The meaning of “family” has changed dramatically over the last several decades. Now, a family might include divorced parents, unwed couples, same-sex partners, and adopted children, as well as step-parents, step-siblings, and step-children.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Tell the Full Story
- Step 2: Don’t Leave Anyone Out
- Step 3: Consider the Meaning of Family
- Step 4: Talk to your Family
- Step 5: Compile a List
- Step 6: Focus on Main Life Events
- Step 7: Learn How to Write an Obituary
- Sample Obituaries for Blended Families with Step-Children
Within a blended family unit, there are more familial relationships affected by death than just the traditional nuclear and extended family. If you have a blended family, you might be wondering how to best list survivors and predecessors in a loved one’s obituary.
In this article, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to writing an obituary for a blended family, including those with step-children. If you'd like more help through the entire post-death process, check out our post-loss checklist.
Step 1: Tell the Full Story
Blended families come together through living life. People meet, they share their memories, and they love and care for each other. Ultimately, an obituary should strive to accurately portray a person’s life story in a few short words (usually about 250).
Your loved one’s history might include marrying and remarrying, divorcing once or multiple times, adopting children, or other familial events. You should strive to portray the life they led in a positive light, and also lend appropriate detail about such events.
While you’re writing an obituary for your loved one, keep in mind that you’re telling their life story. Think of it as an abridged version. If you have a blended family, the story of how your loved one’s family came together might be a more tangled web. But it’s still worth sharing.
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Step 2: Don’t Leave Anyone Out
Some families and communities—because of religion, culture, or other long-held beliefs—frown upon certain aspects of blended families. Members of your community may not wholeheartedly agree with divorce or with raising non-biological children.
However, you don’t have to leave members of your blended family out of the obituary just to appease the community. The purpose of an obituary is to inform the public of your loved one’s passing, but it’s also to offer closure to your family members.
Omitting a divorced partner who was still close to the deceased, or a step-child who your loved one raised as her own, will likely lead to more feelings of grief than of resolution.
Step 3: Consider the Meaning of Family
A blended family often includes step-children, step-parents, fathers- and mothers-in-law, and even divorced spouses. But to your loved one, “family” might have also included close friends.
When you write an obituary for your loved one, think about how the departed would have defined “family.” In the obituary, you’ll provide a list of “survivors”—those who are left grieving the loss.
In some cases, a beloved best friend will experience grief similar to that felt by family members. If you want to compose an inclusive obituary, it’s important to list these close relationships as survivors, too.
Step 4: Talk to Your Family
Blended families often include a wide variety of voices and opinions. When you’re writing a blended family obituary, it’s a good idea to get input from everyone, if possible. Family members and close personal friends might bring up memories that you may have forgotten.
Each person should have the opportunity to offer a piece of information they might want to be included in the obituary. Since obituaries are limited in length, not everything will get included in the end. However, it can still be helpful to let everyone share their thoughts.
Step 5: Compile a List
The obituary should include a list of family members, including survivors and already deceased relatives. If you can start compiling this list, you’ll be more prepared to have others review it. Additionally, you will be less likely to leave anyone out.
You don't have to include every single relative of the deceased. For example, each aunt, uncle. and cousin doesn’t need to go on the list. Focus on the family members and family friends who are closest.
If the person’s parents, siblings, or other family members have already passed away, you might want to include them on the list as well.
Step 6: Focus on Main Life Events
As mentioned above, an obituary is a short compilation of someone’s life. For some, meeting a partner, having a child, or adopting a child is a pivotal life event. If that’s the case, feel free to include those moments in the obituary.
For example, “Martha’s life revolved around her beloved husband and three adopted children.”
But an obituary can also focus more on personal achievements, like education milestones, career highlights, military service, volunteerism, or hobbies and passions.
For example, “Martha was a dedicated caregiver and a natural-born scientist. She put those skills to use in her career as a nurse for over 30 years.”
Step 7: Learn How to Write an Obituary
Obituary writing comes naturally to very few people. Luckily, you don’t have to come up with an outline or template for your obituary on your own.
There’s a very straightforward way of writing an obituary than can make the task a whole lot easier. If you’re having trouble knowing what to include, it helps to read about how to write an obituary.
Sample Obituaries for Blended Families with Step-Children
Writing an obituary for blended families with step-children and other nontraditional family members is easier said than done. Below are two sample obituaries for blended families with step-children to help spark your creativity.
For Cynthia O’Hare, 62
"Bristol resident Cynthia O’Hare, 62, died April 3, 2002, with her beloved family at her side.
Cynthia’s memorial service was held on Tuesday at Snowshoe Park.
Mrs. O’Hare was born March 7, 1940, in Syracuse, NY to Richard and Phoebe Barnes. Her father served in the military, and her mother was a nurse. They moved to Connecticut in late 1944.
Cynthia had a passion for sports, and as a child, she spent her afternoons hiking through the wilderness with her dog, Joe. She graduated from Western High School in 1948 and went on to the University of Connecticut, where she would study biology. That was also where she met her soon-to-be husband, Marcus.
While their marriage wouldn’t last forever as they’d hoped, Cynthia and Marcus remained close until the day she departed. As a team, they raised their two children, Amy and Jeremy.
By 1970, Cynthia had a Ph.D. in Microbiology and was well into a rewarding career. It was at work that she would meet her second husband, Jerry O’Hare. Jerry O’Hare had two children from a previous marriage—Kathy and Kurtis—who Cynthia adopted and raised as her own.
Cynthia is preceded in death by her sister Martha and her parents, Phoebe and Richard Barnes.
She is survived by her loving children, Kathy, Kurtis, Amy, and Jeremy, her husband Jerry, as well as her close childhood friend, Rebecca.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to St. Jude, a charity that was close to Cynthia’s heart."
For Henry B. Welch, 30
"Henry Welch passed away on May 9, 2018. His final days were spent surrounded by the family and friends he loved so much.
Henry’s life may have been cut short, but he touched the hearts of many while he was with us.
Henry was born on January 12, 1988, to parents Peter and Lucille Mayhue.
After his parents’ divorce in 1991, Henry’s mother Lucille would go on to remarry in 1992, to Andrew Welch. Andrew saw Henry as a son and raised him alongside his own two children from a previous marriage--Autumn and Josephine.
It may seem like a non-traditional family unit from the outside, but Henry’s bond with his older sisters and his step-father was no different than if they’d been related by blood.
Henry’s passion for family continued as an adult, as he added to and grew his own family. He married his wife, Elizabeth, in 2009, and together, they would adopt two children--James and Tamara.
Henry is preceded in death by his beloved grandmother, Judy May, and his grandfather, Earl.
He is survived by his mother, Lucille Welch, his father, Peter Mayhue, and step-father, Andrew Welch, as well as his siblings, Autumn and Joesphine Welch, and his children, James, and Tamara Welch.
Henry’s cherished beagle, Doty, has been adopted by Josephine, who always felt a close connection to the dog.
A memorial for Henry will be held at Christ Church on Friday, May 14th."
Obituaries Are for the Living
You might have heard that “funerals are for the living.” The same is true of obituaries. When you’re composing an obituary for a member of your family, imagine how your surviving family members will feel when they read it.
An obituary should celebrate the life of the deceased and provide notice of their passing. But it should also offer a sense of closure to survivors.