You have been asked to write and give a eulogy at a loved one’s funeral, but need some guidance as to what to say. It is not easy to write a eulogy for someone you loved as soon as you hear of his or her passing. Below you will find usable information you can apply right now in a step-by-step format.
What is a Eulogy? A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral that praises and celebrates the life of the deceased. Often the eulogy is written and delivered by a close friend or family member and gives details of the deceased’s life and death. The speech usually contains anecdotes and the speaker’s fond memories. A eulogy is a way for mourners to hear about how their loved one was appreciated by other people. It is a way to make peace with the death and to share grief.
Step One: Gather Your Thoughts The first step is to sit down with paper and pen or at the computer and jot down memories, thoughts and ideas about the deceased. You don’t have to worry about the order or relevancy of the memories now. Later you can decide what to keep and what to omit from the final version. This is just an exercise to clear your head, start thinking of the deceased, and to get your ideas on paper. While you are doing this free writing keep the following in mind:
- Recollect stories and anecdotes about the person that were meaningful to you
- Include highlights of the person’s life
- Jot down notes about their accomplishments in life or acts of humanitarianism
- Include information about their hobbies, interests and participation in organizations or associations
- Include poems, quotes or biblical references that remind you of the person or that were meaningful to the deceased
- Think about how the person would like to be remembered in your eulogy
- Write about their death and the events leading up to it.
- Write down the effect their influence had on you and your life.
- Talk with other people giving speeches at the funeral to see what they are writing about. It will help you remember stories and ensure there will be no duplicate material.
- Read some written examples of a eulogy at ObituariesHelp.org.
- Take as much time as you need to gather your thoughts and write your ideas down. Often things don’t come to us quickly when we want them to. If possible do this exercise, then take a break or rest before going onto to the next step.
Step Two: Choose a Theme or Focus The next step is to decide how you want to present the material. If you’ve collected several stories and ideas, you’ll have to sort through them to pick out the most important ones. Remember that people want to hear about the deceased from your personal perspective. Including details of their career and accomplishments is important only if it had an impact on you and your relationship with the deceased.
Perhaps there is a theme or focus that appears in all of the stories. For example, if the deceased had a passion for gardening and you have one or a few stories about her gardens, a theme could be gardening. Another way is to present the stories in chronological order. Include the humorous anecdotes as well as the serious.
Deciding on a focus helps you weed out the lesser important details and keeps your speech easier to write and easier to deliver. The most important thing to do is keep the speech personal to you and the deceased. You don’t have to include all the stories you can think of, just the ones that were the most meaningful to you.
Step Three: Include Poems, Quotes and Biblical References Once you have decided on a theme or focus and have begun to choose which stories you want to include, the third step is to choose poems, quotes and biblical references. Choose the ones that are meaningful to you or the deceased and that relate the theme or focus and to what you would like to say in your eulogy. A eulogy does not have to have these, but including them helps people relate to the stories you are telling about the deceased. Usually there is one at either the beginning or ending of the eulogy. If you’ve found another you’d like to include, put it either at the beginning or ending of an individual story within the eulogy. At ObituariesHelp.org, you can find eulogy poem samples. Free poems are available online for you to choose.
Step Four: Finishing Touches The last step of writing the eulogy is to choose an order for your stories, anecdotes and quotes. Now is the time to make final decisions as to which stories to keep and which to remove from your eulogy. Remember that you will be speaking for as few as 2 minutes to as many as 10 minutes.
To help you decide what to cut or add in, say your speech aloud and time yourself. If you feel it should be longer, add in another story, if you feel it should be shorter cut a story or cut some details from a story. There is no limit to the length of a eulogy; many funeral homes allow as much time as you need.
Your speech will be as long or as short as it needs to be. Look at all the notes you’ve made and sort through them to decide what you will want to keep and what you will remove from your eulogy. Even if it is just one recollection you have, decide what parts of the story you will tell and if there is anything that is better left unsaid.
Step Five: Practice Remember to practice your eulogy several times before the funeral. Sometimes the emotions of the day make it difficult to give a speech, but if you are well practiced, the speech will be much easier to say. Say it out loud to someone and ask them for feedback, then say it out loud again and again until you feel comfortable with what you are saying. Don’t worry about the emotions of the day, if you are well practiced, you will be able to make it through. If you do by chance succumb to the emotion, let it happen, it is perfectly understandable and acceptable.
You were chosen by the family of the deceased to give the eulogy because of your unique relationship to the deceased, your ability to speak or your relationship to the family. Giving the eulogy is an honor no matter how difficult it may seem at the time. Speak from the heart and be honest, in most cases, humor and truthfulness are not only suitable but also appreciated.