Writing a eulogy may seem like an overwhelming task in the days following a loved one’s passing, but it is a great honor and a final act of love you can perform for your loved one and for all the guests at the funeral. You don’t have to be an incredible writer to capture the spirit of the deceased, nor do you have to be an accomplished public speaker to deliver a moving eulogy. It’s important to sprinkle in a bit of humor to help ease tensions and make the delivery flow more easily. Keep it brief and heartfelt and use specific examples and stories about the deceased.
First, take some time to reflect on memories of your loved one—take down notes about the deceased’s personality and life accomplishments, review their resume, or flip through photo albums. Then ask friends and relatives for their memories and to verify areas of your loved one’s life. Eulogies can either be short biographies that reflect the person’s whole life or personal reflections of a special relationship or a funny or poignant episode about your loved one. There may be a chance to present both types of eulogies during the funeral, such as a succinct biography from the officiant with personal remembrances from family members and friends.
Successful eulogies have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Start with an opening to welcome those who have come to the memorial, summarize the theme of your eulogy, or take stock of the person’s life. The middle section can convey your loved one’s character traits or provide personal memories and stories that illustrate the major parts of the person’s life. You can use verses from scripture, famous quotes, or poems to portray your loved one’s tastes, personality, or legacy. The closing can restate the theme, express the strong emotions around the loss, or encapsulate the person’s lasting legacy.
Once you have a first draft, leave it alone for a few hours or a few days so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s important to read the eulogy aloud to hear where you stumble or where it sounds rough or unnatural. Make revisions and additions as necessary. Continue reading additional drafts aloud so you become comfortable with giving the eulogy. Use a timer as you practice and keep it under ten minutes to maintain the audience’s attention. For more helpful tips, read this article from The Pen Company.
If you’re nervous, it helps to know that the people listening at the funeral or celebration of life will be exceptionally supportive and forgiving of any mistakes. Most people will be grateful that you accepted the privilege of presenting the eulogy, which honors the memory of your loved one, provides a great service to those who listen, and begins the healing process.