How to Write an Obituary for a Brother + Examples

Updated

Most, if not all of us, need a little guidance on how to write an obituary, especially when we're overcome with grief from the loss of a brother—and best friend. Keep reading, and we'll show a few examples of how it's done.

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From quotes and poems to a general structure or layout, we'll help you with both typical obituary elements and templates that you can easily follow. Use what works. Copy what's valuable. You can't go wrong when writing from a place in your heart.

What Should You Include in an Obituary for Your Brother?

In addition to a summary of your brother's life, you may want to include a quote from a well-loved author, an excerpt from a poem, or a verse from a religious text. These short lines can offer readers a more profound reflection into his character or a family's love for him.

Quotes

If you'd like to add a quote to your brother's obituary, make it personal. Choose a theme so that readers can cling to it as insight into your brother's way of thinking or life choices.

Wisdom

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  Confucius

Life

"Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you—and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing else does."  Nick Offerman

Science

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." – Albert Einstein

Inspiration

"Prolong not the past. Invite not the future. Do not alter your innate wakefulness. Fear not appearances. There is nothing more than this." Ram Dass

Poems

Poems reflect on the many long stretches of life and learned wisdom using only a few words.

Formative Years

"Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came."

Wendell Berry

Parenthood

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

– John Keats

Retirement

"The autumn-time has come; 
On woods that dream of bloom, 
And over purpling vines, 
The low sun fainter shines. 

The aster-flower is failing, 
The hazel's gold is paling; 
Yet overhead more near 
The eternal stars appear!” 

John Greenleaf Whittier

Age of Reflection or Wisdom

"This day I breathed first: time is come round,
And where I did begin there shall I end;
My life is run his compass."

– William Shakespeare

Verses from religious texts

Religious and spiritual texts can evoke an internal prescription for embodying truths, spiritual pathways, or even reverence for a god. 

Hindu

"Be equally indifferent to both and abide in the faith of God. That will be so only when one's faith is strong that God looks after all of us."  Ramana Maharshi

Christian

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Buddhism

"Life is suffering." Buddha

Modern Pagan or Spiritual

"Water our blood. Air our breath. Earth our body. And fire our spirit." Unknown

Humor

Not all obituaries are somber. Some intend to bring humor into the moment as if your brother were still alive and cracking jokes.

Western Philosophy

"In heaven, all the interesting people are missing."  Friedrich Nietzsche

Famous Author

"Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee // And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me."  Robert Frost

Beloved Comedian

"Seize the day. Because believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is going to stop breathing." Robin Williams

Baseball Legend

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours." Yogi Berra 

How to Write an Obituary for a Brother

Below are the different parts or ingredients of an obituary that'll help you write a meaningful summary of your brother's life. Because obituaries often follow a similar order of information, you can think of this as a kind of obituary template

Just add or subtract any of the suggested elements as you see fit.

Full name

Use your brother's full name, as well as his nickname or preferred name, as not everyone knows him by the same moniker you gave him as a child. 

Date of birth

Dates of birth help people recognize your brother by his age and give them a quick history lesson by showcasing the era in which he grew up or the times through which he lived. 

Age at time of death

For many, age can be that marker of an achieved milestone. For others, it's recognition of a life cut too short. Add his age, but only if you feel that it's relevant or notable.

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Cause of death

While some suggest a cause of death is an essential ingredient for each obituary, it's more of an older formality. Today, a person's cause of death can be too personal to share, especially in a world of Internet over-sharing. The decision is yours.

Favorite quotes

While not a necessary ingredient to obituaries, many people use these opportunities to let another's words creatively articulate their feelings. Use your best judgment on readability and for placement in the obituary.

Life summary

The life summary section is all about that final byline. You can highlight and recognize anything considered your brother's most outstanding achievements, sharing any critical facts or relevant details as needed. 

Here, you can also include such things as an award history, notable quirks, favorite hobbies, or the number of times your brother made a room burst with laughter. 

Surviving family 

Whether or not to include a list of surviving family members has been debatable as of late due to the unscrupulous behavior of some individuals taking advantage of survivors. 

But don't let that deter you, either. Often, mentioning family members, even beloved pets, can be cathartic for those in mourning.

Services

Burial traditions seem to be changing with every passing generation. So, whether you plan on scattering ashes at the beach or holding a traditional religious ceremony, you can choose to include that in a section about services. 

People will include these as a way to engage others, invite without the act of a formal invitation, or to assure others that while services will be held, that they are intimate or at a later time.

Donations

In some cases, when services will not be held, families and friends call on charitable donations to be made in an individual's name. 

That means if your brother died of cancer, say, you could ask that donations be made to that specific cancer research. Or, if he was an arborist, you could ask readers to donate to a tree-planting movement in Oregon or across Africa.

Example Obituaries for a Brother

Now that you know what goes into an obituary and why it's there, let's get you started on a few templates. Feel free to copy, cut, and paste, using any element herein as needed.

Example obituary for an older brother

Peter "Petey" James Carlson (19442021)

Died peacefully among family and friends on March 16th.

Peter was a lifelong woodsman who started with Woodsman, Inc. at the ripe age of 14. While climbing the ladder of success, he met his wife Clary, married, and lived in a small, hand-built cabin outside Marquette. 

Peter's favorite quote was, "Seize the day. Because believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is going to stop breathing." So, without children, he and Clary took that motto to heart. They frequently traveled, exploring the corners of every state, experiencing every continent but one until just before he retired in 2003.

It was then that Petey and Clary (d. 2011) moved to Florida, where they continued hosting holidays and gatherings for all of his siblings and their children. Although he was an exceptional grill chef, he was a terrible joke teller. And yet, he was an extraordinary and loving big brother. We'll miss you, Petey. 

Family services will be held at a later time. For those wishing to celebrate his life, please consider planting a tree in his name.

Ken, Larry, and Tom – Petey's kid brothers.

Example obituary for a younger brother

Scott Michael Harris (b. January 3, 1975, d. January 2, 2001)

"Life is Suffering" – Buddha

Scott meant more to his family than he ever understood. Please join us as we celebrate his short but beautiful life this Sunday at Meyer's beach. Bring a candle, a blanket, and a favorite story about my favorite little brother and human.

Example obituary for a twin brother

Earl "Clay" Clayton Guiney (19802021)

Clay was well-known as a scientist, philanthropist, and avid fly fisherman. He was recognized as "Most Up and Coming Scientist" and "Physicist of the Year" while creating numerous global STEM education organizations. 

To his family, Clay was also a comedian, and, as he used to say, "my favorite twin brother." Clay never met a laugh he didn't love or a person he couldn't care for behind the laughter. But his heart, though big and full, was also his greatest weakness as he struggled with it since birth.

Clay used to say, "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours." So, we invite those who loved him, were inspired by him, and even those who loathed his success to share in grief together this Friday, February 14th. Services will be held at the Sacred Heart Parish at 10:00 a.m., with a reception to follow at McCaw Hall at noon.

In place of flowers, please bring a smile, a story, and a warm heart.

Example obituary for a brother-in-law

Neil Robinson-Tate, “Chi-Chi”

"The richness, beauty, and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty, and vulnerability."

Today, we mourn the loss of a beautiful human, husband, and brother-in-law. Our hearts are once again empty, losing Neil so soon after Arles. 

We invite you to take part in memorializing Neil's life on Saturday, November 6th. Please join us remotely as we celebrate a beautiful soul who became as intrinsically entwined with our family as only Neil could.

Contact Ted @ Flintoft's Funeral Home for more information and for how you can join us from home to mourn with us.

A celebration of life will be held for both Neil and Arles later when we spend time together.

Where Can You Post or Submit an Obituary for a Brother?

Depending on what's suitable for your brother and your family, there are a handful of options where you can post or submit an obituary for your brother.

Newspaper

For many reasons, one of the most common places to submit an obituary is a newspaper. Not only is it a place of tradition and history dating back to Roman times, but it's also the quickest way to disseminate information among locals. 

Many small-town newspapers charge reasonable fees, even for lengthy posts and a picture, while more prominent publications require a substantial payment regardless of the word count. 

Online memorial website

Online memorial sites offer free and pay-per obituary publications. Some newspapers automatically link to them and list an obituary for a limited time at no additional charge. Other memorial websites have fee schedules to opt for a monthly, yearly, or lifetime plan.

Social media

Most, not all, social media sites allow you to post some form of an obituary notice, whether that's as an actual memorialization or through a series of photos and posts. In the cases that offer posting options, you can interact with others by sharing memories and stories in an online community.

Funeral Homes

Most, if not all, funeral homes automatically list the names of those who pass through their care. Only some offer more comprehensive obituary-style listings where you and your loved ones can determine what information is suitable for the page. 

Often, these complementary services are found in small towns and with local or family-owned businesses.

A Few More Tips About Writing an Obituary

Now that we've helped with the parts and pieces of an obituary for your brother, take a few moments to chat with friends and family. It's helpful to find out more about your brother from those who knew him best. Use their stories to fill in any gaps or support the ideas you've had. 

And take notes. A little bit of "grief-induced" amnesia is to be expected, so you may want to jot a few things down.

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