How To Write A Eulogy
By: Bruce Rule
A eulogy is a special tribute to someone who has recently died. Eulogies typically are delivered during the funeral service by a family member or close friend. Delivering a eulogy can help you deal with your grief through sharing your feelings for the departed with the people who have gathered. It can help ease the burden of your loss. Here are a few guidelines to help you write a eulogy that best expresses how you feel:
Preparing to Write
You should give yourself plenty of time to write the eulogy. Many times the person chosen to give the eulogy also may be asked to help with the funeral arrangements, spend time offering solace to others, and other tasks that arise after a person passes. It is best if you are able to step away from all that and give the eulogy your undivided attention. Try to find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for a few hours.
What to Include in a Eulogy
A eulogy is not a biography of the departed and you should not feel obligated to tell his or her entire life story. Instead, focus on what the person’s life meant to you and the others gathered at the service. Every person is complicated and a mix of many things, so just pick one of two attributes that show who the person was.
Aim for a concise speech that has a beginning, middle, and end. While there is no set time for a eulogy, many are three to five minutes long. That translates into about 750 words. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline. If you need more time, take it. Be conscious that the longer you go the less impact you may have, because some people may tune out.
You don’t have to offer a standard greeting such as “hello” or “good morning” when you begin, but if that would help ease your nerves feel free to do so. You also do not have to introduce yourself unless there are people among those gathered who don’t know you. If there is any doubt, it is best to introduce yourself and describe your relationship with the departed.
Then you should introduce one or two attributes or themes about the departed that you want to share. More than that and each will lose some of their meaning.
You can say simply, “I want to share with how kind…” or some other adjective describing the departed. Or you can say, “I always thought of (name of deceased) as kindest person I knew,”
Sharing stories and special memories about your loved one makes for an engaging and heartfelt eulogy. Think about occasions in the deceased’s life that illustrate the one or two main attributes or themes that you have mentioned. If the person was well-known for some particular personal trait, or habit, or hobby, mention it. Humorous stories might be relevant, but be careful, as humor doesn’t work well on all funeral audiences.
If you are having difficulty remembering certain events or details, it is fine to reach out to others to see what they can contribute. Even so, don’t feel obligated to include everyone’s memories and thoughts. This is your tribute to the departed, and it is best that it comes from your heart.
Try to maintain a respectful tone throughout the tribute. Every person has flaws, and many of us have done regrettable things during our lives. There’s no reason to include the negative in a eulogy. It’s important to be honest, but try not say anything that could put you in conflict with the family. Be aware that if you feel you cannot honestly speak about the departed in a positive way, it may be best to decline the opportunity to deliver the eulogy.
A Good Ending
Finish the eulogy with a memorable farewell by summing up the one or two themes you introduced at the start. You can then end with a favorite phrase your loved one said frequently, an inspirational quote, or even a poignant poem. Leave the funeral audience with pleasant memories and a lasting appreciation of the deceased.
Get Feedback Before Speaking
After finishing the first draft of your eulogy, read it out loud. Not only do certain phrases sound different when spoken, but you’ll also gain a better idea of the speech’s overall tone.
If you can, practice speaking the eulogy in front of a trusted friend or family member who can provide honest feedback. You will be able to tell if the eulogy is clear and if the stories and memories you relate resonate the way you want. You will also have a better sense of which parts of the eulogy may cause your emotions to rise, which will help you when you deliver the speech.
Incorporate feedback where appropriate, and read the draft a few more times to make sure everything fits your vision. If you need extra inspiration, you can also check out sample eulogies for additional ideas.
Tips for Giving a Eulogy
Delivering a eulogy is just as important as writing one. It’s a unique responsibility and you should prepare accordingly, especially if you aren’t accustomed to speaking in public. We’ve compiled some tips on how to deliver a eulogy at a funeral service:
- Practice, practice, and practice some more. The more you practice speaking the eulogy out loud, the easier it’ll be to say it in front of the funeral attendees. Rehearse in front of a mirror or record yourself to see how you’ll come across to the audience, and be sure to make adjustments where you think they’re necessary.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep before the service. Keep caffeine to a minimum and avoid alcohol before the service.
- If you need to, feel free to hold a copy of the eulogy when you speak. It is better if you can memorize parts of the eulogy so that you don’t have to refer to your notes, as this can be distracting to the audience, but referring to your notes is not as bad as forgetting what you wanted to convey.
- Don’t get sidetracked or add something new at the last minute. Stick to your original thoughts.
- If you start to get emotional, pause and take deep breaths to release the tension. Make sure you have a glass of water or tissues nearby.
- Stay centered by focusing on someone in the audience. Try to make eye contact with the rest of the funeral guests periodically.
- Have a support person close by who can take over if you’re unable to finish giving the eulogy.
The Main Thing to Remember
While speaking in public can be daunting for most people, giving a eulogy can help you deal with your grief. Writing down and sharing your feelings about the departed will bring you comfort. Knowing that you captured how you felt about the departed can help you in ways that are hard to describe. In days to come you will be thankful that you took the opportunity to pay tribute to your loved one.
Bruce Rule is the author of Heartfelt Goodbye: How to Write and Deliver the Eulogy Your Loved One Deserves (https://books2read.com/u/m0WBNy), a concise how-to-manual that guides a reader step by step through the process of writing and delivering a tribute to a departed one. He wrote the book after delivering the eulogy for his mother after her passing.Back to Knowledge Center