Three Tips for Stress-Free Obituary Writing

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The days and weeks following a loved one’s death can be an especially chaotic time. In addition to dealing with the emotions that accompany loss, you also have to handle the practical aspect of planning a funeral. Sometimes these tasks can provide a welcome distraction and a place to focus. Other times, they can inspire additional feelings of stress and dread.

One task you may be dreading is writing the obituary. There can be a lot of pressure to get it right, and you might not have the confidence of a wordsmith while you’re dealing with heavy emotions. But the obituary doesn’t need to be a source of struggle. It can even be a tool for helping you process your feelings.

Here are a few things to consider that make writing an obituary easier, so you can focus on healing, not stressing.

Don’t overthink it

An obituary is a public document that announces a death and shares relevant details of a person’s life and surviving family. Many people also use it to announce funeral details to the community so that friends and neighbors know when to attend. It is not a legal document, and there is no single “right” way to write one, although there are some general guidelines and best practices.

Before you begin writing, you’ll need to know:

  • Basic information about your loved one, including their full name, date and location of birth, and where they passed away.
  • The full names of living family members and any close relations who preceded them in death.
  • Personal titles and accomplishments, including military service dates and information about their education and career.

Formatting the first section of the obituary, which lists out names and details, can be tricky especially in the case of large or blended families. The standard rule is to list relations in order of closeness, beginning with spouse and children, then moving on to grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, and other relatives. You can use a template or ask your funeral director for help with getting the formatting and etiquette right.

Otherwise, you’re free to make the obituary as long and detailed, or as short and sweet, as you want, depending on what fits your loved one’s personality. An obituary can be in-depth, heartfelt, and even funny. It can also be brief and to the point. Both can be beautiful and meaningful.

What matters most is that it captures the spirit of who your loved one was, honors their memory, and conveys the information you need it to.

Put your feelings into words

Writing about a loved one and the memories you have of them can help process your feelings after a loss. Before you try to write a formal obituary, try free-writing about whatever is on your mind. Nobody but you will ever have to see this first draft, so let yourself say what’s in your heart and don’t worry about getting the words just right.

What impact did they have on your life? What were they best known for? What memories do you cherish? What did they love to do?

Reminiscing on these details can help you express your feelings and clear your head. It can also help set the tone for personalizing the obituary and capturing your loved one’s essence on the page.

Get outside help 

When it comes to writing the actual obituary, there are plenty of tools available to help. You can start with a premade template or fill-in-the-blank obituary writing tool to get the basic facts down, and then add your own personal touches. You can read the obituaries on our website to get a feel for how they are usually written and formatted, and to see the beautiful variety in the ways lives are memorialized.

There is even artificial intelligence software that can guide you through writing the obituary by asking you some questions and writing the text for you. You’ll still want to review what it comes up with, correct any mistakes, and add your own specifics. But confronting a blank page is sometimes the hardest part, and having a framework to build on can relieve an immense amount of pressure.

Friends and family can also be a valuable resource during this time. There is no rule saying one particular person must write the obituary. It can be a group effort, or you can leave it in the hands of someone you trust who may have a bit more distance from the loss and a clearer head.

Your funeral director is also here to help. We can guide you through the process, or we can ask some questions and write the obituary for you if you’d prefer.

If your loved one has recently passed away, French Funerals & Cremations is here to assist with every step of the process, from planning the funeral to publishing the obituary. Call us at 505-843-6333 or visit any of our Albuquerque funeral home locations to meet our caring staff.

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