How do you sum up a lifetime of memories and accomplishments in a few short paragraphs? If you spend any time on Twitter, then you’re likely comfortable writing messages in short snippets. But it can be a different--and more challenging--experience to capture the highlights of a loved one’s life in a short, written format.
If you’re facing the task of writing an obituary for a loved one, then it can be helpful to read funeral obituary examples to spark a few ideas. There’s no reason to start from scratch – we’ve collected a variety of great obituary ideas right here.
What is an Obituary?
An obituary is a written announcement sharing the news that someone passed away. This announcement not only shares the birth and death date, but it usually includes a minimum of one photo of the individual, along with highlights of their accomplishments and even their personality. If there will be services open to the public, then you can also share those details in the obituary.
Traditionally, people posted obituaries as public announcements in newspapers. Now, digital news platforms have digital pages for obituary announcements. Or, you might prefer to publish the obituary through a funeral home or memorial website.
How to Write an Obituary
Where should you start when you are writing an obituary for someone who meant so much to you? It can be daunting to put the right words onto a blank page.
Luckily, our digital age gives you access to quality resources at your fingertips. The simplest solution is to find an obituary format to follow, which outlines the most important information to include in this tribute. Also, take time to read through other obituaries to get a few more ideas.
For detailed guidelines, check out this helpful article we put together: how to write an obituary.
If you’re having trouble getting started, just follow the below obituary template, and start with the section that seems easiest. Then just write without judging yourself until you have a first draft. Then you can go back and organize and edit.
Obituary Template and Format
In the same way you would use a template for resume design or creating a family chore chart, an obituary template gives you a place to start. An obituary template gives you the framework to create a meaningful tribute by including all the necessary points related to the person’s life.
Writing an obituary can be like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You decide where the specific details fit in the write-up, with a flair of personality and love. Here is a template you can follow to cover the most important details that are standard in an obituary:
- Death Announcement: Often includes the place and date of death. Some families choose to add details about the circumstances of the person’s death.
- Life Events: What major life events should you highlight? Include graduation, marriage, or major accomplishments related to career and hobbies.
- Family Members: How to list survivors in an obituary? A common practice is to list them in order of importance based on relation. For example, spouse and children first, followed by parents, then siblings.
- Event Details: If you are inviting the public to the services, share information about the memorial or funeral times, and location.
- Donation Information: Fundraiser details, memorial funds, or flower donation information is common to include at the end of an obituary.
- Photos: Always include at least one photo of the person. It’s common to include a recent picture, as well as a family picture or throwback to the earlier years of a person’s life.
Great Obituary Examples
As you are reading through obituary writing examples, you’ll find one common theme: all obituaries notify others when a loved one has passed. But the best obituaries incorporate stories that evoke emotion. Consider these tips for writing a great obituary:
- Range of Emotions: At one point the reader might have a lump in their throat, then break out in laughter reading the next section.
- Details to Avoid: As you read each obituary sample, recognize there are a few elements that you should not include in the notice. For example, think carefully about listing private information such as the person’s maiden name or home address.
- Entertainment Factor: TL;DR? In our age of short attention spans, don’t risk a too-long or too-dull obituary. Look for ways to infuse personality amid the facts of a person’s life.
- Photos: Pictures tell a thousand words, which is why an obituary is never complete without at least one photo. The great news: with a memorial website you can upload multiple photos, and even allow others to share photos, too.
- Memories: Obituary writing is basically short-form storytelling, capturing the life of a person in a few paragraphs. Include any notable memories, such as things the person often said or did.
Want to write a great obituary? Here is an example to spark a few ideas:
Musician and retired elementary school principal Sarah Jones’s love of life didn’t come to an end with her death. Sarah passed away on July 6, 2020 at the age of 79 after a courageous battle with cancer, surrounded by loved ones who will continue to honor her legacy by living their lives to the fullest.
Sarah completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of New York. After teaching for 10 years, she went back to school to complete a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Sarah’s pride was in her school and students, and she shared her passion for learning with thousands of children over the years.
The simplest pleasures in life brought great joy to Sarah. She loved a quiet evening with friends and a glass of wine in hand. During school breaks Sarah often explored the local hiking trails and found beauty in the spring wildflowers. She had an uncanny ability to find happiness in her daily activities. Her pleasant personality was contagious to everyone she met. Sarah is survived by her husband, Frank; a son, Calvin; a sister, Jenny; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Obituary Examples for Your Mother
You interacted with mom on her good days, bad days, and everything in between. As her child, you’re an ideal person to write an obituary to share the highlights of this beautiful woman. Follow these tips for a great obituary for your mother:
- Life Story for Generations: Not only are you sharing current updates about her life, but consider how these stories will impact future generations.
- Biographical Details: Include specific points that capture biographical details, including achievements and accomplishments.
- Character Traits: What are the most important values and character traits she would like to share? Include those details in the obituary.
- Sense of Humor: How did her sense of humor come out in daily living? Capture the essence of these funny moments, including her quirks and jokes.
- Unique Approach to Motherhood: Finally, consider the details that show who she was, such as her style of motherhood.
Here is an example of an obituary for your mother:
Deborah “Debbie” Lynn Peterson was a caring wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. She left this world suddenly on July 6, 2020 at age 56.
She was born to Craig and Donna Sanders on June 23, 1964. After graduating from high school, Debbie chased her dreams to serve abroad in the Peace Corps where she met her husband, John Peterson. Together, they had 3 children: Brenda, Chad, and Emmy.
Debbie loved spending time in the kitchen, creating delicious meals for her family. Neighborhood children would gather around the kitchen table for after-school cookies and loved listening to Debbie’s stories about her travels. She was a skilled piano player and filled her home with classical music. Most weekends were spent as a volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
A funeral service is scheduled for 11 am on July 9, 2020 at the Presbyterian church on the corner of State Street and Broadway. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the downtown soup kitchen on her behalf.
Obituary Examples for Your Father
Your father is another important figure to honor and memorialize. Capturing dad’s memories in an obituary should include:
- Dad Jokes: If your father was fun and entertaining, write down a few of your favorite dad jokes.
- Personality: Include stories that reveal his personality, including the most memorable moments of life when dad was having fun and interacting with the family.
- Inspiration: There are often stories to share about people overcoming challenges. If your father faced difficulties, then it can be inspiring to share a glimpse of his courage.
- Hobbies: Is there any activity that your dad was passionate about? Include pictures of him in his favorite sports jersey or attending a music festival.
- Fatherhood: Finally, what was the essence he brought to fatherhood and family relationships? Capture the emotions through stories and interactions that happened over the years.
Consider this example if you are carrying the responsibility of writing an obituary for your father:
Richard “Rick”Lopez passed away on July 6, 2020 at the age of 74, in his hometown of Miami, Florida. His battle with serious medical issues in recent years showed his courage in facing life challenges with a smile. Despite the pain, Rick came out a hero and stayed strong until the end.
As a child, Rick proclaimed that his goal was to become a “beach bum” when he grew up. This dream was fulfilled when he opened his paddleboard rental shop where he started selling custom boards for the local surf crowd.
Rick met the love of his life, Mariana, while waiting tables while trying to get his business off the ground. It was love at first sight, and she supported business efforts every step of the way. Together, they had one child: Mateo.
Rick will be honored in a beach-side celebration of life on July 15, 2020. Visiting hours are from 6 – 9 pm, with a short ash scattering ceremony at sunset.
Short Obituary Examples
You’ll find that many examples of touching obituaries tend to be short tributes. Originally, newspaper obituary examples were short because of the cost associated with printing. Now, short obituaries provide bite-sized insights into a person’s life.
- Not Complicated: Don’t overthink the process of writing an obituary. It’s like creating a permanent social media post that will be preserved for history. That being said, do consider having someone proofread it for grammar and spelling, just in case.
- Invitation: Is there a unique activity that honors the individual? Invite event attendees to participate in the way they dress for the services, or to join you for a memorial jog in honor of the person’s passion for marathoning.
- Family List: It’s easy to get carried away with the list of family members. Keep it simple by posting only the closest family members, without a need to get too far out onto the family tree branches.
- Link to Memorial: A short obituary might be a small sample of the information included on a memorial website. If you have a memorial page for the person, then link from the obituary to the memorial site for more information.
- Basic Information: Consider the most basic information that you need to include, such as the death date and funeral details.
If you want to keep it short and sweet, consider this short obituary example:
Daniel Jackson Moore, 63, passed away on July 6, 2020 from an unexpected heart attack. Even though a failing heart took him away from this world, his loving heart left a beacon of light for all in the community.
Daniel is survived by his beautiful wife, Jada. He was a proud Papa to two daughters: Alexis and Brianna. His cheerful attitude and bright smile will be missed at the high school where he worked in the counseling department.
A short graveside ceremony will be held on Friday, July 10, 2020 at the city cemetery, followed by a backyard reception and potluck BBQ.
Funny Obituary Examples (Funny Obituaries)
It’s appropriate to entertain readers through the memorial, especially if you are honoring a person who loved to laugh. Funny obituaries can go viral at times because people love to celebrate life instead of getting caught in the grief and pain of the situation.
- Punchy Lines: It takes time to craft the right words, but be creative in the way you phrase the sentences. Think of details that will evoke the person’s wry sense of humor or general joie de vivre.
- Humor: Include insights into the person’s favorite jokes – even the most irreverent phrases you might hear them say. You may choose to go all out throughout the obituary, or to pepper the announcement with a bit of wit and levity.
- Unique Accomplishments: Mention a once-in-a-lifetime story or adventure that speaks to the type of person they were, like a trip to France that went sour or maybe they always went on crazy road trips.
- Quirks and Traits: Sharing details about the person’s favorite drink, TV shows, or pastimes can infuse personality into the obituary. If grandma enjoyed a nip of whisky and the casinos, those who knew her may smile in remembering these details.
- Touching Moments: The most effective funny obituaries make people laugh, while also stirring up emotions as the reader remembers the gifts the person shared in the world.
If you want to lighten the mood to reflect the personality of your loved one, then a funny obituary might be the right answer. Here is an example to give you a few ideas:
Douglas Sanders was a comedian who had no boundaries between his stage show and regular life. He kept people rolling in laughter because he could find humor in the most mundane life circumstances. His recent hobbies included flirting with his hospice nurses and buying random stuff from late-night infomercials.
Anyone else battling colon cancer would have passed quietly with family by their side. Doug went out with a bang: wearing nothing but his basketball shorts, while drinking whisky on the couch and watching the NBA playoffs.
Doug had a passionate love affair with ice cream, lasagne, and anything dipped in chocolate. He is survived by his saintly wife, Carol; three children who inherited his quick wit (Joe, Bridget, and Joseph), and a yappy dog named Fido.
Ultimately, there isn’t a right or wrong way to write a good obituary. The goal is to honor the personality of the person and the unique traits and gifts they shared with those they knew, worked with, and loved. Capturing these details in the write-up for an obituary shows your love and gratitude for how the person impacted you and others over the years.
If, like us, you consider obituary writing to be an art form, you may want to check out two episodes of Farewelling: The Podcast. The first is an interview with New York Times Obituary Writer Neil Genzlinger. The second is a conversation with humorist and CBS Sunday Morning Correspondent Mo Rocca, who also happens to be the host of an obituary-obsessed podcast called Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving.