Writing an obituary can be a significant part of the grieving process and provides a chance to celebrate the life of your loved one, connect with friends and family during a difficult time, and share important details about the funeral arrangements that will allow people to pay their respects. 

We hope this guide will provide you with a starting point for what to include in an obituary and we’ve shared some common templates to support with structure, however, please note these are just examples. For additional support, we recommend speaking with your funeral director who will be able to help you further. (We also recently shared some examples of how to write a funeral tribute or eulogy, which can provide some additional pointers and suggestions for things to say at the funeral itself.)


What Is The Purpose Of An Obituary?

An obituary is a public notice of a person’s death and will usually provide details about when they died (the date), their funeral or memorial service (or mention whether one is being planned); share a summary of the person’s life and mention the people they are leaving behind (usually restricted to immediate family such as a spouse, parents, or children and names do not need to be included); and share a short summary the person’s life (such as their passions, interests, and/or profession). 

Obituaries are commonly printed in newspapers but can also be posted online in forms or on social media channels such as Facebook. Dundee’s local newspaper, The Courier, also keeps an online directory of public notices which includes obituaries to help make it easier to share with family and friends. 


What Is The Usual Structure Of An Obituary? 

While there is no set length for an obituary, the common word count tends to fall between 50 to 200 words. For obituaries published in print, there may be stricter restrictions for word count due to space, whereas online resources tend to be more flexible and allow much longer word counts.

Most commonly, an obituary will include the following components:

  1. The surname of the individual in the opening line
  2. The first name and age of the person who has passed away (as well as maiden name, if applicable)
  3. A short summary of the person’s profession, passions, or impact on the community 
  4. Mention of immediate family members the person who has passed away is leaving behind 
  5. The date, time, and location of the funeral or memorial service
  6. Indication of whether flowers, gifts, or donations are accepted at the funeral 


Obituary Examples

Please note all examples below are entirely fictional for the purposes of showing how an obituary may be written.

Short And Simple Obituary


John Smith, 82, of Menzieshill, passed away on the 10th of May 2024. He leaves behind his wife, Patricia; children, Kieran and Greg; and three grandchildren. His funeral will be held at 11am on Thursday 30th of May 2024 at West Community Church. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Menzieshill Animal Shelter.


Example Of A More Personal Obituary


Jane Marie Doe, 76, of Dundee, passed away peacefully on the 14th of May 2024, surrounded by her family. Born on January 5, 1948, in St Andrews, Jane was the beloved daughter of the late John and Mary Smith.

Jane graduated from Dundee High School in 1966 and went on to earn a degree in Nursing from St Andrews University. She dedicated over 40 years to her profession, caring deeply for her patients at Ninewells Hospital.

She was a devoted wife to the late Robert Doe, and a loving mother to Emily Rogers and Michael Doe. Jane was also a cherished grandmother to four grandchildren: Lucas, Olivia, Ethan, and Noah.

A celebration of Jane’s life will be held on the 21st of May 2024, at 2pm at St Mayrs Community Church, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Cancer Research in Jane’s memory.


Obituary For When Funeral Information Is Not Available


Samuel Lee Parker, 86, of Lochee, passed away on the 18th of May 2024. Born on the 9th of September 1938, in Bridgefoot, Samuel was a dedicated teacher and loving father to Karen and Mark; and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are still being finalised and will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Education Foundation in his memory.


Obituary For When A Funeral Will Not Be Held


Gloria Ann Williams, 48, of Balgay, passed away peacefully on the 15th of May 2024. Born on the 21st of June 1976, in Broughty Ferry, Gloria was known for her vibrant personality and generosity. She leaves behind her brother, Mark; nieces, Mary and Megan; and many friends who will miss her dearly. As per Gloria’s wishes, no funeral service will be held. Those who wish to honour her memory may make a donation to the Dundee Animal Shelter.


Obituary For When The Funeral Or Service Will Be Private 


Thomas Edward Johnson, 79, of Newport-On-Tay, passed away on the 20th of May 2024. Born on the 3rd of March 1945 in Dundee, Thomas was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Margaret; daughters, Emily and Sarah; and five grandchildren. A private funeral service will be held for immediate family only. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Broughty Ferry Public Library, a place he loved dearly.


Obituary For A Young Person 


Emily Grace Thompson, 17, of Fairview, passed away on the 18th of May 2024. Born on the 12th of October 2006, Emily was a bright and compassionate young woman who excelled in academics and athletics at Harris Academy. She was a beloved daughter, sister, and friend, known for her kindness and infectious smile. Emily remains in the thoughts of her parents, John and Lisa Thompson; her brother, Matthew; and her grandparents, David and Carol. A memorial service will be held on the 25th of May 2024, at 1:15pm at St Martin’s Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Emily Thompson Scholarship Fund.


Obituary For When Someone Passes Away Following Illness 


Michael David Carter, 63, of Charleston, passed away on the 20th of May 2024 after a courageous battle with cancer. Born on the 15th of April 1961, Michael dedicated his life to his family and his work as an engineer. He leaves behind his wife, Janet; daughters, Emily and Rachel; and his loyal dog, Max. Michael was predeceased by his parents, Robert and Helen Carter. A celebration of Michael’s life will be held on the 27th of May 2024, at 3pm at the Broughty Ferry Hotel. The family welcomes flowers and/or donations to Cancer Research in Michael’s name. 


Obituary For When Someone Passes Away Following An Accident 


Jessica Lynn Parker, 29, of Craigie, tragically passed away on the 15th of May 2024 following a car accident. Born on the 7th of September 1994, Jessica was a vibrant and adventurous spirit, known for her love of travel and photography. She is lovingly remembered by her parents, Tom and Susan Parker; her brother, Andrew; and her fiancé, Mark Stevens. A memorial service to honour Jessica’s life will be held on the 22nd of May 2024, at 10am at the Apex Hotel in Dundee. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Brake charity.


Obituary For When A Veteran Passes Away


Johnathan Edward Miller, 85, of Camperdown, passed away on the 20th of May 2024. Born on the 11th of November 1938, Johnathan was a proud veteran of the British Armed Forces, having served in 12 wars during his years of service. He leaves behind his wife, Patricia; his children, Michael and Deborah; and four grandchildren. A private funeral service with military honours will be held for family members. The family suggests donations to Help For Heros in Johnathan’s memory.


General Guidelines For Writing Sensitive Obituaries

While some obituaries may include a cause of death, it’s also common to leave details out. If you choose to include the circumstances surrounding someone’s passing, consider gentler language that can help the message come across without causing additional distress, especially for more sensitive circumstances. 

For example, using words such as “struggle,” “challenge,” or “battle” can convey a difficult situation without explicit details being shared. Similarly, phrases such as “tragically taken from us,” or “died unexpectedly” can convey the gravity of the circumstances without being explicit. Other words and phrases to consider may include “died following a tragic event,” “passed away suddenly,” or “left us too soon”. 


Speak to our team at your nearest James Ashton & Son branch in Dundee and St Andrews:

1, 1a Cardean Street, Dundee, Angus, DD4 6PS

188 High Street, Lochee, Dundee, Angus, DD2 3DN

132 – 136 Hilltown, Dundee, Angus, DD3 7BJ

56 Largo Road, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8RP (Macgregors)

Planning a funeral can be a daunting task, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Your dedicated James Ashton & Son Funeral Director will be there to help you along every step of the way! They will work with you to create a funeral and lasting tribute that is personal and meaningful, and they will be there to offer support to you and your family during this difficult time