How to write a eulogy
One of the most meaningful aspects of a funeral or celebration of life service is the eulogy. A eulogy, sometimes called a funeral speech, provides the chance to pay tribute to a loved one who has passed, by addressing those gathered about a life well-lived and what this person meant to you.
Although it’s considered an honour to be asked to deliver a eulogy, this also often comes with pressure as it means that you were an important part of this person’s life. The feeling of anxiety that comes from a desire to ‘get it just right’ can be especially tough during an already fraught and sad time.
Below are some guidelines to help you navigate the process.
Jot down your thoughts
Writing a speech under the best of circumstances can be daunting. Trying to start with a beginning that flows into a middle and end can be intimidating.
Instead, if it helps, open with a note welcoming and thanking everyone who came to the funeral or celebration of life. Acknowledge the different relationships; some are family, some friends, some colleagues – but how everyone is gathered to remember a person who was important to them.
You may want to segue into facts about your loved one; how much their family meant to them, or how much they loved their dog, a favourite hobby.
It doesn’t need to be a chronological detailed timeline of the person’s life. It can rather be a series of vignettes, anecdotes that create a fuller picture of the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’.
- Expand on your relationship (father/friend/relative/mentor?)
- What they meant to you. Write down point form thoughts of what they meant to your life.
- What you loved about the person. Their smile, how much they loved dogs, how they always seemed to reach out when you needed support the most.
Getting these thoughts down will help you capture the fuller picture of who this person was to you; and provide you direction.
Share a personal story
Try to include a story personal to you and your loved one that you feel comfortable sharing. Allow people to get a glimpse into your relationship that may inspire fellow warm memories. It’s always nice to learn something new about someone you thought you knew everything about.
A eulogy should humanize the person you’re honouring, and help create the full picture of them as a unique individual.
- Don’t be afraid to share something funny. Something silly that you did together – being lighthearted doesn’t mean you don’t acutely feel a loss. If it’s a story others haven’t heard, it may remind them of their funny moments too.
- Highlight one of their great achievements – and please know that this doesn’t have to be work related. Maybe it was building a deck, running a half-marathon or going to a significant sporting event. Something you know they were proud of – and maybe it was something you worked on together.
Allow yourself to be emotional
You will understandably be sad while writing and delivering your eulogy. This can add to the feelings of anxiety and pressure; the need to get it ‘absolutely right’. You may get caught believing that you are letting your loved one down if you don’t get the tone and speech ‘perfect’.
Permit yourself to get frustrated or upset. It is part of the process and trying to power through generally won’t work. Give yourself grace, take a break if you need and then get back to it when you feel ready and strong enough.
- Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge you’re grieving, that this is a time of great sadness. Don’t be afraid to say this in your eulogy either. It’s important and meaningful; but it’s also hard.
- Write about what you’ll miss the most. Their friendship, their advice and support, just knowing that you could pick up the phone and call them.
- Talk about who this this person was to you beyond father, friend, cousin: they were my confidant, my rock; my best friend
- Be honest about how hard it is to say goodbye
- Speak to how their legacy will be remembered by those who are left behind, and the impact that they made on each of us
Your family and friends are there to support you
Reach out to those who also knew your loved one best. Perhaps they have a story or two that could be included to complement your eulogy. This also takes some of the pressure off you; and allows other people to feel included in the memorial.
As well, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the task, connecting with other loved ones can help you get through what is always an emotional process.
Most importantly, please remember - all that truly matters is that a eulogy is genuine, sincere and heartfelt. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to a loved one, but there are many ways to love, honour and remember.