Preceded in Death: Meaning and Usage In An Obituary

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what does preceded in death mean

Writing an obituary for a loved one can be an emotional process. While it may help to collect information about the deceased before you begin drafting, try not to spend too much time on this step if it draws you away from writing and grieving. 

The Obituary must summarize the deceased’s life while also celebrating his or her life experiences; it should be written in a positive tone, inclusive of various unique phrases that describe the loved one. 

Here are some examples of how unique phrases and style choices can effectively communicate love and grief in an obituary.

Fans of the TV show Deadliest Catch have seen the phrase “preceded in death” many times, but what does it mean?

An obituary summarizes the life of someone who has recently died. An obituary will also list survivors and give names of family members of the deceased. The Obituary indicates that other family members preceded the dead in death.

You can create an obituary to commemorate a loved one’s life. A good obituary should capture the essence of what that person meant to you, as well as to his or her family. The deceased’s relatives should be mentioned first, if possible. If a family member died before the deceased individual, this would also be indicated, for example: “John Jones was preceded in death by his father, Robert Jones, who died in 1987.” 

Alternatives to the Phrase

People sometimes use the phrase “preceded in death” to refer to a person who has died before someone else, and it sounds a little less formal than its synonym, “predeceased.” Some other phrases that could be used include:

Passed away

The word “passed” is most often used to mean “passed away” when referring to someone who has died: let’s say the recently deceased is Jane, you might say “Jane passed.” They are “gone,” or even more formally, “departed this world.” Even simply “dead” and “deceased” work well in any context.

Previously departed

When your cousin’s father’s girlfriend passes away, and the family isn’t sure which term to use for her in the Obituary, it sounds uncaring: previously departed? Predeceased? In this case, it probably just means they wouldn’t describe her as a “loved one,” but that doesn’t mean they didn’t care about her (and probably still do). 

Familiar religious language

Religion offers comfort and should be included if the deceased has religious faith. It lets readers know the person’s Life after Death is secure. The Obituary shows the deceased is a child of God and has been called home. In some newspapers, the word “died” is not used. Instead, the person’s passing was referred to as “went to be with the Lord.”

Entered eternal rest

This phrase is the more polite way to say the person died. Many religions and denominations use “entered eternal rest” in obituaries. What are we saying when we use the religious phrase “eternal rest”? Some religions believe in an eternity of punishment after death. Others believe in an eternity without pain. 

Still, others believe that the soul is released and ascends to heaven, where eternal life and everlasting joy await. To say they have “entered eternal rest” might mean they’re no longer suffering–in any world. Also, Eternal rest is a reference to God in Christian beliefs. John has entered eternal rest along with Mary as they have passed on.

Enjoyed a reunion in heaven

So many people comfort themselves with thoughts of an afterlife reunion with loved ones who have passed on.

Also, someone who was very spiritual or had a deep faith in another world or a higher power might prefer to be referred to as deceased rather than having died. You can also say that he joined his family members and other departed loved ones “beyond the veil,” which means in the afterlife.

Who should we include in the Obituary?

There are several different ways to define who we want to be included in the Obituary. We could try to include anyone who has contributed to open source work somehow, or people would be interested in only famous people, politicians, and Hollywood actors. So I’m going to talk a bit more about the question more generally…

  • When listing surviving relatives, always list the surviving spouse first, along with the city where that person lives. Use discretion in deciding whether to include those who were not spouses (for example, a partner).
  • Next in the will, you’ll list your spouse and children. If you have children with someone other than your spouse, that person’s name may also appear here.
  • The deceased’s parents and other loved ones occupy a special place on the list.
  • Next on the list would be extended family members. This means a list of grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews in most cases. Sometimes cousins might also make a list.
  • Adding close friends to the list of beneficiaries is a growing trend. They would be contacted after your family members.
  • Many families today consider their pets as much family members as their children. The names of pets are becoming increasingly popular.

When is it Appropriate to Use 'Preceded in Death' in an Obituary?

Obituaries follow a consistent format that has withstood the test of time. Many new obituary writers find this helpful, especially when writing about a deceased loved one for the first time. 

Some people continue to employ traditional phrases when they write about the death of a loved one, such as “preceded in death.” When the terminology feels off for you, you can change the wording and still express your grief.

So, you must be comfortable with the language you use in your eulogy. This can take some time since many of the phrases and terms used in eulogies have been thoughtfully chosen over time to best convey the meanings and sentiments of what’s most important to you.