How to Write a Eulogy

man giving eulogy Writing a eulogy is an honorable and emotional journey. Explore our easy guide for assistance in giving a proper farewell to your loved one.

Knowing how to write a eulogy ensures the deceased will be properly honored at the memorial service. An individual does not have to be a great speaker or writer to deliver an earnest and meaningful message that captures the essence of the deceased’s spirit. The greatest eulogies are brief while being precise. They are selfless and not without the gentle touch of humor. Though you still may be grieving, follow these steps to write a memorable eulogy that will pay tribute to the departed individual.

What is the tone?

How solemn or lighthearted do you want to eulogy to be? Not all eulogies must carry a uniformly somber tone - it just needs to be appropriate. Some writers find a serious approach to be their only option, while others are intrepid enough to use humor. In the right context, humor can help express the personality of the departed and illustrate some of his or her loveable qualities.

You might partially determine the tone based on the circumstances the individual passed away. If your eulogy involves a high school student who met an untimely death, the tone would be more serious than if you were to give a eulogy about a grandparent who happily lived to see their eightieth birthday.

Who’s in attendance?

Your eulogy should be written with the departed person’s family, friends and loved ones in mind. Stay on a positive note, but be honest. If you try to over-glorify the deceased and describe him or her as being perfect, you won’t sound sincere to the audience. Faults show humanity and it is part of what makes us unique. On the other hand, avoid focusing on negative qualities. Allude to certain characteristics gently, as in “Terrance had his demons, which were a constant battle.” The highest level of respect you can pay to the deceased is personifying his or her true character to loved ones. Your words should never shock, offend or confuse guests.

Tell the attendees who you are

Even if you know most of the members at the service, state your name and give a few words that describe your relationship with the departed individual. If the crowd is intimate, you may wish to begin with, “For anybody who doesn’t know me…” or a statement that shows while most people do know you, it is still important to introduce yourself. If you’re related to the deceased, describe how; if not, briefly state how and when you met.

The facts of life

Don’t read your eulogy as if it is an obituary, but do touch on a few significant points. Mention what the deceased’s family life was like, what his or her career achievements were and what hobbies and interests mattered most to the individual:

  • Write down the names and family members close to the deceased. You might forget their names on the day of the occasion if you’re overwhelmed by grief, so it’s advisable to have them on hand.
  • Address something specific about the family life of the deceased; this will pay respect to the family members and make them feel important.

Honor the deceased’s individuality

Don’t simply recite a list of qualities the person possessed. Mention a quality and demonstrate it with a story. It is the stories that bring the person, and that quality, to life! Talk to as many friends and family of the deceased as you can. Gather their thoughts, impressions and memories of the individual. Write down as many memories as you can of your own. Look for a common theme that unites your ideas. Choose themes and similarities that you can illustrate through specific examples:

  • Mention the honorable and unique qualities which defined the deceased. If he or she was especially kind, talk about how the individual organized the largest canned foods drive in town last Christmas.
  • Imagine that a stranger is listening to your words. Would he or she have an accurate perception of the person you’re describing without ever meeting the deceased?

Gather your thoughts

Have your eulogy outlined before you start writing it. Allow your mind to explore all possible areas to talk about (interests, characteristics, biographical info, etc.) and write them down. When you feel ready to write, cover each category in an order that makes sense to you.

Like a story, give your eulogy a beginning, middle and an end. Don’t ramble or speak down to funeral guests. Their ages may range from young children to the elderly, so keep your words clear and simple.

Rehearsal time!

Make sure you rehearse before the big day. Read your draft aloud. If you are able, read it to someone for practice because words sound differently when read aloud than on paper. If you’ve used humor in your writing, get someone’s opinion about whether it’s appropriate or effective. Most writing requires editing, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a shining product right away.

  • Rehearsing your eulogy will assist you in maintaining control over your emotions during a time of grief.
  • Memorize as much of the speech as you can, or even just the notes. This will allow you to have something to fall back on should you forget what you were going to say. Words sound more sincere when they’re not read directly from the page.

Have some back-up

You may feel emotionally prepared to deliver a eulogy on the big day; however, ask a close friend or family member who has read the eulogy to be prepared to deliver it for you in case you’re too overcome by emotion. Though chances are you’ll be mentally prepared, you may feel more relaxed knowing you have extra support.

Give yourself a moment of Zen

Before you speak, allow yourself to take a few deep breaths. Remember that everyone in attendance is there to support you. Have a glass of water or some calming herbal tea with you on the podium to help maintain your composure. Guests will appreciate your efforts and admire you for having written and given a eulogy. There is no failing.

Remind yourself that this is not a speech-giving competition. You’re not there to impress anyone. The point is to convey your heartfelt feelings about the deceased with which the audience can connect.

You’re among friends

You are not an entertainer. Recite your eulogy to the audience as if you were talking to friends. Don’t be afraid to pause occasionally and speak slowly. Connect with the guests and share the moment with them; everyone in attendance shares a loss. Allow guests to absorb your words and let them experience the quintessential essence of the individual being laid to rest.

Speak with your genuine voice; do not act overly formal. Use a conversational tone as you would among family and friends, but cut out any inappropriate language or slang that could be offensive or confusing.

Sometimes when we are overcome by grief, it can be difficult to sort through our emotions and put together a sincere, heartfelt eulogy for the deceased versus an unorganized list of memories you alone shared with the person. If you aren’t sure how to write one, or find yourself overwhelmed, a professionally written eulogy (with poems included) may guide you in the right direction to delivering an eloquent speech. Each is customizable so you may insert personal anecdotes, personality traits, memories and whatever else you would like to say about the deceased.

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