How to Write a Eulogy
Eulogy vs. Obituary
A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral or memorial service praising the deceased. For some, giving a eulogy may be too painful, especially if the death was unexpected or the deceased is very young. In such cases, a family friend can give the eulogy instead of a family member, or the clergy can do so. Even if the clergy delivers the eulogy, he or she will ask you questions about the deceased prior to the funeral in order to offer a few reflections during the ceremony.
While a eulogy is not mandatory, it can be the most important part of the service. Many attendees may not know the deceased well, or may have only known the deceased for a portion of his or her life. A eulogy is an opportunity to share your love for the deceased and shed light on what he/she was like as a person. It also helps those who did know and love the deceased to come to grips with their grief.
A eulogy is not the same as an obituary. An obituary is a death notice that appears in newspapers and online. It's strictly based on facts. A eulogy allows you to elaborate on the life and personality of the deceased.
For many, giving a eulogy is awkward and uncomfortable. You may find yourself rushing through your speech in an effort to get it over with. Fight this urge. Read your eulogy slowly, so that everyone can hear what you have to say. Read on for more tip on writing and giving a eulogy including a common outline structure in bulleted form.
Eulogy Speech Structure
There is no one formal structure for a eulogy. But certain guidelines can help if you're uncertain where to begin. One way to approach it is to write a letter to the deceased. Even if you don't actually use this format for delivery, it will still help you with the actual content. The key to an effective eulogy is to keep it personal, and writing it as a letter helps achieve that.
Other ways to spur memories include looking through old photo albums, reading letters or emails from the deceased, watching family videos or visiting the deceased's Facebook or social media page. This may remind you of an event you had long forgotten or bring to mind acts of kindness you witnessed by the deceased. If you have the opportunity to visit the deceased's home, memorabilia might also bring back fond memories.
When writing the eulogy, it's best to keep anecdotes in chronological order. This will make it easier for you to organize your thoughts, and it will make it easier for funeral attendees to follow your speech.
We all want to feel that we have left a legacy here on earth. When talking about the deceased's life, be sure to include any volunteer activities and community service. This will honor the deceased and also provide a measure of comfort for the mourners.
A eulogy does not have to be in the form of a speech. If you are musically inclined, sing a song or play a musical tribute to the deceased. If the deceased was religious, read a Bible passage or prayer. Was the deceased fond of literature? Read a poem or excerpt from a favorite author.
- Start with opening remarks (introduce yourself and give your relationship to the deceased).
- If you are an immediate family member, thank attendees (especially those who have traveled a great distance).
- If you are not a family member, express your condolences.
- Talk about what made the deceased special, his/her hobbies (this is the main focus of your eulogy).
- Include any personal anecdotes (see more details below).
- If the deceased was religious, talk about his/her commitment to faith.
- Was the deceased a role model? If so, give personal or general examples.
- To be politically correct, mention the deceased's special relationships with immediate family members.
- Offer words of comfort and perhaps a final farewell in closing.
Questions About Writing & Giving a Eulogy Speech
Who Should Speak, and How Many Eulogies Should Be Given?
If you want to share your thoughts regarding the deceased but can't bring yourself to deliver the actual eulogy, consider writing the eulogy but having... read more
How Long Should a Eulogy Be?
A eulogy should be two to 10 minutes in length. This does not sound like much time when you're attempting to recap a lifetime of love and accomplishment.... read more
Is Humor Appropriate?
There's no reason to avoid using humor. In fact, a little humor can provide a bit of comic relief, easing the tension that accompanies funerals and death,... read more
How to Cope with Emotions?
While you may think you can handle delivering a eulogy, you never know exactly how you'll feel until you step up to the pulpit and stand in front of the... read more
Mention Family Members?
Per the outline above, it's a good idea to mention other family members in your eulogy. This is a must if you're the only family member speaking. You can... read more
Remember, it is the ultimate honor to be giving a eulogy speech, so approach it with gratitude in mind. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's also a way to assuage the hurt of others who may feel slighted by not being asked to speak.
When we think of great eulogies, those of famous people often come to mind. That's because these eulogies have become public and are well known. A person does not have to be famous to merit a grand eulogy, they simply have to have been loved and made a difference in others' lives.