Steps to Writing An Obituary
Start With Dealing With Emotions

Grieving family

If you’re writing an obituary, it could seem intimidating especially if you’re in the throws of grief from losing a loved one. This journey of taking steps to writing an obituary may be one of not knowing where to start. But know that this is an opportunity to honor the deceased and share their one-of-a-kind story. 

First, we will start with a clear definition of an obituary. Oakley tells us that “An obituary is a public notice that shares the news of someone’s death, which is published so others who knew the deceased can pay their respects.” 

See more of Oakley’s insights into how to write an obituary

Just this month and year, April 2024, I was tasked with writing my sister’s obituary. My family saw her steadily decline from Alzheimer’s. Still, as long as she was alive, we somehow hoped for a miraculous intervention that could turn her condition around. 

That’s not how it happened, however. My niece called me one morning early in April. I hoped she was about to tell me that her mother’s condition had stabilized, even improved. Instead, she cried out that her mother, my beloved sister, had died. Those words were a punch in the gut. The hope that we had drained away like suds spiraling down a drain. The news was devastating. The outcome was final. Plans now had veered in a different direction. 

When she composed herself, my niece asked me to write the obituary while she gathered pictures.

To help me with this task, I turned to Canva, knowing they have wonderful templates. The process involved uploading pictures and following other guidelines they had. For more information about the templates, you can check out Canva.

Steps to Writing An Obituary
Start With Getting Organized

Woman getting organized

The first step I did in writing the obituary was to gather pertinent facts about Gerri’s life for the death announcement. These included her full name, date of birth, and date of death. Next came details about her life, such as:

  • Surviving family members
  • Education
  • Social affiliations
  • Charities
  • Photos
  • Funeral/memorial details

Although I realize an obituary can be less than one page, my sister’s obituary included a program with the input of family members and eventually turned out to be nine pages. The program showed the order of service, which was a page long itself, and listed the announcements of: 

  • A welcome statement 
  • Prayers
  • A poem 
  • A personal tribute 
  • Songs 
  • A video tribute 
  • Acknowledgments 
  • And other information 

Steps to Writing An Obituary
Include Creating a Narrative

Man getting organized

I could not conclude the obituary without pulling it all together, creating a cohesive narrative of my sister’s life and her impact on people’s lives. She was a generous, studious, humor-filled woman, and I wanted that to come across in the obituary. No two people are alike, and their obituaries cannot be alike. An obituary needs to show the uniqueness of the individual.

Writing without tears was necessary to balance my emotions in pulling my thoughts together to do the impossible, to construct a person’s life into a few paragraphs. I had to be organized, succinct, and clear, highlighting her essence and the main impact she had on our lives.

I pulled together the narrative, including pleasant memories that included the fun times we shared. Other family members contributed warm sentiments and memories to the narrative (poem, personal tribute). The narrative revealed how Gerri loved decorating her home in opulence and how she hand-crafted greeting cards, created fancy journals, gift boxes, and collected fine porcelain Lladró pieces.

Steps to Writing An Obituary
Include the Final Part

Woman and bird

The last step of the obituary included giving details of the memorial service and acknowledgments. We gave information as to the time and place of the service and thanked friends and acquaintances for their contributions, whether of flowers, spoken tributes, charity donations, or by expressing their condolences in person or through cards or letters. We finalized the obituary by extending heartfelt thanks for their prayers and blessings and kind words.

I feel the obituary achieved its aim in reflecting the goal of celebrating a life well lived and providing a lasting record of her earthly journey.

Gerri was my only sibling. I found a quote that I included in the obituary. It expressed one of my feelings for her:

“I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one, might not leave such stillness.” -Emily Dickinson

Steps to writing an obituary should not be a difficult task. There are many tools available to lighten it. The utilization of Canva or such sources and sites such as Pro Writing Aid, can be invaluable. In addition, family members and friends can offer much-needed help.  

Ending the obituary with an uplifting vibe will give the sense of peace and harmony needed to shine through the grieving process. And to reflect the loving footprint that the deceased left behind.

Images created with Dream by Wombo

Oakley, Sarah. How to Write an Obituary: 7 Steps With Examples, ProWritingAid, 5 Sept. 2023,