4 min read

How to Write the Perfect Obituary

Summarising someone’s life is no easy task, so you might feel overwhelmed if you’re writing an obituary for a loved one. We take you through a few key steps when it comes to writing an obituary and the ways you can find obituaries around Australia.

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No matter how well you knew someone who has now passed away, the thought of writing an obituary for them can still feel unsettling. Whether you’re coping with grief or feeling anxious to write about someone who meant a lot to you, it can be tough to know where to begin. As we start to think more about our own life and personal legacy, you might even be thinking about writing your own obituary.

We’ve put together a collection of answers to help you if you’re not sure what to write in an obituary or how you can go about finding one in Australia.

Gathering essential details

It’s important to collect significant details about the person’s life before you start writing an obituary. Some information you might already know, but you may need to contact a few different people close to the deceased for any missing details.

The go-to information for an obituary should include:

  • their full name

  • their age at the time of their death

  • the place they were born

  • the date of their death

  • the place of their death

When looking for more details, keep in mind that an obituary can also include:

  • their birthday

  • where they were raised and lived later in life

  • their close family members

  • their personal relationships (marriage, de facto partners)

  • short anecdotes about what they were like

  • their achievements and contributions to the community

  • information about their funeral or memorial service

Writing an obituary

Once you’ve collected all the details you need about your loved one, start by writing down a few short sentences. Try not to stress if it isn’t perfect. There might be a lot of information that you’d like to include in the obituary, or conversely you might not have enough. Typically an obituary can be anywhere from 50 to 500 words, giving you more freedom to choose how much you’d like to write. Once you’ve written the obituary, you might like to share it with close family members before publishing it in a local newspaper.

To give you an idea, here is an example of an obituary:

Thomas “Tom” Howard was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. After a short illness, he passed away suddenly on August 21, 2021 at the age of 78 in his hometown. He was born to John and Jane Howard on July 13, 1943 in Sydney, New South Wales. After he graduated from high school, Tom started studying at the University of Sydney where he met his wife, Ruth Howard. Together they travelled around Australia before settling down and having two children: Douglas and Elizabeth.

Tom was an active member of the Parramatta community, working as a librarian at the city library. He often spent his free time driving his children and their classmates to after-school activities, enthusiastically cheering from the sidelines with a smile that rarely left his face. Tom passed on his love of literature to anyone he encountered, often giving them one of many copies of his favourite book, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10am on August 29, 2021 at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta.

Finding an obituary in Australia

Most obituaries these days are published in your local newspaper, which typically has an online edition, making it easier to search in your specific city or area if you don’t have a newspaper handy. Sometimes these are referred to as death notices and include information about the deceased’s funeral.

There are a few places online you’re able to start your search:

As an alternative, there are a few online websites that allow you to search through newspaper archives:

For older records, you might try searching across the states and territories:

Safewill can help you

When coping with a significant loss, it can be hard to navigate the administrative tasks. From arranging a funeral to applying for probate, we’re here to help you through this challenging time. Reach out and chat to our supportive team today.

Last updated 30th June 2022
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Daniela Brinis-Norris
Writer and Editor
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