How To Write A Eulogy For A Friend Or Loved One

How To Write A Eulogy For A Friend Or Loved One

A eulogy is a long held tradition in Australia where a speech is made about the deceased at their funeral service. Often it is given by a spouse, best friend, or child, but anyone can give a eulogy if it’s appropriate. There are no exact rules but its often done in either two styles: one that is very formal, or in a way that is more casual and storytelling in nature.

It’s both a challenge and a privilege to write and deliver a eulogy for someone. Done right, it can be a rewarding and healing experience for everyone that attends the funeral service. If you’ve been given the responsibility of writing a eulogy for someone, you’re probably feeling anxious about delivering it. This is completely normal and shows that you care, which is why you’re taking the time now to adequately prepare.

This article will take you through the process of writing a eulogy, from preparation right through to delivery. Keep in mind that a eulogy is deeply personal and should reflect who the person was in life. So feel free to take your own inspiration from both inside and outside this guide.

Getting started with a eulogy

Preparation

Probably one of the most important things when preparing a eulogy is giving yourself enough time to prepare. If possible, try and give yourself at least a few days to prepare and write it.

How long is a eulogy?

While there is no set rule, a eulogy generally is between 2-5 minutes. A good idea would be to speak with the person running the service in order work out a suitable length.

  • Start jotting down ideas: Don’t try and come up with the whole eulogy or even write proper sentences at the start. Brainstorming when writing is important in the early stages. Instead of editing or holding back ideas, let them come to you naturally. You might try to go through your loved one’s possessions- like photo albums, family videos, letters, or display shelves at home.
  • Speak to friends & relatives: Once you have some of your own ideas, the next step might be to turn to friend and relatives. While you might have your own experiences with them, a whole new side of the person who passed away could be seen when you speak to other people. That contrast or enriched story you find might give a more balanced feel to the speech.

Information to include in a eulogy

While there aren’t a set of things that must be included in a eulogy, there are often things you probably want to mention. These pieces of information can help you form the structure of the eulogy.

  • Place of birth and year
  • The full name of the person and any nicknames they have
  • Names of parents and dates of birth & passing. Siblings if appropriate
  • Childhood moments or interests that stand out
  • School, degrees or other academic achievements
  • Military duty, along with any special recognition given during time
  • Marriages and children
  • Number of grandchildren and ages, or names if not too extensive
  • Special pets if appropriate
  • Organisations, clubs, or other memberships they had in life
  • Sports interests and achievements
  • Hobbies, pursuits, or quirky interests that give character
  • Specific likes and dislikes that people can relate with during speech
  • Quotes, poems, or phrases that the departed was fond of saying

Writing the eulogy

With the brainstorming done and a list of major details written, you a ready to begin writing the eulogy. The next step will focus on structure and figuring out how and where to place each bit of information.

Creating a tone for the audience

Depending on the person who’s passed away and the funeral audience, the tone of the eulogy will be different. Typically keeping it honest, considerate, and light in moment will be a good idea. The only thing to avoid is any inside or inappropriate jokes that people might not understand, or find too blatant. Try to frame things in a better light be putting a positive or non-judgemental tone on everything.

Typical structure of a eulogy

  • Introduction: First you will want to briefly introduce yourself to the audience, stating when, where, and how you came to know the person who passed away.
  • Body: This section will make up the bulk of your speech, which combines information about your loved one (see above) along with specific memories of them. While facts are definitely important and are needed, memories are going to be the most meaningful for friends and family. If an interesting fact is related to a memory, try to mention them both together. For example, if the deceased had a daughter, it might be appropriate to bring up a lighthearted story of how he accidentally dressed her in boy’s clothes as a child.
  • As you work through ideas, make sure to give an example to back up each statement. If they were kind, mention in what way- did the person volunteer or do any charity work? If they were brave, speak of the military service the person did for years. Because a eulogy is typically 3-5 minutes long, you will want to be selective about your descriptions, stories and moments about the deceased.
  • Closing:Finish the eulogy on a positive note, reflecting on their achievements, contributions, and legacy. You could find a suitable quote (Religious or spiritual) that complements both the eulogy and the deceased.

Rehearsing the eulogy

  • Practice it: Speaking out loud can instantly give some people the jitters, therefore it’s a good idea to get comfortable with saying the eulogy. It will also give you an opportunity to make changes to anything that doesn’t deliver well out loud.
  • Get feedback: Ideally you want a good friend or partner listening to you practice the speech. Getting a second opinion will help you make small improvements along the way and give you confidence delivering at the funeral. They might also see something that is missing or being overstated in the eulogy.
  • Make changes: It is okay to do a few rewrites until you feel like everything’s been captured with the right balance of detail. If you ‘re a little stuck, just stepping away from it for a day and getting clarity might point out what is missing for you.

Saying the eulogy

  • Keep calm: Thinking you might be nervous, remember to keep in mind why you’re saying the speech. Also focus on the fact that people are not judging you- in fact they’re there for support. Practice doing some deep breaths before the speech and when up at the podium, focus on the task at hand. Give acknowledgement to the most important member of the family who are being mentioned.
  • Don’t rush through the speech: Sometimes when speaking in public, people can rattle off their speeches. Instead of rushing through it, just take your time and think of being the voice over for a documentary. That pace of calm and caring is perfect for a eulogy. Try to look up at the audience as much as possible, however it’s ok to read off the paper. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, stop for a second, and continue on when you feel ready.

Saying the eulogy

  • Keep calm: Thinking you might be nervous, remember to keep in mind why you’re saying the speech. Also focus on the fact that people are not judging you- in fact they’re there for support. Practice doing some deep breaths before the speech and when up at the podium, focus on the task at hand. Give acknowledgement to the most important member of the family who are being mentioned.
  • Don’t rush through the speech: Sometimes when speaking in public, people can rattle off their speeches. Instead of rushing through it, just take your time and think of being the voice over for a documentary. That pace of calm and caring is perfect for a eulogy. Try to look up at the audience as much as possible, however it’s ok to read off the paper. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, stop for a second, and continue on when you feel ready.