Have you ever been asked to write and deliver a eulogy for someone?
How did you react? How did you feel? How did you capture the essence of the person? How did you weave the story so that it flowed? How did you perform? How did you feel after the delivery?
Especially on top of all the emotion you carried when perhaps the one you were speaking about, was a dearly loved one?
Based on the experiences gained as an independent funeral celebrant at capturing, weaving and delivering eulogies, my aim is to share some down-to-earth ‘7 Steps to Writing a Eulogy’, should you be asked to.
As with any practical advice, as in life, there are no guarantees, and readers are cautioned to rely on their own judgement about their individual circumstances and to act accordingly.
It is also important to ensure to meet the wishes of the family or friends, and the personality of the person who has passed, respectfully.
Eulogies are the heart of the service, the essence of the deceased person and to be asked to deliver one, is special.
It’s natural to freak out when asked. Our minds swirl with perhaps where to start, what to say, how will I go speaking, how will I be received?
Stress is all part and parcel of it.
To help with your situation and to put your mind at ease, some key thoughts to embrace are:
- Consider how special it is to deliver a Eulogy. It really is.
- There is no ‘perfect’ way to compose a Eulogy.
- The audience aren’t expecting a flawless speech.
- Family and friends of your loved one will be eager to hear anything you want to share.
To help with your task at hand:
- Ask family and friends for their stories and fond memories.
- Go through old photo albums.
Encapsulating a whole life into a precious summary, focus reflection on
- A brief life history of the deceased.
- Important achievements and milestone events in the deceased’s life.
- Details about family, friends, work and interests.
- Share favourite memories/anecdotes of the deceased.
Your speech can be serious, light-hearted or a combination of both. Your tone should match the tone of the service.
It is fine to touch upon negative qualities, just be respectful about doing it and contextualise them against the good things. An example could be that you do not have to say Brent was an alcoholic (even if I was) but instead say Brent liked the odd hydration or two to be tipsy!
Rather than reciting a list of dry facts of what the deceased loved, instead share a story that illustrates what they loved.
Opening – things you may want to include:
- Introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased
- Thank guests for attending the service; acknowledge guests that have travelled to attend
- Express condolences to family member and close friends of the deceased.
Body – this will be the longest part of the Eulogy.
- Weave the life history, important achievements, milestones, details about family, friends, work, interests, favourite memories and anecdotes into 3-5 main points with supporting examples. Offer uplifting and comforting thoughts to the audience
Closing – a summary can also serve as your conclusion.
- No new information should be introduced in the summary.
- Summarize how a loved one touched your life with a quote or poem. This is an excellent way to finish your Eulogy.
- Say goodbye to the deceased (directly or indirectly)
- Keep it between 5 and 12 minutes
- Type it out in large print and number the pages. Give a copy to a friend just in case you decide you are too fragile to speak.
Rehearse and practice your delivery.
- Take a friend up with you so you are not alone.
- Take deep breaths before beginning your speech.
- Remember everyone in attendance will be behind you 1000%.
- When delivering your speech, maintain eye contact with your audience.
- Speak in a normal conversation voice.
- It is okay to break down, pause, and cry.
- Take some tissues!
I hope that you find the 7 Steps to be a valuable guideline as you accept, prepare and present what is certainly an enriching contribution to the celebration of someones’s life story.