When a loved one passes away, immediate family members suddenly find themselves in the position of needing to write an obituary and take care of funeral matters. Regardless of whether the person’s death was expected or not, very little can prepare family members for the number of responsibilities they must take on as a result.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is There a Difference in the Timing When You Post an Obituary Online vs. a Newspaper?
- What Can You Do If You Feel Like You Waited too Long to Submit an Obituary?
One of the most important items on a to-do list is posting an obituary. Along with other funeral arrangements, an obituary is one of the most time-sensitive. If you want to publish an obituary in a newspaper, you must follow certain timelines. The same rule goes for online obituaries.
Whether you’re still wrapping your mind around how to write an obituary or you’re ready to submit an obituary to a newspaper, here is a quick look at expected timelines so you know the answer to “When are obituaries posted?”
Is There a Difference in the Timing When You Post an Obituary Online vs. a Newspaper?
The most important distinction to make when posting an obituary is whether you’re going the traditional route through a newspaper or you’re posting online. Both require different timelines and steps to complete the process.
For both online and newspaper obituary posts, you should try and publish within a week after the death of your loved one. If the obituary has funeral notifications such as the location and timing of the funeral, you should post at least three days prior to the funeral. Any less than that and local friends and family may not be able to make arrangements in time to get time off of work or to find a babysitter.
If you’re posting online, you can generally plan the day you want it uploaded and post it on the same day. If you want the obituary to post five days prior to the funeral, then you can submit it on that day. Some online memorial sites or funeral homes that host online obituaries will check your post to ensure accuracy but the biggest delay you should expect when posting online is a maximum of a few hours.
When posting an obituary notice in the newspapers, however, there is a more strict timeline to keep in mind. Once you’ve determined which newspapers you want to publish your loved one’s obituary in, the next step is checking with the newspaper website or office for specific directions regarding submission.
Unlike online publications, physical newspapers plan their layout and inserts days to a week in advance. Determine when you need to submit your obituary notice and relevant information for proof of death such as a death certificate or funeral home information. Newspapers check to ensure accuracy regarding the notice and the funeral time and location.
Each newspaper will have its own requirements for deadlines. Smaller newspapers might be able to take your obituary notice for publication just a day prior, whereas larger, national newspapers might require a week’s advance notice before going to print.
Determine where you want the obituary posted, then visit the newspaper’s website or call the obituary editor for specific instructions regarding the timeline for submissions.
What Can You Do If You Feel Like You Waited too Long to Submit an Obituary?
If you feel like too much time has passed to post an obituary, there are several places where you can post both for the sake of announcement and for commemoration. Here are several options.
Social media forums are seen as a place to discuss life and commemorate it. It’s not uncommon to see obituaries posted on behalf of a loved one even a year after their death. If the funeral already passed and you want to post an obituary to honor a loved one, social media is an excellent place to do so.
There are very few “rules” when it comes to social media obituaries. Since you’re posting a notice on your own page, you can take as long as you want to create it. You can even post a video obituary if you feel like doing more than writing about your loved one.
Online memorial sites
Online memorial sites are another place where you are often allowed to post obituaries long after your family member has passed away. Memorial sites host obituaries for the sake of memorializing a loved one.
There are no time restrictions to post on many sites and, as opposed to most newspapers, most online memorial sites allow you to post a free online obituary. Whether you waited too long to post in a newspaper or you need a budget-friendly and shareable method of posting, online memorial sites are an excellent option.
Some online memorial sites provide the possibility to upgrade your obituary. If you want to post a video or host a photo book along with the obituary notice, a small upgrade often provides you with customization options unavailable in the free version. Most upgrade fees are still budget-friendly and cost significantly less than a newspaper entry.
In addition to hosting video clips and photographs, upgrades can also include the ability to password protect the obituary page for your loved one. If privacy is an important factor, password protection alone might make the optional upgrade worth it.
If you have your own personal blog, you can use that platform to inform your readers about the passing of your loved one. Many bloggers use their sites as a place to talk about and reflect on life. Since your blog is a place to post what is on your mind, you can use this to write a tribute to your loved one.
In addition to obituary wording, many sites support video hosting, making it possible to post a video tribute about your family member. Extend the post by telling your readers about several memories you have of your loved one and what the person meant to you.
Tips for Speeding Up the Obituary Writing Process
Writing an obituary can feel like an art form and many people wonder where to start. With a time crunch at hand, how can you write an obituary that pays tribute to your loved one and still submit on time?
Make a timeline
When writing an obituary, make a rough timeline of the person’s life. Include all the major events that you can think of, including college attendance, marriage, children’s births, and major awards or achievements.
When writing the obituary, consult the timeline to ensure you include everything important.
Ask for help
Ask a close relative to read over the obituary you wrote and fix grammatical or timeline mistakes.
A second pair of eyes can help catch mistakes and make sure everyone was included who should be such as those who preceded in death and the names of family who are still living.
Have a relative call the newspaper and gather all necessary information required for publishing the obituary you write.
Delegating this step can save you a lot of time and help you focus on writing the obituary. Let someone else figure out what information the newspaper needs in order to publish, how much it costs, and the deadline date for submission.
Use a template
If you’re running into a serious time crunch, consider using an obituary template to make the writing process easier.
Templates have most of the wording prefilled, leaving slots open where you can enter the name and dates of the person, names of those who preceded in death, and funeral arrangements. Microsoft Word and many online memorial websites provide free templates you can download and edit.
Remembering Loved Ones
An obituary is an opportunity to remember loved ones, show the world a brief glimpse of their life, and give friends and family the opportunity to reminisce and show respect. Whether you post this tribute in a paper or online, the most important piece to the puzzle is letting your love, respect, and admiration for your family member shine through.
If you're looking for more obituary writing help, read our guides on the difference between a death notice and an obituary and how to write an obituary for a teenager.