How to Write a Eulogy
When tasked with writing and delivering a eulogy, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the sense of responsibility. When read aloud at a funeral or remembrance service, eulogies help those gathered reflect on the life and essence of the person who has just passed away. Listening to stories and anecdotes about the deceased can spark feelings of connection and love for those in attendance. Additionally, hearing these words may help people say goodbye and process their grief. Therefore, it is important to craft a eulogy that captures the essence of the person who has died in a meaningful way, celebrating their life and sharing in a collective mourning that their physical presence will no longer be felt.
When reflecting on your loved one's life, t is common to feel both lost for words and so full of things to say but unsure how to say them. This guide is intended to help those writing a eulogy get the process started.
Structuring A Eulogy
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to eulogies. After all, these words tend to come from the heart. Some may choose to write the eulogy like a letter. Others may decide to go with something traditional. That said, if you need an outline to help guide your process and plan your content, here is a common structure:
- Introduction of yourself
- Offer condolences
- Quote or poem
- Brief overview of their life journey and/or legacy
- Establish a theme or central idea
- A personal story or two that refer to the theme or central idea
- Closing remarks
When deciding on the approach and tone of your eulogy it is a good idea to consider what the person who passed away would want. If this is the eulogy for a jovial, upbeat, larger than life personality, they probably wouldn't appreciate something somber and formal. If this is the eulogy for a young person who died tragically, it might be best to keep the eulogy short and sweet.
Choosing Your Content
Where possible, consider speaking with close friends and family to reminisce about the person who passed away. What are some of their best memories and stories? What will they miss the most? What would they consider to be that person's legacy? After speaking with others, we'd recommend having a brainstorming session. Write down anything and everything you can think of. Even the smallest things can lead to great ideas. Once you have everything written out in front of you, it's easier to see a theme or develop a central idea that you use to write your eulogy. It's also worth asking the family if the person who died recorded their life story, left an ethical will, or journaled. These documents might give you insight and ideas to work with.
Some other questions to ponder as you develop your content:
- What made this personal special?
- What were the highlights of their life? What made them truly happy?
- What did you learn from this person and the way they lived their life?
- What would this person want for their loved ones?
- What story or image do you feel truly speaks to, or represents, who this person was?
Practicing Your Speech
Once you have a draft of your eulogy, share it with someone you trust to give you good feedback. Ask them things like:
- How is the length? Are there too many details?
- Do your examples align with a central theme?
- How does it flow?
- Is there anything missing that would add significant meaning (i.e. a poem, prayer, story)?
- Is there anything mentioned that might offend someone or come across as negative?
- Is it too personal and focused on the writer's experiences?
Once you've received feedback and polished your final draft, it's a good idea to get sufficient practice. It might help to visit the venue where you'll be reading the eulogy. Practice reading slowly and clearly. You may benefit from listening to professional storytellers for ideas on how to deliver your speech. Remember that this is not a performance and it is not about you. Profound insight and exceptional delivery are not the point of a eulogy. Mistakes, nerves, and emotions will be expected and easily forgiven. A great eulogy is one that expresses a heartfelt message of love for the deceased, with stories that remind listeners that they are not alone in their grief. Rather, they are all connected in their shared love for this individual.