July 21, 2024
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Who Takes On the Task of Writing an Obituary?

The sorrow of losing a loved one often leaves many in a state of disarray, seeking answers about what steps to take next. Among these pressing questions, a frequent one arises: who writes the obituary when someone dies?

Contrary to popular belief, the responsibility of penning an obituary doesn’t always rest solely on family members. This role can be more flexible than one might assume. There are several key factors to consider when determining who should undertake this poignant task.

Key Considerations in Writing an Obituary

An obituary is generally crafted by those close to the deceased, such as family or friends, though exceptions certainly exist. Here are pivotal considerations and qualifications that can guide the decision:

  • Closeness to the Deceased: The writer should ideally have a deep connection and knowledge of the deceased’s life.
  • Emotional Resilience: The task requires someone who can handle the emotional weight.
  • Availability: The person should have the time to devote to this important endeavor.
  • Writing Skills: While professional-level writing isn’t mandatory, the ability to effectively capture the essence of the deceased is crucial.

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Willum Skeener

What is an Obituary?

At its core, an obituary serves to formally announce a person’s passing, but it is also a celebration of their life. Written as an editorial piece, it typically includes biographical details such as birthdate, upbringing, marital status, and notable accomplishments.

Once completed, obituaries are often submitted to newspapers or published online. The family usually decides the medium and publication details.

Who Writes the Obituary?

Family Members

Typically, a close family member takes on the responsibility of writing the obituary. This makes sense as they often possess the intimate knowledge necessary for the task, reducing the need for extensive research. Additionally, the act of writing can be therapeutic, allowing them to process their grief through reflection. However, this emotional proximity can also be a burden, making it challenging to write under such distressing circumstances.


If the emotional toll is too heavy for family members, a close friend might step in. Friends can also provide valuable insights and meaningful anecdotes. This act can be an honor, reflecting the depth of their relationship with the deceased. However, friends might miss out on certain family-specific details, and they too may struggle emotionally.

Funeral Homes

Funeral homes often offer obituary writing services. This can be particularly helpful if friends and family find themselves unable or unwilling to take on the task. Funeral staff will require detailed information about the deceased, which may involve interviewing close acquaintances to gather the necessary content. While professional, this service can be costly, ranging from $200 to $500 depending on the funeral home.

Professional Obituary Writers

Some individuals specialize in writing obituaries, operating as freelance writers or through dedicated businesses. These professionals can deliver high-quality work, though their fees can vary widely. Engaging a professional still requires providing personal details and photographs, and finding a writer on short notice can be a challenge.

Deciding Who Should Write the Obituary

Close Connection

Having a close relationship with the deceased aids significantly in writing a meaningful obituary. A deep connection often results in a more heartfelt and authentic tribute, as the writer can draw from personal experiences and insights.

Knowledge of the Deceased

An effective obituary requires a comprehensive understanding of the deceased’s life, achievements, and significant events. This knowledge allows the writer to vividly capture the essence and impact of the person.

Emotional Strength

The writer needs to possess the emotional resilience to handle such a sensitive task. Writing about a loved one can be cathartic for some, helping them process their grief, while for others, it can intensify their emotions.


Writing an obituary can be time-consuming, especially when done correctly. Given the other responsibilities that accompany a death, such as managing legal documents and arranging funeral services, the writer must be able to dedicate the necessary time.

Writing Skills

While the writer doesn’t need to be a professional, they should be capable of articulating the deceased’s life story in a compelling and respectful manner. This is where hiring a professional can be beneficial if no one in the family feels up to the task.

Collaboration in Writing an Obituary

Sometimes, it may be too overwhelming for one person to write the obituary alone. Collaboration among family members and friends can ease the burden and ensure a richer, more comprehensive tribute. However, this approach requires clear communication to avoid conflicts and ensure everyone’s contributions are honored.

Writing Your Own Obituary

Although uncommon, some individuals choose to write their own obituary, especially if they know they are nearing the end of their life. This practice, known as an auto-obituary, allows them to share their life story and important milestones from their perspective, relieving their loved ones of this task during a difficult time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long after death should an obituary be written? An obituary is typically published within a week of the person’s death. If it includes funeral details, it should be ready at least three days before the funeral.

What should be avoided in an obituary? An obituary should honor the deceased without dwelling on negative or embarrassing details. It should focus on positive elements like their biography, achievements, and cherished memories.

How much does it cost to publish an obituary? Publishing an obituary usually costs between $200 and $500, depending on factors such as length, number of photos, and whether it’s printed or posted online.

What is the best day to publish an obituary? While Sunday is a popular choice, an obituary can be published on any day of the week, depending on the family’s preference and the publication’s schedule.

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