How To Write A Meaningful Eulogy For Anyone
If you’re struggling to find the words or worried about how you’re going to deliver this eulogy, you’re not alone.
In fact, most people I speak to have a lot of reservations.
But like I say to them, take a deep breath, be honored that you’ve been asked, and remember why you’re doing this.
In this guide, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about delivering the perfect eulogy- even if you’ve never done public speaking.
What Is A Eulogy?
There are a number of things to remember if you’ve been asked to write and deliver a eulogy.
These steps can help you write and deliver a eulogy that appropriately honors your loved one and stands out in the memory of your guests.
Write multiple drafts of your eulogy, going over it repeatedly to make sure that it’s just right.
Then practice giving the eulogy out loud with a timer. Don’t rush; take your time to read it clearly and expressively.
Aim for a eulogy that is between five and ten minutes long, unless you are sharing the time with others. In this case, three minutes is plenty.
Do not aim for some stuffy formal voice that isn’t yours. At its heart, a funeral is just an opportunity for friends and family to gather and remember someone they all loved.
You have been chosen to speak because of who you are. So be yourself. Your audience (who probably already knows you well) will appreciate the honesty.
Focus on the positive impact that your loved one has had on you and on others. If there have been sad events worthy of mention, don’t dwell on these.
Consider achievements, contributions and joyful interactions from your loved one’s life. This is the way he or she would want to be remembered.
Tell a Story
The sharing of stories is a wonderful way to connect with other mourners and to help them along their personal journey of grief.
Choose stories that reveal an enduringly positive or endearing personality trait of your loved one.
These stories will be easy to relate to for anyone who knew and loved them. It will also bring warm and happy memories to the minds and hearts of your audience.
Commonly Asked Questions
How Do You Start a Eulogy?
It is best to begin by introducing yourself and stating your relationship to the deceased.
Next, you can thank your audience for coming (if you’re a family member), or express your condolences to the family (if you are not).
How Long Should a Eulogy Be?
Most eulogies are 3-5 minutes. The longest eulogies may be around ten minutes long, but do not make it any longer than that.
In general, stick with a eulogy that is between 500 and 1000 words long. This will take you about 3-7 minutes of speaking time.
It’s a good idea to check with the funeral director about how much time is allotted to speak, since the funeral venue may be reserved for a specific period of time.
Who Traditionally Does the Eulogy?
Most times, the person chosen to do a eulogy is someone close to the deceased.
A partner/spouse, or one of the deceased person’s children, are common choices.
Sometimes, a close family member may be too emotional to deliver the eulogy. In these cases, another close friend or relative may be asked to do it instead.
What Makes a Good Eulogy?
The best eulogies present a portrait of the person’s character. This can be done by sharing memories which are as descriptive as possible. These memories should show what kind of person your loved one was.
Many of the details in a good eulogy will point to a lifelong relationship with the deceased.
You can also paint a picture of your loved one by sharing some of his/her quotes, sayings, values and beliefs.
What Should You Not Say
If you want a memorable and impactful eulogy, there are a few things you should avoid.
One of these is the cause of death. Another would be any faults or shortcomings of the deceased person.
Also avoid bringing up any old arguments, grudges or hurtful actions from the deceased person’s life.
In general, any negative memories (such as rifts, rivalries or bad treatment of others) should be avoided.
Other Common Mistakes To Avoid
The time you spend preparing a eulogy is undoubtedly going to be very stressful. It is a large and daunting task which you have taken on in the midst of your own sense of loss.
Because of this stress, it’s easy to fall prey to some of these common mistakes.
It’s true, you might be feeling so anxious that you actually forget to breathe. Of course, this only has the effect of increasing your anxiety to the point of panic, driving all other thoughts out of your head.
It’s really tough (if not impossible) to give a speech in this state. So take several pauses for a deep breath as you speak.
Expressing No Emotion
You may be so fearful of letting your emotions fly that you end up portraying no emotion at all. But this is a mistake.
Not showing your emotions appears dishonest, and makes your audience more restrained about sharing their own feelings.
Losing Your Place
This is one of the many reasons why you need to practice again and again…and again. Even if you feel confident that you know what you’re going to say in each part of your speech, nerves and emotion can cause you to forget what you are supposed to say next.
It’s completely natural and normal to shed some tears at a loved one’s funeral. However, it’s a problem if your tears prevent you from giving an articulate eulogy.
If you fear you might cry and become unable to stop, the best course of action may be to ask someone else to give the speech.
If you’re feeling nervous, your natural impulse is to keep steaming ahead in order to get it over with sooner.
But your audience needs time to absorb your words. And you need time to breathe and refocus. So every so often, take a brief pause.
Speaking Too Fast
Most of us naturally speak much faster when making a speech than we do in normal conversation.
This can make it hard for your audience to tune in to everything you’re saying. Take a deep breath and try not to rush.
Perfect Eulogy Template
We hear you. Even with all these pointers, you’re still at a loss as to what exactly you should write. The pressure’s on and you have been seized with an epic case of “writer’s block.”
Never fear. Here are all the parts of a perfect eulogy.
In this part of the speech, you introduce yourself and tell the audience how you’re connected to the deceased person.
For example, you could say, “Good evening, everyone. Thank you for coming this evening. My name is Hamlet. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Gertrude’s son. I’m here to tell you about her.”
Create a Short Biography
In the next section of the eulogy, give biographical details about the deceased person’s life.
Start with basics
Where and when they were born along with details about their birth family (parents, siblings, etc.). You could also include major family events, such as early losses or relocations.
Then mention family members that the deceased was close to: a spouse/partner, children, or close friends. This is a good moment to acknowledge any guests who were especially close to him/her, or those who have travelled from a distance.
Other Details To Include
Depending on the situation, there are a number of details you might choose to include, such as:
Memberships in clubs or societies
Where and when they met their spouse or partner
Favorite quotes, songs or poems
Contributions to their community
The next section of the eulogy is for special memories and anecdotes. Feel free to use some humor here (as long as it’s appropriate and tasteful).
This is the place to mention the story of how the two of you used to go out and dance all night long during your single years. Or about that camping trip when it took you three hours to put the tent up.
You could also mention any special qualities or hobbies of which some might be unaware. Perhaps she volunteered regularly at a nearby soup kitchen. Or maybe he was known as a mentor to younger workers in his chosen profession.
The final paragraph of the eulogy is where you offer some comfort and closure to your audience.
Talk about the lessons you learned from the deceased, and how he or she has impacted your life.
Finally, say goodbye to the deceased by mentioning the legacy they leave behind, and how your life will be different because of them.
Celebration of Life Speech
Some families choose a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral.
This is a much more casual event, without any rigid rules about what to say or how to behave.
It can take place at any time, perhaps just a few days after the death, or several years later.
The decision to choose a celebration of life can be based on the personality of the deceased person, or on their final wishes.
Sometimes the family chooses to have a celebration of life simply as an opportunity to gather and enjoy some time together.
Here is an example to guide you as you craft your celebration of life speech.
“Hello. My name is Athena and I want to thank all the gods and heroes who are assembled at Mt. Olympus today. We are gathered here to remember our friend Icarus, and to give our sincere condolences to his father Daedalus and his mother Naucrate on his loss.
Icarus began his life in the palace of King Minos where his father was an artisan and his mother a servant. When he was just a young boy, he and his father left the palace and went to live on the island of Crete.
In his free time, Icarus was working on creating a trail map for hikers who wanted to explore the Labyrinth, a valuable service to his fellow humans.
My earliest memories of Icarus are when he came here to work with his father on the Labyrinth. I still remember his fascination with heights. One day I was talking to his father about his work when suddenly, I heard a noise behind me. Icarus was in the very top branches of a nearby apple tree. I was amazed he could climb up there without getting hurt.
I will always remember Icarus for his love of adventure. He was always searching for knowledge and he taught us that sometimes flying high is worth the risk. We will miss you, Icarus.”
Practicing a Eulogy
If you want to present a eulogy that truly honors the memory of your loved one, practicing is essential. And not just once…but many times
Start by reading the eulogy out loud as many times as you possibly can. As you do this repeatedly, the main points of your speech become ingrained in your memory.
On the actual day of the event, you are likely to find yourself overcome by nerves or emotion. Practicing your speech many times gives you the confidence you need to keep your mind from going blank in such emotional circumstances.
After you’ve read the eulogy aloud to yourself a number of times, the next step is rehearsing many times in front of a family member. This will give you valuable feedback on what parts of the eulogy work great, and which parts may need revision.
Finally, go ahead and time your eulogy. You will want to keep it between three and five minutes.
If you’re still stuck on what to say and how to say it in your eulogy, it can be helpful to look at some examples.
Pick the brains of friends who have delivered eulogies in the past and ask if they could share them with you.
You can also find plenty of eulogy examples online. Here is one online example eulogy which may be helpful.
Once you’ve looked at a number of these, you will have a better idea of what to put into yours.
Finally, here are a few additional tips to help you write your eulogy.
Start by brainstorming ideas
Review and organize the ideas so they have a logical flow
Proofread carefully when finished