A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral. The purpose of the eulogy is to tell the life story of the deceased. Being asked to write a eulogy is a great honour, but it can also feel like a big responsibility.
Many people worry they won’t be able to summarise a whole life into just a few pages of writing. Others become nervous about the thought of speaking in front of everyone at the funeral.
At Bethel, we help many people through the remembrance process of eulogy writing. We have complied our top tips for eulogy writing to help you feel more confident about this task.
Tip 1 – Talk with others
Before you begin writing the eulogy, have lots of chats with people who knew the deceased. Collect facts and stories about your loved one and start to jot down a few details about names dates and places.
Sharing the responsibility for the eulogy can help you feel less isolated during the writing process.
Tip 2 – Make a start
Once you know when the funeral will be it is important to make a start on the eulogy writing. Don’t keep putting it off. Be brave and leap in.
Use the resources you are most comfortable with: pen and paper, a computer or even the voice recorder on your phone.
You can begin with brain storming, or mind mapping, exercises. These can help bring thoughts and memories to the surface of your mind.
Tip 3 – Take a balanced approach
Don’t be too harsh on your efforts. Try not to judge your own writing. Just let it all flow on, you can correct the details later.
Find a space where you are least likely to be interrupted. Set aside one hour each day and write steadily. Turn your phone off, silence the notifications on your computer and immerse yourself in the task.
Make sure you take a break and enjoy some down time between writing sessions. Preparing a eulogy can be an emotional task, remember to take a balanced approach and ask for help when you need it.
Tip 4– Include stories
Don’t present the events of your loved one’s life as a list. Instead, try to share two or three stories from different stages of their life. These stories will help everyone remember the happy times, and can provide a great insight into the sort of person your loved one was.
Sharing stories about the deceased is an important part of the grief journey. Ask the relatives, neighbours and work colleagues for stories about your loved one you can use in the eulogy.
Our How to Plan a Funeral article includes further advice on what to include in a eulogy.
Tip 5 – Include poems and readings
If you are finding it hard to express emotions in your own words, include a poem or reading to represent the way you feel. Scripture readings, song lyrics and excerpts from books or movies all work well as powerful expressions of love in funeral speeches.
Think about quotes from the people your loved one most admired. You might be able to include a favourite quotation or saying to personalise your speech.
If you are unsure of what to include, our article Funeral Poem and Readings features a selection for you to choose from.
Tip 6 – Be kind
A eulogy is not the place to mention old grudges or highlight questionable behaviour. Focus on describing uplifting experiences and positive memories.
You can certainly include gentle humour in your speech, but it is important to keep the tone and the content of a eulogy respectful.
Tip 6 – Be prepared
Public speaking can be a nerve-wracking experience. Prepare carefully and give yourself the best chance to present the eulogy in a manner that makes you, and others, feel proud.
At home, set the timer on your phone and read your memorial speech aloud. Try to aim for between five and fifteen minutes in duration. Make sure your speech is not too brief, or too long and rambling.
Ask a close friend to listen to your speech and provide feedback on your tone of voice, pronunciation and whether your meaning is clear.
Print the eulogy in a large font, double-spaced and single-sided. Staple the pages together so they don’t get muddled up on the day.
Tip 7 – Just be yourself
You have been asked to write and present the eulogy because of the person you are. There is no need to feel you must suddenly become a charismatic host, or a loud comedian, if that is not your style.
The audience you are standing in front of know and support you. Draw strength from the knowledge that you are doing something to honour the deceased. Think about how proud your loved one would be to know you are making this contribution to the remembrance process.
Tip 8 – Emotion is natural
Presenting a eulogy can be an emotional experience. Think about how you will manage yourself if you do become upset. If you need to pause and take a few deep breaths, do so. Keep your tissues handy and have a glass of water nearby.
If you are feeling nervous you can ask a friend or relative to stand next to you for moral support. Remember, no one is judging your performance. Your words are all that really matter.
Writing a eulogy is one of the many tasks to be completed before a funeral. Our free downloadable brochure, Planning a Funeral, features advice on all aspects of funeral arrangements.