How to Write a Eulogy
Most people when asked to deliver an eulogy feel blessed and burdened. Our two greatest fears – public speaking and death – merge when we speak at a funeral service, memorial or celebration of life. Below are some basic principles to help you draft a talk that honours the deceased while comforting the living.
Compile information as if you’re writing a profile. Be sure to answer the W5 (who, what, when, where and why) about the person’s life. For example, where did they grow up? What did they like to do? Whom did they love? Gathering information this way will ensure you build a concise and relevant speech structure that touches on all major aspects of the person’s life. Ideally your audience leaves the gathering knowing more about the deceased than when they walked in. If you cry and smile as you write,k now that you’re on the “write” track. You want your audience to mourn as well as celebrate your loved one’s life.
Balance humour with respect. The most powerful (and enjoyable) eulogies include family stories that are heart-warming and offer insight into the deceased person’s good nature. Funny stories help shed warm light during cold dark times. Do not detract from your storytelling by aiming for hilarity or wild stories. Laughter is the best medicine but not for all people all the time. Those in mourning might not appreciate jokes and the sound of laughter when they are overcome by suffering and grief. Knowing your audience means respecting your audience. Aim for humour that is mild, respectful and used sparingly.
Give a start, middle and end. Knowing your beginning and your end will build your confidence as you practice your eulogy. Your beginning is your introduction so introduce yourself. Explain who you are and how you fit into the deceased person’s life. Acknowledge the deceased person’s family, honour their loss and express your own sadness. As you move into the middle of your eulogy describe who the person was, but avoid reciting a long list of qualities and characteristics. Share stories, achievements and highlights from a life well lived. Remember that some attendees will be learning new information about the deceased so avoid sharing inside jokes, elusive nicknames and private memories. Conclude the eulogy with how you, and all people in attendance, have been enriched by knowing and loving the person being celebrated and mourned. Share how you plan on remembering the person from now on.
Embrace the challenge. Writing and presenting a eulogy might be one of the most difficult things you’ll do in your life; that eulogy might also be one of the most meaningful. You cannot fail up there. Your listeners are just as heartbroken (perhaps more so) than you. You’re sad and emotional, and so are they. If you cry, break down or pause, that’s okay. Take your time. You’re speaking on behalf of the audience. The family has asked you to honour their loved one’s life and comfort those left behind. Everyone listening to you realizes that your task is mighty, meaningful and absolutely perfect. You’ve all gathered to honour a life and offer comfort to each other. Your eulogy puts those loving feelings and peaceful intentions into words.