Survivors in an obituary are the family members and loved ones of the Deceased who are still among the living. It can be difficult to figure out who should go on the list of survivors, and some factors need to be addressed. However, there is one main rule to abide by when crafting a list of names: cause no further pain. Everyone is grieving during this period, and an obituary is not the best place for conflict or grievances. Still, some situations can have gray area:
1. Standard survivor list: A standard list of survivors usually starts with the spouse and children (full, step, and adopted), then grandchildren, then the parents, then siblings, then aunts and uncles, then cousins, nieces, and nephews. Some people choose only to list immediate family members, which is fine, so long as it's consistent. Don't include one cousin and leave out all the rest.
2. What if the Deceased was divorced? If the Deceased divorced and remarried, the current spouse is always listed first. If the Deceased and their former spouse are on good terms, the former spouse can be placed at the end of the list of survivors. If not, the former spouse can be left off the list so as to avoid conflict. There is no clear rule for divorce in obituaries, so it's best to discuss the matter with the current and former spouse, if appropriate. If there are children from the previous marriage, you can simply say, "Carl is survived by his children, Lauren and Michael, whom he shared with former spouse, Karen White."
3. What if there was conflict within the family? If the Deceased had a conflict with or was estranged from any members of the family, the obituary is not the place to take that out. If you're going to list surviving family members of a certain type (parents, siblings, cousins, etc.), it's best to list them all. Leaving someone out can cause further grief and alienation during an already difficult time.
4. What if the Deceased was especially close with someone? If the Deceased was especially close with a family member from a type that was left out, make note of it in a different part of the obituary, e.g. "Laura and her cousin Mary grew up next door to each other and were lifelong best friends." That will give special weight to the relationship without making other family members from the same category feel left out.
5. What about non-family loved ones? Some people make new families out of friends and partners. If the Deceased had a particularly close roommate, best friend, romantic partner, or even pet, it's good to give that relationship a space in the obituary. Young people especially might have a best friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend they would want included. Non-family members are placed after the family in the list of survivors.
Index of obituary templates