What do you need to know about death announcements?
Today, we’ll be exploring these questions and more:
- What is a death announcement?
- Is an announcement of death necessary?
- What is the difference between a death announcement and an obituary?
- The difference between a death announcement and a death notice – is there one?
- What is the appropriate way to inform others of a death?
If you’re unfamiliar with the proper etiquette for how to announce a death, well, that’s understandable. We’ve written this guide to help you know what to do, when to do it, and how to do so in an appropriate and respectful way.
Let’s dive in.
- What is a Death Announcement?
- Difference between a death announcement and…
- How to Spread the Word of a Loved One’s Death
- Death Notices on Facebook (and other social media)
What is a Death Announcement?
Death announcements are small, printed (and thus often paid-for), brief statements informing the public of the person’s death. The key word is announcement.
The purpose of a death announcement is to provide a formal and public disclosure that an individual has passed away. It is also sometimes called a death notice or an obituary announcement.
The death announcement can be placed in your local newspaper, the decedent’s local newspaper, or in a national newspaper. It will include the decedent’s name, date of birth and date of death. The announcement will also typically include the date, time, and service details of the viewing, funeral, or memorial service.
Sometimes, you may want to include a small amount of personal information concerning his/her life.
For a death announcement or death notice, this may include place of birth/death, a sympathy phrase such as “With deep sorrow…”, a religious testimony such as “…went home to be with Jesus on…”, or a note relating to the cause of death, for example, “He bravely ended his long battle with COPD”.
You can also suggest where mourners can make donations or send flowers in honor of the decedent.
How to Write a Death Announcement
Keep the death information message simple and brief. Just highlight the key events and necessary information. Remember, you only need a short paragraph, typically 2-5 sentences in length.
- Start with the person’s name (in full), state that they have died, and mention the date of death.
- Optionally, you can include the location of death (city/state), as well as their birth date (and place of birth, if desired).
- Provide information on the funeral arrangements and location.
- Optionally, mention donation information.
How to Say That Someone Has Died
For many people, the death announcement wording is the hardest part. It’s best to simply say that the person has died, or passed away.
Here are some words and phrases you can use:
- Passed away
- Departed from this life
- Went home to be with the Lord
- Finished the race
- Went to be at rest
- Was taken
- Was released from this life
Related: 200+ Euphemisms for Death
Death Announcement Template
A death announcement message contains:
- A statement that they have passed away
- The date of death (and, optionally, date of birth)
- Optional: Place of death/birth
- Funeral information
- Public funeral: Date, time, and location
- Private funeral
- No services scheduled
A simple template:
[Full name] passed away on [date] in [city/state]. [He/she] was born on [date] in [city/state]. The funeral will be held on [date] at [time] at [location]. It will be followed by [burial and/or reception information]. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to [organization] in [name’s] honor.
Death Announcement Examples
1. James (Jim) Earl Watts passed away on Friday, September 17, 2020. Jim was born on January 17, 1943. There are no services scheduled at this time.
2. Martha Smith passed away on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. She was born on February 10, 1923. A viewing is planned for Tuesday, July 3, 2020 at the Christ Lutheran Church at 10:00 am – 11:00 in Walhalla, MD. Her funeral service is to be followed immediately by burial in the church cemetery.
3. The family of Kimberly Brazer announces with great sorrow her passing on June 28, 2020. Kim bravely finished her 3-year fight with cancer and went home to be with Jesus surrounded by family and friends. A public memorial service will be held at 5:00pm on Friday, July 3, at the Daleville Community Center, followed by a potluck reception.
4. Buddy Elkins died on Monday, January 3, 1998. Buddy’s family will be having a private memorial visitation followed by a private memorial funeral.
5. Geraldine Andersen died on Thursday, December 12, 2019 in Saginaw, MI. She was born April 3, 1980 in Bennett, CO. Her Celebration of Life will be held at New Hope Church in Reese on January 25 at 3:00, followed by a reception. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Compassion International in Geraldine’s name.
These are just a few standard death announcement samples. Notice that they provide the basic information, but do not go into life events or family details. Additional details such as biographical information are traditionally communicated in the much longer obituary.
Heartfelt Death Announcement Examples
If you’re concerned that the more traditional death announcement may sound too cold or unfeeling, and are looking for something a bit softer sounding to convey the death of a family member, consider one of these heartfelt death announcements:
1. [Name] moved on from this world last [day of week]. Though we have heavy hearts, we find solace in knowing that [he/she]’s in a better place. There will be an intimate gathering at [place] to share memories and say farewell to our beloved [name]. Please arrive at [time] on [date].
2. There’s nothing our [name] enjoyed more than a gathering of the people [he/she] loved most, so we are hosting a celebration of life in [his/her] loving memory. Please join us to remember the good times and celebrate [his/her] wonderful life at [place] on [date] at [time].
3. [Name] was an integral part of our community and it is with great sadness that we announce [his/her] death last [day of week]. There are no right words to express our sorrow, but we wish to share a moment of appreciation for a joyful life taken too soon. We will hold a ceremony at [time] on [date] at [place] and hope you can join us.
4. We are deeply saddened by the passing of [name], a loving husband/wife to [spouse], father/mother of [children’s names], and friend to many. The funeral will be held on [date and time] at [location and address]. A graveside service will follow at [cemetery location].
5. It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of our beloved [insert name]. [He/she] joined our Creator on [date] at [time]. [Name]’s life has been a blessing to so many, and [he/she] will always be remembered dearly. The family will be holding a closed service, but a separate celebration of life will be held at a later date for community members.
How to Post a Death Announcement
Traditionally, when you are meeting with your funeral director that is making the arrangements for your loved one, the death announcement or obituary will be discussed.
The funeral director will place the announcement/obituary for you at the newspapers of your choice. Often, the funeral home also has a website and a Facebook page, and they will place it on these platforms for no additional fee. You can also create your own memorial website for free.
Photo: If you would like to place a photo with the announcement, let the paper or funeral director know. There is always an extra charge to place a photograph.
Proofread: Make sure to proofread your submission. If you have made a mistake, the paper will not reimburse you or rerun the announcement for you unless you pay for it. Have more than one pair of eyes look it over. Don’t expect the funeral director to know the information you are giving to them is 100% correct. They will type out what you tell them to type.
Payment: The payment will depend on if the funeral home allows the newspaper to be placed on their final copy of the bill (Statement of Funeral Goods and Services). If the funeral home allows this, you will pay the fee to them. When the funeral home does not carry the fee, then you will have to allow them to give the newspaper your payment information. If you are not comfortable with that, you can deal directly with the newspaper.
Announcing a Death on Social Media: In today’s age of technology and social media, is it appropriate to announce a death by Facebook, WhatsApp, texting, or other forms of social media? This is a question that is asked often, and yes, it is appropriate.
Death Announcements vs Obituaries
An obituary is the life story of the decedent.
For a comparatively larger fee, you can have the obituary published in your local newspaper, the decedent’s local newspaper or national newspaper.
The obituary covers everything from birth to death. It includes everything that you would place in a death announcement or notice plus your loved one’s life story.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Your loved one’s parents, spouse, children, career, marriage(s), and other relatives
- Those who preceded your loved one in death
- Those who are still surviving
- What religion they practiced
- Vocation, education, and other accomplishments
- Military service
- Volunteer or charitable work
- Hobbies, interests, and passions
Ultimately, the obituary covers anything you think is important. Remember, this is the story of someone’s life. At times, depending on the individual, the cause of death may be stated, but it is also acceptable to simply focus on their life and only mention the date of their passing.
But sometimes there isn’t enough space to write it all. Writing a lengthy piece in an obituary will be quite expensive because they charge by the number of words.
If you want to express more of your loved one’s life story without feeling limited, another alternative to consider is to create a free memorial website. It’s easy to set up, and allows you and others to upload pictures, share condolences, accept donations, and much more, all for free.
Death Announcements vs Funeral Invitations
A funeral invitation is a printed (or, these days, digital) card sent to individuals to inform them of the funeral.
Not everyone uses a funeral invitation. Often the death notice also serves as the invitation to the funeral or memorial service. Most typically, people are informed by word of mouth, social media, or a public obituary announcement.
However, if you want to make it a more formal and private occasion, or if you have relatives living out of state that you would like to tell in a more formal way, then an invitation is the right way to go.
Private Funerals & Memorials
A private funeral or other event will take a little more planning than a public invitation via obituaries or death announcements. With a private service or ceremony, you will be inviting a set number of people and more than likely planning a post-funeral meal.
Families often use a formal funeral invitation for a private gathering. This is the best way to keep people away that you don’t want to attend the funeral. If you don’t have an invitation, then you can’t enter. That is how it is at a wedding; you can apply the same idea to a funeral.
Death Announcement Cards
This is the sort of announcement you may send to distant relatives or work colleagues. Some may even send these out to clientele of the decedent.
In the past, death announcement cards were not typically sent to close family or friends. However, especially with the rise of the “Celebration of Life” trend towards creating a celebratory atmosphere, they have become more common.
You may wish to include a photo on the front, and on the inside you can place the date on which funeral took place. You perhaps might even make a suggestion of where a memorial contribution may be made.
How to Spread the Word of a Death
Even before the announcement of death has made it to print, you will want certain people to know a death has occurred.
- Phone call. This is the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. Most people will simply pick up the phone. You will call your close family members and friends to alert them that your loved one has passed.
- Text. Send out a mass text. Find everyone in your phone contacts that you may want to get in touch with and let them all know at one time. You can let as few or as many know at one time.
- Create a chain of people. You call two or three people, let them call two or three people and so on. Soon, everyone that you have contact with will know of your loss. It helps to let someone take on some of the burden at this time. Don’t be afraid to ask for support.
- Post on social media. As with most major life events (engagements, births, etc) most people communicate directly by phone or text with their closest handful of friends and family. After that, the news goes to social media. More on that next…
Memorialize Your Loved One with a Free Website
Did you know that you can create a website to honor your loved one’s life for free? We’ve curated a list of the 10 best platforms that allow you to share obituaries and photos, announce funeral details, accept funeral donations, and where friends and family can post condolences and memories. Find the perfect memorial website here.
How to Inform Someone of a Death by Text
Sending a death announcement via text message can be intimidating. It can feel extremely impersonal and informal, especially when done en masse, but a text is simply another form of communication. In some instances, texting the sad news of a friend or loved one’s death may be a necessary step.
The message you send doesn’t have to be lengthy. In fact, it’s best if it is kept short, just like a traditional, printed death announcement. You can be less formal if you wish, and frame it in a way that feels as though you are speaking with a friend (since that’s often the case). Here is an example:
“I wish it were under brighter circumstances that I am reaching out to you, but I need to inform you that our dear [insert name] has passed away. Our hearts are extremely heavy as he/she will be deeply missed. The funeral will be held on [date and time] at [location and address]. A graveside service will follow at [cemetery location].”
Since those whom you are sending the message to will likely be more closely acquainted with the decedent, details like birth year and location, cause of death, etc. don’t need to be included. If the recipient would like more information, they can reply or reach out to you over the phone.
How to Inform Someone of a Death by WhatsApp
Making a death announcement via WhatsApp is very similar to informing someone by text message. It can be kept brief and more informal, but the main difference would be whether you decide to include funeral arrangements and times.
Since WhatsApp is generally used to communicate with those in other countries, the recipient would not be able to attend in many instances, making the additional information unnecessary.
How to Inform Someone of a Death in Writing
Though it’s more rare, there are still instances in which death announcements in the form of a hand written letter are necessary. You may have lost contact with a friend or family member that doesn’t maintain social media, and all you have left is an old address scratched on a scrap piece of paper.
Since a hand written letter is a more intimate form of communication, you can expound a bit more (if you wish) on the decedent’s life and death, express your sympathy and shared sorrow, or even share a memory. You can also include a newspaper clipping of the official announcement with the letter.
Death Announcements on Facebook
Here is one frequently asked etiquette question: “Is it appropriate to announce a death on Facebook?”
The answer is yes, by all means. Facebook and other social networks have become so ubiquitous that there is no longer any concern about communicating important information on social media.
Aside from the few phone calls or texts to your very closest friends and family, Facebook has become the primary way people of a certain demographic find out about major life (or in this case, death) events. For others, it’s Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok, or any number of social media platforms.
The amount of people that will read the notice online far outnumbers the people that will read it in the newspaper. Plus, it is much more affordable because it is free.
If you have a link to an online obituary, simply post it to your social media page. If you want to write a brief death notice, follow the guidelines above and simply post it on your account. You can also copy and paste in the full obituary, or write a new one for your social media contacts and friends.
If you have access to your loved one’s account, you can do so there as well. However, we recommend posting the death notice from your account first so that the decedent’s friends and contacts don’t suspect that the account has been hacked or compromised.
Facebook also allows the option to “memorialize” a person’s social media account. Learn more at Facebook’s Help Center.