Many of us may only be asked to give a eulogy once in our lifetime, so it can be a difficult process to begin, especially with heightened emotions and a lack of knowledge on what to include.
If you’ve recently been asked to write a eulogy, you may feel like you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders – which is why we’ve created a brief guide below on how to write a eulogy, to provide you with some inspiration on what you could include. Remember, the most important part should be that you commemorate your loved one as you see fit and as they would have wanted.
What is a eulogy?
If you’ve never had to write one before, you might not know what it is. A eulogy is a speech or piece of writing that praises an individual – it doesn’t always necessarily have to be if they’ve died, but that’s generally when one is written. Anything can be included, from the achievements of that person to fond memories and anecdotes.
How to begin
Writing a eulogy is a deeply personal thing to do. Whether you’re a close friend, relative, or colleague, there was a reason you were chosen to write one or requested to deliver one. So where do you even start?
Think about your audience
It won’t just be friends of a certain age group at the funeral, but older family members, as well as children. This means keeping a certain level of respect, but also ensuring you reflect the personality of the person you’re talking about. For example, humour shouldn’t be avoided, but it needs to be something everyone felt about the individual and not just an in-joke in the office or between cousins.
What made them tick?
Whether they were passionate about animal rights or politics, or were a keen footballer or bassoonist, whatever was important to them or made them tick, should be mentioned in their eulogy. For a lot of people, having children would be high on their list of achievements, but don’t forget to include nuggets of information that are unique to just them. Don’t just rely on your own memories either – ask friends and family for their stories and anecdotes and don’t be afraid to use them. Ask what made them happy – and go from there.
How to structure a eulogy
There’s no right way to structure a eulogy – but you do need to decide on a length, as well as the tone. There are a few ways to structure a eulogy, such as:
- Write a letter to the individual
This is a great way to keep a eulogy really personal and speak directly to your loved one. This might be easier for some individuals as you don’t necessarily have to be the best at writing and can pour your heart out instead. However, you may find it quite emotional to speak directly to them, so it’s all about balance.
- Stick to a timeline
It may help to structure your eulogy in a timeline format. This gives you chance to discuss the beginning of their life, what they achieved throughout their life, and how they were towards the end of their life. Including each stage means you can find specific stories to talk about from family members and friends – it also means you won’t miss out on anything important, that others may like to hear.
- Create a poem
If you’re feeling creative and know it’s something your loved one would have enjoyed, you could also create a poem. This allows you to structure the eulogy well and provides you with a certain amount of stanzas to complete the eulogy in.
- Base it on one anecdote
If you’ve discovered a particularly funny or inspirational story about your loved one, you could base the entire eulogy around that. The anecdote may encompass everything you want to say about the person, without having to say a lot. This can be an effective way to lift the mood and engross friends and family – particularly if you’re a good story teller.
- Capture the personality of the person
If the structure isn’t coming to you as easily as you would like, take a step back and simply try to capture the personality of the individual on paper. Funerals are extremely emotional circumstances, so try to reflect of the positives of a person, rather than how sad the occasion is.
How to write eulogy
Don’t worry about grammar or spelling – simply capture the tone and feeling of what you’d like to say. If you feel more confident in having the eulogy written word for word in front of you, then do this – if not, you can always have cue cards with the main points of what you’d like to say, or even memorise these.
Some of the key pointers you should try and remember when writing a eulogy include:
- Avoid clichés
- Don’t introduce the person
- Try not to reflect on the negatives
How to deliver a eulogy
Public speaking, even to an audience full of your friends and family, can be incredibly nerve-wracking. A eulogy has the added pressure of heightened emotions too.
Before you deliver your eulogy on the day, try to practice it beforehand. This will allow you to see any parts where you might stumble, or it doesn’t quite flow as naturally as you would like. You want the words and stories to be the main focus of the eulogy and nothing should distract from that.
Stand up straight and keep calm. This can be achieved by delivering the eulogy slowly, as nerves may make you want to speak quickly. Friends and family will then be able to hear the words that you’ve so carefully chosen and digest them thoughtfully. Of course, you may feel overcome with emotion and if this happens, simply stop talking, take a deep breath, and compose yourself. Your friends and family will understand completely – and it will perhaps give them time to engage more with the words you’ve just spoken.
If you need further assistance in writing a eulogy, please take a look through our list of resources below.
How to write a eulogy – Funeral Guide
How to write a eulogy (with examples for mum, dad, friend etc.) – SunLife