Writing a Eulogy

A eulogy is a speech or piece of writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a person who has recently died. It is often the centrepiece of a funeral and traditionally marks the conclusion of the grieving period following someone's death.

Whether it's a eulogy for a Dad, a eulogy for a Mum, a eulogy for a friend or for another loved one, each eulogy pays tribute to the deceased as a unique individual with special gifts and talents whose memory will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him or her. Above all, a well-written and delivered eulogy provides a special focal point for family and friends as they say their goodbyes and acknowledge how that person touched their lives.

Writing a eulogy is a great honour

Being asked to write or deliver a eulogy is a great honour and responsibility. A eulogy can be long or short, brief or detailed. The key to its success is that it should reflect the uniqueness of the deceased's life, be written and delivered from the heart, and that it should resonate with the attending mourners.

For anyone who feels nervous or apprehensive about the task, the first thing to do is focus on the life of the person who has died and remember that the other mourners will be 'on your side' and supportive when you deliver the eulogy.

Start preparing for your task by considering the following:

  • Who will deliver the eulogy
  • Who are the audience? It can help if you imagine speaking to one person
  • Consider asking someone else to deliver the eulogy for you

How to write a eulogy: tips for planning and writing

Writing successful eulogy speeches (think 'funny, poignant and loving') involves a few key stages, several of which will be familiar to anyone who already writes for leisure or business:

  1. Seek inspiration (music, photographs or special places)
  2. Reflect on the subject of the eulogy (just think about the person and their life)
  3. Capture ideas without censoring anything (memories, quotations and episodes)
  4. Write a first draft (don't edit as you go, just write whatever comes to mind)
  5. Let your first draft rest (at least overnight; maybe for a few days)
  6. Revise and polish the eulogy (probably with several drafts)
  7. Read it aloud to yourself
  8. Practice delivering it to a trial audience

Always start your writing from your personal perspective and personalise your eulogy. Every one of us is a special, unique individual; there's no place for a generic eulogy. And do not be afraid to introduce little touches of weakness or eccentricity affectionately; they'll add valuable balance to the overwhelmingly strong and positive aspects of your subject's life.

How to write a eulogy: a suggested structure

Here's a possible structure to consider when writing a eulogy:

  1. Introduce the person by name and their relationship to you
  2. State when they were born (and maybe where)
  3. State when they died (and maybe where)
  4. Explain (and 'show') why they mattered to you
  5. Tell stories that are uniquely personal to the two of you
  6. Share a story that you have gleaned from someone else
  7. Show how he or she changed your world
  8. Explain why you will always remember this person
  9. Sum up with a final memorable thought
  10. Offer your final goodbye

Use this guide as a starting point, but don't be afraid to look for an example of a eulogy, research eulogy quotes on the internet, or borrow ideas from famous eulogies such as those of Martin Luther King, Princess Diana or John F Kennedy. Reading a sample eulogy really can give you lots of great inspiration.

Delivering a funeral eulogy

Relax! Challenging though it might seem to be delivering the eulogy, the other mourners will be with you and supportive of what you are doing. It is also quite acceptable to ask someone to be ready to take over if you feel unable to continue the delivery.

  • Place a copy of the eulogy in the pulpit or wherever you'll read it
  • Consider using a prop (a favourite possession) during your speech
  • Stand up to deliver the eulogy
  • Have a glass of water available
  • To help you get through the delivery successfully, design your eulogy to avoid having the most emotionally charged content at the beginning or end
  • Speak slowly and calmly
  • Make sure you have tissues or a handkerchief to hand
  • Don't be afraid to pause and regain your composure when the delivery becomes particularly emotional
  • Make eye contact with members of your audience; engage the whole room
  • Have copies available for people to take away afterwards

Alternatively, you could take a different approach to the eulogy:

  • A song or dance routine
  • A sketch or playlet
  • A short film
  • An audiovisual presentation
  • A documentary presentation
  • A mini chat-show presentation
  • Eulogy poetry or a short story?

If you're thinking of using one of The Well Planned Funeral products to plan your funeral online, remember what a wonderful source of material our Your Funeral Plan and Wishes product could be for whoever's tasked with writing and delivering your eulogy. If there's a special story you would like to be told at your funeral, or a treasured possession that should be there, we've got the perfect way to make sure your loved ones know about it.

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