Chalkboard with "goodbye"

How to Write a Eulogy

Have you been asked to give a eulogy at someone’s funeral? Are you unsure about where to start or how to write a eulogy? If so, then you’ve come to the right place for advice. A eulogy is a way to say goodbye to someone who has died and share your memories of that person with others. There is no right or wrong process for writing a eulogy. Since each person is different, your farewell for your loved one will also be unique. Regardless of how good of a speaker or writer you are, coming up with a eulogy can be a very stressful responsibility. You might find it difficult to find the right worlds. This is a hugely important job, after all. That’s why we’d like to offer you this guide on how to write a eulogy.

What is a Eulogy?

The first thing you might be asking yourself is – what is a eulogy? Well, the word – when translated literally – mean to praise someone. In our context, it’s speaking at someone’s funeral while summarizing their life and saying farewell. Whether you’ve lost a parent, grandparent, a partner or another loved one, a eulogy can be your opportunity to pay tribute to them, saying what they meant to you.

For the deceased’s family and friends, hearing a eulogy can be an important way of remembering that person and mourning their passing. So, a well-written eulogy should give a general sense of that person’s life and personality. If this sounds like a lot of pressure, remember that the most important aspect of the eulogy is the emotion you put into it

Think about Your Audience

Before you even consider writing anything, think about who you will be addressing. Your audiance is important in determining what you’re going to write.

  • Who are you giving the speech to? Are these family and close friends of the deceased? Are there other people who may not have known the person who passed as closely? Are there any details that you should refrain from sharing in the eulogy?
  • How will the audience be feeling? Will the speech be an emotional experience for them? Would it be helpful to add some uplifting or inspiring words into the eulogy?
  • What does the audience want to hear? How honest can you be about the person you are eulogizing?

These are important questions to consider. Overall, most eulogies will highlight the positive aspects of a person, but it’s also important that the eulogy is honest. Try not to say anything too shocking or confusing, but be sure not to lie either.

Think about the Person

If you’ve read our guide on how to write an obituary, the research process for a eulogy will look familiar. What you include in the eulogy is ultimately up to you, but there are some basic details that most people talk about during the eulogy.

This includes:

  • Deceased’s date and place of birth,
  • Any nicknames they had,
  • Names of their close family members,
  • Education,
  • Military service,
  • How they met their partner,
  • Achievements,
  • Contributions to their community,
  • Membership in clubs or societies,
  • Favorite quotes, songs, or poems.

Though the basic information is important, a good eulogy also includes stories about the person that sum up their life. It can be funny anecdotes, happy or sad memories, or unusual adventures they had. You might want to talk about the qualities and habits which shaped them into who they were. This will help the audience get a sense of the person.

Where do you get all this information? Start by looking around their house, in the photo albums, letters, and emails. Think about this list and decide whether or not you have all the information you need. Before writing, you might need to ask other people for clarification on details or stories.

Choose Your Tone

Think about what tone you want to set for your eulogy. Do you want it to be serious? Should it be more light-hearted? A eulogy does not have to be entirely somber in order to be appropriate. If you wish to, you can add a bit of humor. This can even help you describe the person better. It’s also important to consider how this person passed away. If the person had a long and happy life, it might be more appropriate to include some jokes and anecdotes in the eulogy, as opposed to if the person met an untimely death at a very young age.

Organize Your Information

There are different ways of organizing your information once you have everything together. Some people use mood boards – collages that have pictures, text, other items arranged in a particular order. Other people use a timeline of the person’s most important life-events. Others stick to a list of keywords that describe the individual and group their information and stories according to those.

After you’ve organized, you’ll need to also decide on the order of that information. Do you want to give your speech according to the chronological order of the person’s life? Would you rather begin with their later years and then reverse to their childhood? It might be better to make three key points or choose a theme and illustrate it with examples, stories, and anecdotes.

Structure Your Speech

You do not have to write out the speech word for word, but it can help. Make sure that whatever you write, the structure of your speech also sounds comfortable. You don’t want to end up with a eulogy that reads well but sounds stilted. Remember that you don’t speak the way you write; usually you don’t use perfect sentences. Grammar will be secondary to the actual substance of your speech. So, for some of you it might actually be better to write down key points or an outline instead.

When structuring your speech, the main thing to keep in mind is that it should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s already difficult to concentrate during a funeral, so if you’re rambling, people will find it hard to listen to you. If you keep the eulogy to under five minutes, that will also help.

Briefly Introduce Yourself

The first part of your eulogy needs to be an introduction. It may be that the majority of people in the audience know who you are, but just saying your name and explaining your relationship with the person who passed won’t hurt. If you’re a friend of the deceased, you can say how you met them. You can also start with something like “In case you don’t know me…”

Information about the Deceased

The main part of the eulogy can include the basic information that you gathered about the person. You can mention a few of the key points, deciding which are most important. This might be their career achievement or a hobby that they were passionate about. If you’d like, you can incorporate this information into the speech as you tell different stories. This might also give you the ability to include family members in your speech, especially if they were close to the deceased and had a part in their big life-events.

Tell a Story or Give Specific Examples

The major purpose of a eulogy is to illustrate a person’s character and you can do this by telling stories or specific examples from their life. A common strategy that often works is stating one quality of that person and then showing that quality through a story. Other people may be of great help with this part. You can talk to the person’s friends and family to learn about stories you don’t know or don’t remember. It might also be easier to think of a common theme that connects all of these stories.

For example, if the eulogy is for your grandmother and she was known for being a compassionate person, talk about her work in the community or how she treated her neighbors on one occasion or another. If instead, it’s about your father who was always cracking jokes, tell a particularly funny story. Whether you are writing for a parent, a grandparent, or someone else who was close to you, it may be smart to imagine that you’re telling a complete stranger about them.

Ask for Feedback

So, you’ve written your eulogy; what’s next? We suggest you reach out to select friends and family and ask them to read it over. They will be able to fact check you and also let you know if the eulogy is befitting of the deceased person. Getting feedback can also be good if you’re worried about the eulogy being inappropriate, too long, or difficult to listen to.

The Ending

A simple way to end the eulogy is by saying a short goodbye to the person one last time. Some people choose to end their eulogies with a poem, a quote, or a piece of music. This can make it a bit easier to end the speech. If you decide to do this, explain why you’ve chosen a particular piece of literature or music.

Conclusion

In short, if you’ve been tasked with writing a eulogy, start by gathering information. Then organize and structure what you’ve researched and finally, make sure that the writing sounds natural when spoken out. Ask those around you for help, try to remember stories about the deceased person. Take your time during the writing and for editing as well. Think about your audience, and most importantly; write from the heart.

Sources:

  1. How to Write a Eulogy, Funeral Guide, www.funeralguide.co.uk

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