Writing a Eulogy is something that takes a great deal of effort, both emotionally and intellectually. It’s going to be a painful experience, but also terrifically rewarding. Writing the tribute at a funeral or memorial service will be the best way you can honour your departed loved one. There’s no hard and fast rules as to how to write a Eulogy. By their nature they are hugely personal and should be pitched for the audience they are being delivered to and reflective of the person they are about. Some are full of humour, some are full of spirituality; some concentrate on one theme, some reflect on a broad spectrum of topics. But if you’re scratching your head and wondering just how to write a eulogy, follow these tips and you won’t go too far wrong.
Step One: Do Your Research
Even when you’re the person that knew the deceased best, you’ll be surprised about how much you’ll learn by talking to their family members, colleagues and friends. The time after a death is when people naturally feel more emotional and more open. You may well hear anecdotes about a person’s life that suddenly casts them in a new light. The example of a man discovering that his father wasn’t just a greengrocer but was a war hero with a distinguished record in the SAS is extreme. But the point stands that there’s a whole life for you to investigate. So get looking.
Step Two: Take Your Time
Writing a Eulogy isn’t something you’ll want to rush. It’ll be hard and upsetting at times to actually get the words onto paper or onto the computer. So take it step by step and give yourself at least a week if possible to write one small chunk at a time.
Step Three: Choose a theme
If you’re struggling for a structure it can help to pick a theme for your speech. I witnessed a moving eulogy recently where a daughter who worked as a teacher began by reading her late father’s junior school report. She then imagined a final ‘life’ report and graded him in various ‘subjects’ such as business, family and social studies. A spin on this idea might be to write a speech as a match report if the deceased was a sports fan. Alternatively you may choose to focus in on something that the deceased was particularly known for such as family loyalty and use that as a hook on which to hang the rest of the speech.
Step Four: Don’t be afraid to add humour
It can be counter intuitive for humour to form a part of what is always going to be a very sad occasion. But a joke or a funny anecdote – particularly at the beginning of the speech – will help puncture the tension and grief filled atmosphere of a funeral. Particularly if the deceased was known for their sense of humour, it’s going to be important to reflect that in the speech by telling a few jokes.
Step Five: Avoid listing the chronological achievements of your subject’s life
You won’t be able to cover every little thing that your subject achieved so avoid the temptation of turning your eulogy into a list. Your speech should reflect how you felt about the person and what they meant to you and the rest of the mourners. Explore moments and memories that touched you and try to group those thoughts together to create some kind of structure.
Step Six: Make sure you name the people who should be mentioned
Even though the ceremony is about the deceased, almost inevitably family politics usually come into play at times like this. Leaving anyone out who feels they should be mentioned can cause tensions amongst families at a time when everyone is feeling emotionally raw. If in doubt just mention immediate family. But a bit of research should give you your list of names to reference.
Step Seven: Don’t be too short or too long
Ultimately it’s up to you how long you speak for. You’ll probably get a suggestion from the minister or celebrant (most commonly this is between 5-10minutes). Feel free to ignore this if you really want. This is your chance to honour your loved one publically and no-one should influence how long your tribute should be. That being said 10 minutes is a good rule of thumb for the limit a speech can hold an audience’s attention for. Remember that it takes one second to say three words. So a five minute speech should be roughly 900 words long and ten minute speech should be roughly 1800.
Step Eight: Finish on a memorable tone
As you finish it’s good to sum up the threads of your speech. Some like to finish by using quoting a favourite poem, religious reading or song lyric. Some just like to finish with a simple sentence of remembrance. However you do it, it’s likely that most people will be focused on this section of your address. So spend some time to come up with something that feels right to you.
Still wondering how to write a Eulogy?
These tips come from my years of experience of writing speeches, including many eulogies. If you feel you would like some professional help with writing a eulogy or funeral speech, don’t hesitate to contact me.