Writing an Obituary When There Is No Funeral

Michele Meleen
Sad woman writing on laptop

While funerals are a common way to pay respects to the deceased, many people choose not to hold these services. If you've been tasked to write the obituary for someone who won't have a funeral, there are many other things you can include.

Highlight the Deceased's Life

Every person has a unique history and story. Use the obituary to describe highlights of the deceased's life, including their biggest achievements.

Use a Sequence Approach

Since obituaries often have word count requirements, fill the space with a written timeline of your loved one's life. Include information like where she was born, her family structure, where she attended school, then any jobs and volunteer positions she held as an adult.

Focus on Hobbies and Passions

If the deceased was incredibly passionate about one specific topic or activity, showcase that part of their life in the obituary. Use the hobby as a metaphor for their life or talk solely about their work and accomplishments in that activity. For example, if the deceased was devoutly religious you might include his favorite bible verse or prayer. Someone with a love of literature could be described using their favorite poem.

Give a Reason

There are many reasons a person may decide they don't want a funeral or memorial service. In most cases you can give an honest sentence about why there won't be any services to give the bereaved a better understanding of the situation an eliminate any feelings of concern.

  • Left body to medical science research - "Keeping with John's giving spirit, his remains will be donated to Medical University in lieu of a funeral."
  • Cremation - "Vera wishes to spend eternity among the seas, so her ashes will be spread at Sandy Beach at a later date."
  • Private person - "Marilyn never liked being the center of attention and per her wishes there will be no services."
  • Frugal with finances - "No funeral services will be held as it was Gary's wish that his estate be used for others, rather than himself."

Offer Other Actions

Writing a check to charity

After the death of a friend or family member, many people seek a way to celebrate their life or say a final "goodbye." If you use a sample obituary as inspiration, replace the final lines about the funeral time, location, and date with some other action the bereaved can take in the deceased's honor.

  • "Celebrate Monty's life by donating to the Future Farmers of America organization in his name."
  • "Those who wish to gather in memory of Mariah are welcome to raise a glass with friends at Bob's Corner Bar on Saturday, May 24."
  • "We all know how much Gabe loved hummingbirds, so all who wish to honor his life are invited to hang a hummingbird feeder at their home."
  • "Danni's Facebook page will remain open and all are welcome to post memories and final words to her there."

Sample Obituary When There Are No Services

You can use the following sample obituary for when there are no services to help you write one yourself:

Owen Alan Johnson III passed away peacefully surrounded by family on July 14, 2018. Growing up, Owen was eager to help pick grapes each season on the family farm with his parents, three brothers, and extended family members in Sherville, PA. He continued with his strong work ethic and helpful spirit as a third grade teacher at Bayview Elementary for 35 years. Owen is survived by his wife, Jeanie, sons Thomas and Larry, and his brother Mark. Those who knew Owen know he hated being fussed over and would rather give than receive. In lieu of funeral services, and to honor Owen's character, we ask that all who wish to participate make a donation to any farm or children's organization on the 56th anniversary of his birth, August 5, 2018. Please share your donations on Owen's memorial website at www.rememberingowen.com.

Tips and Tricks

Writing an obituary when there is no funeral isn't much different from writing a standard obituary. Simply omit funeral information from any obituary template and you've got what you need. If you want to avoid the confusion that sometimes comes with these types of circumstances, consider providing the obituary in an unusual way.

Use Social Media

Instead of publishing the obituary in a newspaper where anyone can see it, post it on the deceased's social media pages so only those they were in contact with will see it. Using this nontraditional format helps others see it is a nontraditional scenario.

Send an Email

Create a personalized email to send to all the deceased's contacts with an explanation why there won't be a funeral and a brief obituary. This gives you the opportunity to give others a clear understanding of why things are the way they are.

Mail Cards

Make up traditional memorial cards that would get handed out at the funeral with the obituary on them and mail them to close friends or family members. This gives people the feeling of attending a funeral without actually leaving home.

Focus on the Facts

Obituary writing in any circumstance is similar. For instances where there won't be a public or private service, focus on other important elements to give everyone closure.

Writing an Obituary When There Is No Funeral