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How to write a death notice for a mother

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How to write a death notice for a mother
February 14, 2019 Anniversary Wishes 4 comments

Jul 22, 2015 The obituary of 94-year-old Mary Stocks is going viral, and no wonder: Her son wrote a funny tribute to his mom that's loaded with jokes.

The elements of an obituary

When you write an obituary, make sure to include certain essential elements. By applying a universal format to what you write, you will aid the reader in finding the information most important to him or her. You also may avoid a rewrite by a newspaper editor or funeral home director.

The typical elements of an obituary include:

  1. An announcement of death
  2. Information about the funeral and memorial services
  3. A biographical sketch of the deceased
  4. A listing of family members
  5. Special messages from the family

Obituaries often include photos of the deceased, which add to the cost of the obituary. Enhanced photo options, such as color photographs, multiple photos, or large photo sizes, may be available at additional cost. If submitting a photo, choose a recent one so readers can recognize the deceased as someone they knew.

Writing the obituary

These guidelines will help you draft each section of the obituary.

1. Announce the death.

The first paragraph of the obituary generally provides the following information:

  • The full name of the deceased and any nickname by which he or she commonly was known
  • The deceased’s age at death
  • The deceased’s residence (city and state) at death
  • Time and place of death

A typical death announcement reads as follows: [Full name], [age], of [city, state], died at [location] on [date].

The fact of death can be stated in many ways. Some people may consider “died” to be too direct and choose a euphemism like “entered eternal rest” or a religious statement like “was called home to the Lord.” For my mother’s obituary, my father thought “died” sounded too cold, so I chose “passed away” instead.

Some death announcements include cause of death. Listing this information is not required. Some families simply are not comfortable sharing it. Other families may choose to include it to circumvent the inevitable questions from friends and neighbors. Still others may address cause of death in non-specific terms like “after a short illness” or “peacefully.”

You may have seen obituaries that say things like “after a courageous battle with cancer.” This description would have worked for my mother, and my father and I specifically discussed whether to include something like it. In the end, we decided not to. Most people who knew my mom knew she had been undergoing treatment for Stage IV breast cancer for over two years and would assume her death to be cancer-related. More importantly, my mother did not want her life to be defined by cancer. A hackneyed phrase was neither necessary nor appropriate.

However, wanting to provide some reassurance to her extended family and friends that my mother met the best kind of end for which one could hope under the circumstances, I did state that she died at home “with her family at her side.”

2. Provide service times.

The funeral home can assist you with the details that should be included about the funeral and services and the specific order in which they should be listed according to your local traditions. The information provided may include the date and location of the visitation, the date and place of the funeral service, the name of the officiant, and the date and place of the burial, also known as the interment.

If these details are not available at the time the obituary is published, you could say “funeral arrangements are pending at XYZ Funeral Home.” Interested parties may then contact the funeral home for details, or you can republish the obituary later when the information is available.

If the services are private, say something like “the family will hold private services at a later date.”

Jul 22, 2015 The obituary of 94-year-old Mary Stocks is going viral, and no wonder: Her son wrote a funny tribute to his mom that's loaded with jokes.

Examples of Writing an Obituary for Mothers

how to write a death notice for a mother

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How to Write an Obituary

Writing an obituary is an act of love that can accomplish many things. At its core, an obituary is a declaration of loss, an acknowledgement of grief, and an expression of joy all-in-one. It celebrates the life of a loved one in a way that few other ways can.

Beyond what an obituary can accomplish emotionally, an obituary also has logistic importance, as it acts as an official notice of death that lets the community know of a loss. Historically, this communication of a death would happen via newspaper, where a family member would pay a newspaper several hundred dollars to publish an obituary and obituaries would be listed on an obituary section of the paper. However, on Ever Loved, you can write and publish an obituary online when you create a free online memorial website for a loved one. In addition to acting as a death announcement, an obituary can also be used to communicate service, burial, and memorial information and prescribe ways to donate to a cause, send flowers, volunteer, and help the bereaved.

Pictured is an example obituary written for Robert Frank Conkey Jr. on Ever Loved

An obituary is also a final tribute to a life well-lived, as it briefly recounts a loved one’s life as a short biography. It can be used to portray the arch of a loved ones life – from birth, through life, and arriving at death – and provide a symbolic closure to a person’s story.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an obituary. We've also written a few obituary templates for you in case you need to write your own. We hope this obituary writing help can provide you with the tools you need to honor a loved one while also following traditional practices.

1. Announce the death

Writing a death announcement in the first paragraph serves the purpose of letting the community know the details surrounding the loss of a loved one. Typically included in a death announcement are a loved one’s name, age, and place of residence, along with the time and place of death.

When writing a death announcement, it is common to use any of the following phrases:

  • Beloved mother, sister, and friend
  • Peacefully passed away
  • Died after a long struggle with
  • Passed after a hard fought battle with
  • Entered fully into the presence of his Lord and Savior on August 13, 2017
  • Returned to his heavenly home on January 29, 2014

As you write a death announcement, be sure to think about how the message will be perceived by friends, family, and the bereaved. For example, when you consider if you will write that a loved one “died” or “peacefully passed away,” what tone do you feel would be most appropriate for the context in which your loved one passed? Some may think that “died” is too strong, while others may prefer to state the facts as they are rather than use softer words like “pass.”

Another example would be the difference between “long struggle with” or “hard fought battle with.” Depending on the appropriate tone and context, there may be an argument for choosing one way of wording a phrase over another.

2. Tell their story as a brief biography

The biography section of an obituary is an impactful way of honoring the life of a loved one in a few paragraphs. There isn’t a defined maximum or minimum requirement for writing a biography, so don’t feel discouraged to write more if you feel like adding personal stories or emotions. But typically a brief biography will include important life events and milestones such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Parent’s names including mother’s maiden name in parentheses e.g. William and Jane (Maiden name) Johnson
  • Date and place of marriage, including birth name of spouse
  • Education
  • Work
  • Military Service
  • Causes
  • Passions and hobbies

Tip: Before you begin writing an obituary, make sure to interview friends and family to gather notes about their life. While not every memory will be able to make it into the brief biography, your time interviewing family members can help you place a loved one’s life events in chronological order and discover passions and hobbies you may not have known about a loved one–not to mention also being a therapeutic exercise when grieving the loss of a loved one.

As you write a biography, be sure to consider how you might bring a loved one’s story to life with a few anecdotes, memories, and even inside jokes that readers might appreciate. Remember: this is an opportunity to commemorate a loved one in a way that they would want to be remembered. If they loved music, why not list a few of their favorite songs! Of course it’s all up to you.

3. Name their family members

Naming a loved one’s family members when writing an obituary has a lot of value. For one, it gives community members a way to know who is a part of the family and therefore who might be grieving and need attention. Additionally, naming family members can serve the purpose of honoring those who have previously passed while making a tribute to the bereaved.

There are two key phrases that you need to be able to differentiate to avoid confusion and possibly even embarrassing family members:

  • When listing family members who are still living, it is common to use phrases such as “survived by”.
  • When listing family members who have previously passed away, it is common to use the phrase “preceded in death by” or “predeceased by.”

Remember: when listing family members, it's best practice to include close family such as parents, siblings, a spouse, children, and grandchildren. It’s common to name parents, siblings, a spouse, and children while it is less common to name all grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Once you’ve identified the list of family members who you will want to include when writing an obituary, its common to use a semicolon (;) to indicate a pause between two statements. See an example of how to mention family members:

Bob is survived by his wife, three children and eight grandchildren as well as his sisters, Nila (Gigi), Nina, Norri, Dede and Carrie; his brothers, Danny and Mike (Toot); Son-in-Law Eric Jahnke; Daughter-in-Law Maia Conkey and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents.

4. Outline service times, locations, and details

It is common for obituaries to list out funeral events, locations, times, and details so that community members know when and how to attend any events taking place. See an example of how to list funeral events:

A Memorial Service will be held at the American Legion Post 398 in Mound, MN on Thursday November 16 at 12pm (noon) followed by a banquet to celebrate Bobby's life; all are welcome.

Tip: On Ever Loved, it’s easy to list out funeral events with rich information such as maps in an elegant design. In addition, you can collect RSVPs to funeral events to make it easier to plan for the number of people who will attend the funeral events.

Pictured is an example of a page that lists funeral events for Carmen Estrada on Ever Loved

5. Special messages

Special messages are optional, but can add a touching finish to an already emotional obituary. Common special messages that are included at the end of an obituary include:

  • Thanks given to the staff of a certain hospital including doctors and nurses
  • “Flowers can be sent to” is a phrase commonly used to help instruct community members on ways in which they can send flowers. You can specify that “flowers can be purchased on Ever Loved here” if it makes it easier. Of course if you prefer to deter community members from donating flowers, you can use the phrase “in lieu of flowers” to instruct community members on other ways they can contribute.
  • A short prayer or poem can also add a nice touch

6. Photos

Photos can typically be added to obituaries published on newspapers for an additional fee. If you’re planning on publishing your obituary on Ever Loved, it’s free to create a page where you can share memories and collect pictures, memories, and condolences as part of creating an online memorial.

It’s important to get obituary writing help since an obituary can help express what’s at times hard to say, especially while grieving. An obituary can help acknowledge and announce the death so that a community may come together, commemorate a life well lived, and be provided with ways that they can participate in celebrating the life of a loved one. The best obituaries aren’t ones that are the most expensive to publish in a newspaper, rather obituaries that are well-written and are written from the heart are ones that stand out and stay with people forever.

Interested in publishing an obituary for free? Create a memorial website for a loved one on Ever Loved to get started and add an obituary, funeral events, track RSVPs, add photos, and more.

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Obituary Samples & Example Obituaries

how to write a death notice for a mother

Example Death Notices for the newspaper obituaryTo write a death notice you must remember to add five things, 1) Surname 2) Where the deceased passed away 3) Date they passed away 4) Where they lived (Suburb/Town) 5) Who they were related to Here are some examples that may be of assistance;SMITH (Dorothy) Quietly passed away at home, in the loving arms of her family on 12/12/02, the Late Mrs Dorothy Smith of Bentley, Loved Wife of Harold (dec) much loved and loving mother of Jessie and Mick Rest in eternal peace mum, your suffering is over.SMITH (Dorothy) Passed away in Hollywood hospital after a long battle with illness on the 20/11/02 the Late Miss Dorothy Smith of Bentley, beloved younger daughter of Joan and John. Our darling girl you will be so sadly missed, forever in our hearts.SMITH (Dorothy) Tragically taken from us on the 22/11/02 the Late Dorothy Smith,of Bentley, beautiful and loving daughter of Joan and John, much loved sister of Jessie and Mick. You were taken before we could say goodbye We love you and will miss you so very much.

Website: Jacqui Byrne

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Peter J Jackson, Funeral Directors

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Peter J Jackson Modified:

Caring for the families of the wheatbelt

Jan 11, 2016 In many newspapers, obituaries are a form of paid advertisement for For my mother's obituary, my father thought “died” sounded too cold, so I.

How to Write a Parent's Obituary

how to write a death notice for a mother

An obituary tells the story of a deceased person's life. It acknowledges the person's passing, his or her life accomplishments, the people left behind and funeral or memorial services. When you get assigned the task of obituary writing, review these tips on writing an obituary to make it easier to complete.

A Life Lived

Since the obituary tells a story of someone's life, make it compelling and interesting to read. Focus on the key achievements the person accomplished. If the deceased person was a standout in life, make his or her obituary a standout as well. More than enough of the obituaries are dull and boring and tell little more than the person died, the names of surviving family members and the funeral arrangements.

While that is important information to include, remember that an obituary is the last chance to let people know about the deceased's life and the contributions he or she made to the community. If you are worried about newspaper costs that charge by the column inch or number of column lines, to keep word count down, focus on the how the person was in life, rather than the funeral arrangements.

Important Facts to Include

Obituary writing must always include the full name of the deceased and a nickname if he or she had one. The town or city of residence, the place and cause of death, the person's age and the date he or she died, including the year are all important facts to include when writing an obituary. When it comes to writing about the person's life, include the important events in the person's life such as the date and place of birth and the person's parents.

Include siblings, close friends and information about the person's education, if they attended a college, university or technical school. Include information on notable awards or other achievements, where the person worked, business colleagues, notable career events, hobbies, interests or other activities. If the person was involved with charitable or religious activities include those as well. If the deceased had an unusual life or attributes, add these when obituary writing.

Listing Family Members

List key family members in the following order, which can be cut from the bottom up there isn't enough room in the newspaper. List the spouse first, include the town or city where the spouse lives, children in the order of when they were born and their spouses, if any, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, in-laws, nephews or nieces, all listed in birth order. Include friends and pets, if the person was particularly fond of their pets. List those who have preceded the deceased after living members in the same order, i.e., spouse, children, grandchildren and more.

Memorial or Funeral Information

Include the place, day, time and date of the funeral or memorial service. List the person's name who officiates the service and the names of pallbearers, if applicable. If the funeral involves an open casket, include the dates and times for viewings. If there are plans for a graveside service, include the site, day, time and date. Let readers know the funeral home in charge of arrangements and whom to call for more information if there are no services planned.

The Final Part of the Obituary

Sometimes family members set up memorial accounts with a charity especially when there was a debilitating disease, accident or crime involved. Let people know where they can send their memorial donations by including the address or website in the obituary. Last, give thanks to any special people, institutions or groups that were particularly helpful to the deceased. Include a favorite poem or quotation of the deceased and a few words that summarize the person's life.

The Words to Use

Now that you know the important information to include when obituary writing, there are other tips on writing an obituary that go beyond the mere facts. Make the obit compelling by using words that show instead of tell. Dry facts will tell the story, but it won't compel people to read on.

Instead of writing "he served in the military," try something like this instead: "after Korea and two tours in Viet Nam with the U.S. Army that resulted in a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Cross, Joe retired from active duty in 1978." Also think of a way to sum up the person's life in three to six words, something that would resonate with friends and family members. These phrases typically appear as the epitaph on a cemetery headstone or inspire those who might be participating in the eulogy.

Keep it Simple and Accurate

The best way to complete a successful obituary is to write a draft; keep it simple, but correct. Stay consistent with how you list the family members; consider making several versions of the obituary for placement in multiple newspapers. The obituary should appear in the local newspapers of family members and friends. Keep a long version to place on the Internet or your blog, and write-up shorter versions for different publications.

Proofreading, Editing and Revising

If it's hard to proofread and edit, have a trusted friend or family member review the obituary to catch any misspellings or to verify facts. Proofreading avoids errors in the obituary when it goes to the newspaper. Once it's printed, it cannot be changed. Review the details carefully. The written obituary serves as a record of the deceased's life; it will also be used by family generations to come for genealogical research.

Third Person Narrative

Don't write the obituary in first person or use phrases such as "the family of Joe Friend announce," as an obituary is not about the person or family members who write it, it is all about the person who died. Write it from the third person perspective, as an outsider or bystander who witnessed the event.

Don't forget to include all family members. If you decide to only list the names of the spouse and children, don't include the name of a favorite grandparent and not include all the grandparents names, because this shows a deference on the part of the writer. You could list the names of the spouse and children and could include the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren without listing all their names. However you decide to write it, remain consistent with how you list those that survived the deceased.


Before submitting the obituary to newspapers, conduct research to find out what it might cost you. Local community newspapers usually don't charge a fee for an obituary, but with the rising costs of newspaper publication and the decreasing amount of newspaper space available, many do charge. Fees for newspaper obituaries are calculated by the number of lines in a newspaper column or by column inch. For example, most newspapers limit an obituary to 24 lines in a column without a fee. Unless the deceased one was significant to the community in some way, the newspaper will need you to write the obituary.

Newspapers print two types of obit notices, one of which may be legally required: a death notice and the obituary. A death notice appears in the classified or legal section of the newspaper and leaves out the deceased's life story. It's only a factual accounting of the person's death. Death notices are typically used in the event the person had a large estate and will, business partners or extensive creditors.


Here's a sample of obituary writing when writing an obituary for your family member or friend:

Betty "Betts" H. Carman, 85, died Sunday, November 4, 2012 in her daughter's home from complications related to her emphysema. In hospice care for a six months prior to her death, Betts died peacefully in her sleep.

She leaves her daughter, Laurie Brenner and husband Gordon; son Larry Reeves and wife Tina and son Zachary Parks, granddaughters Naomi, Rachael, Stephanie and Danielle, and six great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her spouse, Robert Carman in 1994 and her daughter, Jo Tiila, in 1978, who died at the age of 19.

Born in Astoria, Oregon September 24, 1927 where her father was stationed during his Naval service, Betty spent her early years traveling with her parents during her father's 30-year military career until they settled in La Jolla, California. An Alpine, California resident for forty years before her passing, Betts lived primarily in and around San Diego County most of her life.

Her membership in the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club's water ballet group at the age of 14 got noticed by visiting Hollywood producers that secured her a swimming role in two of Esther Williams' movies, "This Time for Keeps," and "Bathing Beauty." She worked with film notables Red Skelton, Lauritz Melchior, Johnny Johnston, Xavier Cougot and was fondly nicknamed "Tango Legs" by Jimmy Durante. While on the MGM set, she went to school with Elizabeth Taylor and used to say that Elizabeth's eyes "were really violet."

In the years that followed, Betts was recruited to swim in Olympian Buster Crabbe's (of Flash Gordon and Tarzan fame) Aqua Parade in tours of the United States and Europe. After her moviestint and involvement in the "Aqua Parade," Betts worked as a bookkeeper and was one of the first programmers using keypunch cards at San Diego State University.

Long known for her positive outlook on life and her sense of humor, Betts served many years as the Alpine VFW Post Ladies Auxiliary Treasurer and volunteered at the Alpine American Legion.

A private memorial service was held at her daughter's home in Placerville, California for family members.

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To help you write a death notice or obituary, here are a number of templates. Our beloved [mother] and friend passed away on [December 28, 2004]. Memorial .

how to write a death notice for a mother
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