How to Write an Obituary After a Suicide + Examples

Updated

Writing an obituary may feel like a difficult task when a loved one’s death is expected. However, after the death of someone you love is brought about by suicide, writing their obituary may feel downright impossible.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Take a deep breath and hit the pause button. We’re here to help you through every step of the obituary writing process, from start to finish. Read through this guide for everything you need to know about writing an obituary for someone who has died due to suicide.

Do You Have to Mention Suicide in the Obituary?

Ultimately, you don’t have to mention how a person died. Many families don’t mention the cause of death in an obituary, regardless of why their loved one died. However, if you do want to mention it, there are several ways to approach the situation and numerous alternative phrases you can use. Here are several common methods for saying someone died.

Phrases that don’t mention suicide

If you choose not to mention how your friend or loved one died, these are phrases you can use in their obituary.

Passed away: This is a common and generic phrase to say someone died.

Went to heaven: This phrase is often used by religious families who believe their loved one is in a better place.

Went home: This phrase is also frequently used by religious families to note that their loved one is in heaven.

Departed this life: This is another generic phrase that relays the fact that someone died.

Phrases that mention suicide

These phrases can be used to mention suicide without directly using the phrase “died by suicide.”

Lost the battle: This phrase is typically used to describe someone’s struggle with a mental illness, such as depression.

Lost their life: This can be used alone or in conjunction with what a person lost their life to—such as “lost their life after a ten-year battle with schizophrenia.” 

Ended their life: If you want to share in no uncertain terms that suicide was the cause of death, this is a phrase to use.

Died unexpectedly: This is a euphemism that is often used instead of saying a person died because of suicide. 

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Steps for Writing an Obituary After a Loved One Dies of Suicide

If you’ve been tasked with writing your loved one’s obituary after their suicide, remember to take your time and give yourself the space you need. Follow these steps to write a fitting tribute in their memory.

Gather information and supplies

Writing an obituary for a loved one can be an incredibly difficult task. Set aside time to grieve and mourn as you write the obituary. Don’t feel like you need to rush this tribute to their memory.

Pull out a few sheets of paper and pen, or open up a word document on your computer to start a rough draft. It’s also a good idea to gather information before you start to write.

Information you’ll need for the obituary includes:

  • Full name (as you want it to appear)
  • Birth and death date
  • Names of living relations
  • Names of deceased relations
  • Information about schooling, job history, hobbies, and achievements

You don’t have to include all of these pieces of information in the obituary, or you may choose to add other things such as non-profits they worked for and a quote you remember them saying. An obituary is a method for remembering and paying tribute to your loved one. You can make it short and simple, long and eloquent, or unique and interesting. How you write it is up to you. Simply make sure it reflects who they were and honors their memory.

Write the introduction

The first few lines of an obituary give basic and brief details about the person that passed away. This generally includes a sentence or two structured like this:

“John ‘Jonny’ A. Jacobs passed away on February 3, 2019, at the age of 43. He is survived by his loving spouse Jenny, his father Paul, his mother Kelly, and his loyal dachshund Ben.”

These two lines provide a brief synopsis regarding what occurred. If you want to mention that they died due to suicide, this line is one place where it is appropriate to mention it. A mention of suicide in the first line could read like the following:

“Saul Jo Sampson lost his battle to depression after a 5-year fight on December 12, 2020, at the age of 25.”

Continue with a short biography

After the initial few lines, you can continue with a short biography about the person. Include other relatives that the person is “survived” by and those who predeceased them. Then talk about anything you want your friends, family, and relations to remember about the person. This is where you can write about their:

  • Education
  • Job history
  • Hobbies
  • Achievements

You don’t need to include every detail of their lives, but rather add important milestones such as marriage, major promotions, non-profit activities, and other parts of their life they’d want to be known for.

Relay information about funeral and memorial services

If the family is planning to hold a memorial service or a funeral after a suicide, you’ll want to include details so friends and loved ones know where to go.

Include information including the date, time, and location of the memorial or funeral service if the events are open to anyone reading the obituary. 

If the funeral or memorial services are private, then state that there will be a private family-only funeral service, memorial, or gathering.

Share any special instructions

At the end of the obituary, you can share special instructions or family wishes. If the family would like donations to a non-profit in lieu of flowers, this is the place to note those requests.

Suicide Obituary Examples

Now that you know how to write an obituary, here are several obituary examples to get you started. Read through these for inspiration before you write one for a loved one.

For a parent or grandparent

Gene Logan Stewart, beloved parent, grandparent, brother, and friend died Tuesday, March 5, 2020, at the age of 56 after a long battle with depression. He is survived by his beloved wife, Stacy Stewart, his children, Jenny and Jordan Stewart, and his father, Patrick Stewart. Gene was predeceased by his mother, Melinda Stewart, his cousin, Ralph Peterson, and his uncle, Jerry Stewart.

Gene grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor in Business. He lived and breathed Alabama football, and nothing matched his passion for the game other than his love for his wife. 

Gene held numerous jobs through the years with his favorite being the head coach for his son’s football team. He was awarded Coach of the Year twice in 2015 and 2019. His players loved him, and he had a positive impact on the lives of many boys on his team.

A funeral service will be held for Gene on March 15, 2020, at the First Church of Birmingham from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. All are welcome to attend. 

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to request donations made in Gene’s honor to the University of Alabama’s scholarship program.

For a child or teenager

Our beloved daughter, Stephanie Smith, unexpectedly passed away on April 10, 2018, at the age of 12. She is survived by those who loved her most including her mother, Janet, brother, Blain, grandmother, Pearl, and kitten, Peaches. She is predeceased by her grandfather, Boyd, her cousin, Ralph, and her half-sibling, Peter.

Those who knew Stephanie knew of her vivacious personality, her unique outlook on life, and her desire to help each person she met. She never met a stranger, and she wanted to make every stray dog or cat her pet. Her love for others shined through her activities at the local animal shelter.

Stephanie enjoyed school at Redmond Elementary and Junior High and had been looking forward to starting high school at the same school as her brother. She was proud of her achievements in school and being voted the most likely to become a veterinarian.

A public memorial service is being held in the Redmond Elementary and Junior High auditorium Saturday, April 16, 2018, at 4:00 pm.

Stephanie is being interred in Redmond Cemetery after a private family service on April 15.

If you would like to express your sympathy, we know Stephanie would have wanted to help others, so we encourage donations to be given to the local animal shelter in Stephanie’s honor.

For an adult without children

Alfonzo Lester Simmons, friend to all, passed away after a prolonged battle with mental illness on September 25, 2017, at the age of 31. He is survived by his father, Gerald, his sister, Jolene, and his grandparents, Jack and Paulene Hammond. His mother, Frankie Simmons, predeceased him, as did his grandparents, Alfred and Debbie Simmons.

Alfonzo was known for his love of the sun and surf of California and could often be found riding the waves in Newport Beach. He was a proud member of the Wind and Waves surfing club and helped many teens learn how to surf while they enjoyed the freedom of summer. 

He enjoyed classes at UC Santa Barbara and always recommended the school to anyone who asked. He was a loyal employee of the college and loved being part of the lives of students, faculty, and staff alike.

A private funeral will be held on September 30, followed by a public memorial service the same day at 2:00 pm. Please come to 136 Newport Harbor Rd, Newport Beach, in comfortable beach clothes with a surfboard and a story to tell. Surfing in Alfonzo’s honor will be encouraged after the service, and hamburgers and hotdogs will be available to all. 

Honoring a Life Cut Short

While the death of a loved one due to suicide may be completely unexpected, it’s important to honor their life with an obituary that remembers all they contributed to the world. Take your time with the writing process and do your best to make sure their personality and legacy shine through.

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