so there’s nobody who can look through the death notices and say ‘ah! I remember in 1967 that person did this”, and some of those obituaries recalling almost forgotten events can be the most interesting.

“People who were noteworthy then disappeared back into obscurity but none the less make gripping obituaries when the time comes.”

Some of the most colourful stories involve people whose contributions have been carried out over a long period of time but who haven’t been lauded for it.

“Giving those people the recognition that they fully deserve is a hugely satisfying thing in writing an obituary … that you feel as though you’ve helped to do justice to that person. Giving them the recognition that in life, they might have been denied.”

Some parting thoughts:

Include whatever you need to properly reflect the type of life your Loved One led and the impact they had on those around them.

A well-written Obituary from the heart, ensures that memories of our Loved One will live forever.

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