Being asked to deliver the eulogy is a great honor and a memorable way to participate in a funeral service. You have the opportunity to reflect on the life of the deceased and use your words to highlight the important legacy they have left behind. While many people can feel uncertain or nervous about writing and delivering a eulogy, you should know that most people attending a funeral are loving and sympathetic toward those who are speaking. As long as the eulogy is done out of love and kindness it will usually be well received by the audience.
The most important thing to remember when preparing the eulogy is to highlight the life of the deceased and focus on what was important to them. You may feel nervous and anxious at the idea of public speaking, but keep in mind that people are there to mourn a loss and not to focus on your ability to deliver the eulogy. While you want to take the role seriously, you can give yourself some grace and know you do not have to be perfect. We have provided some helpful steps to follow are you prepare and write the eulogy.
Step 1: Collect memories and stories about the deceased
People love to hear stories and learn new things about those we’ve lost, especially from different time periods in their life. While you begin working on the eulogy, it might be helpful to speak with friends and family to collect any memories and stories they wish to share with you. Make notes and document things as you go along, and use this information to frame an outline of the deceased’s life and which pieces you would like to share.
Step 2: Start writing and allow the ideas to flow
It can feel intimidating to begin writing a eulogy and you may not know where to begin. The best advice for this stage is just to start brainstorming everything you think of and get your ideas down in writing. Remember that it does not have to be perfect at this point and you will be editing your words through the process. Include everything you think of and do not remove anything because you never know which ideas may turn into something wonderful for the final eulogy. You are trying to highlight the special things about the person you’ve lost, so think about what stories, memories, food, music, or other things you associate with them. Ideally you can find mental images and stories that help show the audience the personality of the deceased and paint a picture of the life they lived.
Step 3: Identify a theme
As you begin to brainstorm, you may start to identify that the stories and memories you’ve compiled all share a common theme that you can use for the eulogy. Ideally you will find a way to piece together the life of the deceased into a cohesive story. Do not put pressure on yourself to find some kind of deeper meaning from the death or try to rationalize it in some way. It is okay to simply recognize and celebrate the life that was lived as you come together to share memories and grieve together.
There may not be an obvious theme, but you can answer questions about the deceased to help identify some common elements. You may also find it helpful to look to quotes, prayers, scripture or other readings for inspiration on what to say. Beginning a eulogy with a meaningful reading can help frame the theme and help fit the stories and memories together. Do not add unnecessary stress if you are unable to find a theme. Remember it is enough to simply share fond memories and highlight the life of the deceased as you come together to remember them.
Step 4: Put the pieces together
Once you have a variety of memories and stories to share and have brainstormed a main outline of the eulogy, it is time to write what you are actually going to say. The best eulogies are written as the person would normally speak, without using overly complicated or flowery language. Your goal is to express your thoughts and feelings in a way the audience can understand and appreciate.
The eulogy should provide comfort and be respectful. This is not the time to bring up any unresolved problems or drama. While people should work through these issues on their own terms privately, it is not appropriate to bring them up at the funeral. Try to keep things positive and focus on the positive things about the deceased’s life. You may need to take several breaks and work on the eulogy over multiple work sessions when you have a fresh perspective and a clear head.
Step 5: Revise and Finalize
Read through your eulogy with a pair of critical eyes and make sure it makes sense. Make sure you have included any important milestones in the person’s life, such as graduations, weddings, children being born, military service, or other memorable events. You should also try to avoid using too many details if something bogs down the eulogy or makes it overly long. It is also a good idea to avoid including any questionable topics or jokes that may not carry well in a mixed audience or be too sensitive to discuss in public. It can be helpful to have another person read the eulogy before you finalize things. Most importantly, remember that the deceased is the main focus of the eulogy and make sure your writing reflects that.
Step 6: Practice
After you have finalized the writing and are happy with your eulogy, you should read it out loud multiple times. You may even consider reading it to other people to get their feedback before the funeral. You should know what you have written well enough to be able to look up from your paper and engage with the audience occasionally while you deliver the eulogy. Check the timing to make sure the eulogy is an appropriate length, usually about 15 minutes long.
Step 7: Delivering the eulogy
On the day of the funeral, confirm you have a printed copy of your eulogy in a font that is large enough for you to easily read it. You may want to have a bottle of water, a cough drop, and some tissues handy as well. You will generally be standing at a podium that can be stocked with these items. Make sure to speak clearly and slowly and do not rush through the eulogy. Make eye contact with the family members and audience occasionally, and try to connect with them. Do not feel embarrassed if you show emotion or need to take a break to collect yourself. Overall, remember that people are there to pay respects and remember the deceased. Delivering a great eulogy will help create a meaningful and memorable experience for everyone.