How to Write an Obituary Without a Funeral Service


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When a family member or close loved one passes away, you may find yourself in the process of planning a funeral. If you’ve never had to do this before, it can be fairly overwhelming. There are so many things to keep track of. If you find out that your deceased loved one requested that there be no funeral or memorial service, it might be a relief.

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When you’re grieving, planning a big formal event might seem like more than you can handle. But that can open up a whole other can of worms. Obituaries and death announcements often include the details of an upcoming funeral service. But what’s the etiquette for wording an obituary or death announcement when there will be no service?

Below, we provide some tips on writing an obituary even if there won’t be a funeral service held in the immediate future, alongside some sample obituaries for a variety of circumstances where a service might be delayed or postponed.

If writing an obituary is just one of the tasks you're facing for the first time after losing a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help. 

Sample Obituaries For When There’s No Service

There are a wide variety of reasons why people might elect to postpone a funeral service. Some people also opt to have funerals with a limited audience or may choose not to have a funeral at all.

Here are a few examples of why someone may not go the traditional funeral service route: 

  • If a death takes place during the holidays, a service may be postponed until traveling family members return to town. 
  • Family drama can sometimes cause a delay. For example, divorced parents may disagree about the best way to lay a deceased minor child to rest. 
  • Some people donate their bodies to science. Their bodies may be held up during this process for months until cremated remains are eventually returned to the family. 
  • If the world is in the midst of a global pandemic, travel and large gatherings may be prohibited.
  • If foul play is involved or even suspected, there may be a delay in the body being released to the next of kin, causing a delay in funeral planning.  
  • Sometimes the deceased has complicated or specific wishes when it comes to their funeral service. Or they may just not like the idea of people gathering to mourn them and would rather not have a service held in their honor at all. 

These reasons and many others may lead to a delayed service. They may also contribute to a family deciding not to have a service at all. But even if you aren’t having a funeral service, you can still honor your loved ones in an obituary.

Here are examples of how you might word an obituary when there will be a delayed funeral, a funeral with a restricted audience, or no funeral at all. 

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Example of when the service will be held at a later date

On August 11, 2020, Samuel Wilson died peacefully in Parker, Pennsylvania. He was 83 years old.

Samuel is survived by his wife Annemarie Wilson; his children, Larry Wilson and Susan Jones; and brother Martin. He was preceded in death by parents Jack and Betty Wilson and sister Diane Smith. 

Samuel was born on May 5th, 1937 in Parker. He graduated from Parker High School in 1955. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated in 1959 with a degree in Business Management. 

Samuel married his wife Annemarie in 1960. They met as students at the same college. They welcomed Larry in 1964 and Susan in 1966. Samuel was an avid birdwatcher who worked tirelessly to preserve Pennsylvania’s state bird, the ruffed grouse. 

No funeral or memorial service is immediately planned. The family will notify loved ones in the future when a service is scheduled.  

Example of when there’s a private funeral only

On August 3, 2020, Theodosia Williams died in Greenville, SC at the age of 62.

Theodosia is survived by her husband Clarence; her son Marquise; and brother Franklin Reynolds. She was preceded in death by her parents Charles and Dorothy Reynolds. 

Theodosia was born on April 16th, 1958 in Greenville, SC. She graduated from Greenville High School in 1976 before becoming a homemaker.

Theodosia married her childhood sweetheart Clarence in 1959. They welcomed a son Marquise in 1962. Theodosia was well-known in the community for cooking and baking skills. No event in Greenville was complete without one of her dishes being featured, 

There will be a small service for immediate family members only. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the American Heart Association. 

Example for no funeral or memorial service planned for the future

On August 1, 2020, Thomas Davis died in Orlando, FL after a long battle with spinal cancer. He was 32 years old.

Tommy is survived by his parents Gwendolyn and Mark Davis of Sarasota, Florida, and his husband Spencer Givens. He was preceded in death by sister Sarah Davis. 

Tommy was born on February 12th, 1988 in Sarasota, FL. He graduated from Riverside High School in 2006 and went on to attend the University of Florida where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in Marketing. 

Tommy married Spencer in 2015. They shared a love of theme parks that bonded them, and they were married at Disney World. Tommy had a lifelong love of sports and stayed active in local soccer clubs  

At Tommy’s request, there will be no funeral or memorial service. Instead, he asked that friends and loved ones visit a theme park when they are able. Whenever you ride a rollercoaster and feel the wind in his hair, he will be there.  

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Example for funeral delayed due to coronavirus

On August 10, 2020, Heather Padilla died due to complications from lupus in Bellingham, WA. She was 40 years old.

Heather is survived by her parents John and Nancy Harrison of Portland, Oregon; her husband Augustin Padilla; her children, Mona and Jackson; and brother Mark Harrison of Seattle, Washington. 

Heather was born on July 14, 1980, in Portland, Oregon. She graduated from East Central High School in 1998 and went on to attend Reed College where she graduated in 2002 with a degree in Fine Arts. 

Heather married Augustin in 2011. They were high school sweethearts who reconnected at their tenth high school reunion. They welcomed daughter Mona in 2013 and son Jackson in 2016. Heather was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder lupus just after college, but she never let it hold her back from pursuing her goals. She established a flourishing art gallery in the arts-oriented community of Bellingham. The gallery features her own work and highlights local and indigenous artists.

Heather was very vocal about the importance of social distancing during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Per her wishes, a memorial service will be delayed until people can safely assemble. The family has set up a memorial Facebook page where details of a future service will be published when the time comes.

Tips for Writing an Obituary When There’s No Service

Writing an obituary when there is no funeral service planned is actually not dissimilar from a typical obituary. There are many different obituary templates available online. If you’re unsure of how to write an obituary, here are some quick tips.

1. Gather basic biographical information

A typical obituary includes general biographical information on the deceased. It is generally broken down as follows:

  • Paragraph One: The full name of the deceased (including a nickname they commonly went by) along with their date of death and age at the time of death. You may also include the cause of death if you wish. 
  • Paragraph Two: List surviving family members and their relationships to the deceased. Include names of close family members who predeceased them. 
  • Paragraph Three: Talk about the deceased’s early life. This includes where they were born, and when and where they graduated from high school and college. You can also include degrees or fields of study.
  • Paragraph Four: Talk about more personal biographical information. This includes when and where they met their spouse, and when their children were born. You can also talk about their hobbies, talents, and interests. 
  • Paragraph Five: Details of the funeral service. Also include information on where people can donate in lieu of sending flowers.

Typically, the last few lines of a template include the wording you can use to communicate details of the funeral or memorial service. In this case, you can omit the usual fifth paragraph. Instead, refer to the above samples for ways you can word an obituary where no service is immediately planned.

Refer to the above examples as well as online obituary format guides to see the best order to list all this information.

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2. Include photos of the deceased

In print publications, a more recent photo will get the attention of people who knew the deceased. For online obituaries, you can include older photos, too. This personalizes the obituary. 

3. Include ways people can commemorate the deceased

If a funeral is delayed, or no service is planned, you can offer alternative ways to mourn. This may include participating in an activity the deceased valued. It might also include donating to a charity that held personal significance to the deceased. 

No Funeral Service Planned? No Worries Thanks to These Obituary Tips

At the end of the day, it’s not that different writing an obituary when there is no funeral planned. The only information that really changes is the last few lines.

If you have experience writing an obituary, you won’t have to make a major adjustment. If not though, these tips can help you get a handle on appropriate obituary etiquette.

If you're looking for more obituary writing help, read our guide on obituary formatting and how to choose an obituary photo


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