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Writing an Obituary When There Is No Funeral

Michele Meleen
Sad woman writing on laptop

Obituraries traditionally include visitation and funeral details. 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 instead.

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, and 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 his or her life in the obituary. Use the hobby as a metaphor for their life or talk solely about his 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 and 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 instead of 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 at 3 PM."
  • "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."

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.

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Writing an Obituary When There Is No Funeral