How to Write a Eulogy Speech

Man giving eulogy in church

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.

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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.

If you prefer a more structured eulogy speech format, use the following eulogy outline to help you:

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.


Attending a Funeral? Take This Time to Think About Your Own As Well.

Attending a funeral is a good opportunity to consider what you'd want for your own memorialization. You can even plan it now, decades in advance, so your loved ones don't have to worry about it later. Learn more about advance funeral planning.



Questions About Writing & Giving a Eulogy Speech

Pen with Paper and Handwritten Note

The following FAQ provides guidelines how to write a eulogy speech, what elements to include, and advice on how to give a eulogy.

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 someone else read it at the funeral service. Deciding who should give a eulogy may seem easy, but can quickly grow difficult. A spouse, significant other, children, grandchildren or close friend are natural choices. The trouble arises when many people approach you about sharing a story about the deceased. It's an emotional time, and while you don’t have to have too many speakers, you may also be afraid of offending some by turning down their requests to speak.

If you stick with family members, that's one way to limit the number of speakers. However, the truth is that some friends may have had a closer relationship with the deceased than blood relatives. In that case, you may want to choose one family member and one friend to speak. The risk of having multiple speakers is that they may share the same memories, but from different perspectives. It's perfectly okay to ask the speakers what they plan on sharing, to avoid such repetition. Each speaker should share a personal reminiscence about the deceased. This should also avoid unnecessary repetitiveness.

If you are asked to deliver a eulogy, consider it an honor. You were asked because the deceased considered you to be an important part of his/her life.

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. Keep in mind that you must respect the time of those in attendance, particularly if the funeral is during working hours.

In order to keep eulogies within the specified timeframe, ask the speakers to write their eulogy speeches in advance. Suggest that they practice reading the eulogy, timing it to ensure they don't run too long. A written eulogy also helps avoid rambling and getting off topic or, worse, standing at the pulpit and having one's mind go blank.

Remember that a eulogy is a speech that praises the deceased, so avoid any anecdotes that would cast an unfavorable light. While you may be tempted to include them, save any funny but embarrassing anecdotes for private conversations with family and friends after the formal service and burial. Which leads us to...

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, and also provide real insight into the life of the deceased.

If your now-departed Uncle Lou was a fan of off-color jokes, however, save the stand-up routine for after the funeral. You don't want to offend anyone in attendance and, besides, you may be giving the eulogy in a house of worship.

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 mourners and guests. Funerals are charged with emotion, and it's natural to have an outpouring of grief.

As mentioned above, it's important to practice the eulogy ahead of time. Still, you can never be fully prepared for how you may react once you start to read the eulogy at the service. Be sure to bring tissues with you in the event you'll need them.

If you do break down, don't be embarrassed. This is to be expected, and applies to both women and men. In fact, a show of emotion simply reveals how much you cherished the person. Simply stop reading and take a few moments to compose yourself. If you find you can't continue, consider having someone else finish the eulogy for you. You might even want to assign a backup reader beforehand.

Sometimes, it helps to have a loved one join you on the podium for moral support. Even if that person is not speaking, his or her presence may give you the strength you need to deliver your eulogy.

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 include a few words on each family member's special relationship with the deceased. If those family members will be speaking, be careful that you don't steal their thunder. Let them tell their own personal stories.

Other family members will be your best resource when writing your eulogy. Set aside time to "interview" relatives. That way, even if they are not speaking themselves, you can be sure to include their memories and sentiments in your own eulogy.

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.

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