How to write a eulogy

A funeral marks the close of a life on Earth, and is the opportunity for friends and family to express grief and give thanks. The service could be simple, or overflowing with music, singing, tributes and attendees. Either way, the best eulogies tend to be brief but specific, thoughtful and not without a touch of humour. If you’re speaking at such a service there are some tips you may wish to consider.

1. Decide on the tone

How serious or lighthearted do you/ the family want the eulogy to be? Used cautiously, humour can convey the personality of the deceased an illustrate some of their endearing qualities. However, consideration must be given about the manner in which the deceased passed away. If death was untimely, tone would be more serious than if you were speaking about a grandparent who happily reached their 90th birthday, for example.

2. Consider the audience

Write with the deceased’s loved ones in mind. Dwell on the positive, but be honest. If the person was well known for being difficult, avoid talking about it or just allude to it gently. Don’t say anything that would offend, shock or confuse the audience.

3. Briefly introduce yourself

Most people will probably know you, but state your name and provide some information on your relationship with the deceased. If you are not related, describe how and when you met.

4. State some basics

The eulogy isn’t an obituary, but you should touch upon a few key points in the deceased’s life. What relationships with family were like, career or personal achievements, hobbies and interests. Find a way to mention this whilst praising and remembering them. Write down the names of the family members you want to acknowledge – grief can overwhelm you on the day and you may forget some. It will be important to the family for you to include specifics about day to day family life.

5. Use some specifics

You’ll need to mention some of the deceased’s best qualities and illustrate them with a story. These are what brings memories of that person to life. Speak to others in advance to get their impressions and memories, write down your own and look for a common theme to highlight with examples. If a stranger listened to your eulogy, would they get a good sense of the person you’re describing?

6. Be organised

Outline your eulogy in advance, and brainstorm your ideas about personality traits, interest, biographical info. When you’re ready to write, give your speech a beginning, middle and end. Avoid rambling, and don’t speak down to the audience. Keep it to about 5 minutes long, max. You don’t want to try anyone’s patience at this type of event.

7. Get feedback

Once you are fairly confident in what you’ve written, have someone who knows the deceased well read through it. Not just for accuracy, but also to ensure it captures their essence. They’ll also let you know if you’ve said something inappropriate, have forgotten something important, or written something confusing. A second pair of eyes will reassure you that this does the deceased justice.

8. Rehearse

Read your eulogy out loud to yourself at least three times before reading it to an audience. It will help you edit words and phrasing to some across better, but also will help you avoid stumbling when you speak in public. Many people don’t enjoy talking in front of people at the best of times, but some practise beforehand will ease your nerves and will help you if you battle your own grief as you’re speaking.

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