How to Write a Christian Obituary

Obituaries today tend to focus on not just mourning the loss but celebrating the life of a special person.
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While obituaries have historically been written by newspaper staff, many families choose to remember a loved one with a “paid obituary” that contains information of their own choosing, including references to the faith of the deceased. You may also want include an obituary in the funeral program or post it online.

1 Before You Start

If the obituary is for publication, check with the newspaper for information about pricing (usually per column inch or per word with an extra charge for photos), word count limits and deadlines. Your funeral home may have this information and be able to help you with submission. You may also want to collect information before you begin writing, such as confirming spelling of surviving family members’ names or the deceased's favorite passages from Scripture.

2 Introduction

An obituary starts with a statement of the passing of the deceased, including full name, any nickname used, age at death and place of residence. The opening sentence or two should also include the date and place of death. The cause of death may be listed if you choose. To celebrate the faith of the deceased, you may choose opening words such as “(Name) departed this world for heaven…” or “(Name) was welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven.”

3 Biography

Obituaries today tend to focus on not just mourning the loss but celebrating the life of a special person. An obituary includes a biographical sketch of the departed, including place of birth, education, military service, career, marriage and children, notable achievements, philanthropic work, church membership and other group affiliations. The amount of detail included depends on the space and budget available.

4 Family

Close family members -- such a spouse, sibling or child -- who died previously are customarily listed. The list of surviving family members should include -- as applicable -- parents, spouse, children and stepchildren and their spouses, siblings and step-siblings and grandchildren. If space is limited, you might list just the number of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.

5 Services, Memorials, and Final Words

In addition to remembering the life of the deceased, an obituary distributes important information about the visitation and service, including time, date and location. If your family wants to request memorial gifts to their church or a favorite charity of the deceased, you should also mention this near the end of the obituary. Finally, a favorite Bible verse or line from a favorite hymn of your departed family member is a nice touch to wrap up the remembrance.

Kelly Tracy is a copywriter and educator based in Savannah, Ga. She holds an M.A. in applied linguistics and a B.A. in mass communication. Tracy has been writing professionally since 1998 and teaching English to international students since 2002.