The death of a loved one places many difficult, painful responsibilities on the bereaved. From funeral arrangements to wrapping up financial loose ends, the burden of losing a friend or family member can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, creating and sending out funeral notices and obituaries doesn’t need to be an added stress factor. Understanding what these documents are, what is typically included in them, and why they are important helps cut out one more potentially trying aspect of planning a funeral or memorial service.
Funeral notices are a traditional and necessary means of letting friends and family know about the death of a loved one. Although the memory of the recently departed may make these notices difficult to write, they are extremely important in not only informing people of the specifics of the funeral, but also in helping you pay respect to the deceased. Some funeral service providers will offer funeral notices as part of a service package, but if you are writing them yourself you will need to remember to include a few key details.
The most important parts of a funeral notice are the most basic pieces of information. Who has died? When is the funeral being held? Where is it being held? Is there a memorial service or reception to follow? These may seem like obvious things to include in a funeral notice, but you’d be surprised at what can be left off, especially when the author is in a state of mourning.
You may also want to include other helpful pieces of information in the funeral notice. Listing hotel accommodations close to the funeral site will help out-of-town guests. You may even want to include the telephone number of the person leading the service (with permission, of course), to help give attendees a better feel for what they can expect at the service.
Many people include a favorite poem, lyric, or passage of scripture in a funeral notice. If the deceased didn’t specify anything before he or she passed, try to pick something that encapsulates his or her spirit and energy. Try to find something respectful as well as uplifting. People will be sad enough about the death; there’s no need to add to it with a depressing funeral notice.
Another important thing to remember is to not rush in to sending out a notice. Make sure all of the funeral arrangements have been made first. It may seem burdensome to send out funeral notices, but it will seem even more so if you have to send out a revised version later. However, you don’t want to wait too long to send out a notice. Some attendees, especially out-of-town friends and family, might have to take time off of work to plan the trip. You want to respect their schedules as well.
You will probably also want to write an obituary for the deceased. Obituaries run the gamut from simple and straightforward to downright biographical. Many people use the same format for both funeral notices and obituaries — who, where, when, etc. — though some people opt to not include the time and location of the funeral for the sake of the family’s privacy. Some people even publish obituaries before the funeral arrangements have been finalized. These types of obituaries usually include a brief summary of the deceased’s life; accomplishments, careers, family members, etc., as well as a poem or scripture that was a favorite of the deceased or the family of the deceased. Be warned, though; write too long of an obituary and you may be asked to pay a small fee to place it. Contact your local newspaper to find out the specifics of placing an obituary.
Many newspaper editors can help you put together a respectful, fitting obituary if you are having trouble coming up with one yourself. If your local paper isn’t willing to help you develop an obituary you might want to consider hiring a professional writer. Before you do, however, ask friends and family members if they would be willing to help. You will most likely end up with a more personal obituary and will save some money in the process.
Yes, writing funeral notices and obituaries can be difficult. They can often seem tedious and unnecessary, though the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. A tasteful, elegant funeral notice or obituary is a great way to pay your respects to the deceased as well as allow others to do the same.
~Ben Nystrom, 2008
Photo courtesy of Victor Bezrukov
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