Quick Guide to Death Notifications and Obituaries

How to announce the death of your loved one
How to publicly announce a death

There are several ways to announce the death of a family member (or in some cases friend, if the deceased has no family or is estranged from all of his family). They include:

Standard obituary

A standard obituary runs in a newspaper or online and announces the death, providing a little information about the person who died and about memorial services. Anyone can place an obituary, although the newspaper will usually confirm the death with a funeral home or by looking at a death certificate. And of course, if the person who died is in touch with his family, they will normally be the ones to place the obituary.

Newspapers charge for obituaries, based on length. The length is usually up to the person placing the obituary.

Death notice or notification

A death notice is a very brief announcement stating that someone has died. Some newspapers publish death notices for free; others charge. A death notice sticks to the basic facts and doesn't include biographical information. Funeral homes will usually write and place a death notification at your request.

Feature or news obituary

Feature or news obituaries are longer, more detailed obituaries, usually about better-known or somehow unique people. They're written by reporters, who gather the information from family, friends, and other sources. Newspaper editors and staff decide who should be profiled in a news obituary. However, most newspapers are open to suggestions and ideas.

Online obituary websites

There are a growing number of large websites that specialize in obituaries. They're easy to find with a search using the terms obituary or memorial tribute. They generally publish a variety of obituary styles, and they often include other online services such as guest books, where readers can write their own comments and memories related to the deceased.

Most newspapers also publish their obituaries online. Some charge an extra fee for this; others automatically include it when you buy a print obituary. Be sure to ask about the newspaper's online obituaries when you place the print version.

Kate Rauch

Kate Rauch has spent more than two decades writing about health for websites and print media, including WebMD, Drugstore, the Washington Post health section, and Newsday, as well as HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Group Health (in Seattle). See full bio