Being tasked to write a funeral eulogy is a great honor. The eulogy is this perfect gift that you give to the deceased along with his/her loved ones.
Nonetheless, it is one of the most daunting tasks you’d have to ever take on because you are forced to find the perfect set of words to celebrate the deceased, and unless you’re an experienced public speaker or even a speechwriter, the preparation and the delivery of the eulogy can be quite daunting.
Add the burden of your own grief to this, and you really have an uphill task ahead of you, which is where we come in.
While we are not able to lift the pain and the gloom from your life right now, we can do one better for you – help you write the best possible eulogy for the deceased and the rest of the family and friends.
It’s natural to feel anxious and even nervous about the task ahead, but with this guide and the tips incorporated, you’ll have the perfect eulogy and the perfect tribute.
But first things first, what is a eulogy?
The word eulogy is a Late Middle English word adopted from the medieval Latin word, eulogium from the Greek word eulogia, meaning praise, and it’s since been translated to mean high praise.
The word was apparently influenced by the Latin word eulogium, or an inscription on the tomb, a word from the Greek elegia ‘elegy.’ This word dates back to the 16th century.
Also known as a funeral speech, a eulogy can be defined as the opportunity to gracefully pay tribute to the life of the deceased.
This tribute is delivered as a short speech that covers what the life of the deceased meant to you and generally, what their life was like, and also what it meant to you.
As a result, being asked to read or give the eulogy for a loved one or a friend is a grand honor – also means that you played a great role in the life of the deceased.
Note that while eulogies are not mandatory, they are a beautiful part of the funeral service because it lets everyone in attendance into what the life of the deceased was like.
The purpose of the eulogy is to summarize the life of the deceased beautifully while reminding people mourning of the character and the life of the deceased, and also as a way of paying respect to the deceased.
What this means is that you will be facing an immense amount of pressure to deliver the perfect eulogy with the right information, often specifying the highs of the deceased. Naturally, this will make you quite anxious because you’d want to get the details right, even as keeping the eulogy unique.
So, how do you do it? How do you write a beautiful eulogy?
How do you curate a eulogy to sum up the life of that person, their impact, and their character while also shedding more light on the less-known aspects of their lives?
Tips for writing a beautiful eulogy
The task to write the eulogy will often arrive rather suddenly, and you will struggle to find your footing and the right words, but when you know what to say, it all gets easier.
So, how do you write the most beautiful eulogy?
1. Tell/ Share the happy stories.
Summing up the life of a loved one in a page or less when they lived a formidable life might be quite the challenge for you, especially when every detail of their life that you come across seems more profound than the previous one.
You could easily get wound up with the details, ending up with a less-than-spectacular account of the life lived – which is why we recommend telling the happy stories of the deceased and their best qualities.
List the reasons you loved them, and to make it wholesome, give your friends and family the chance to share their family stories and the beautiful memories they had with the deceased.
What if some of your memories turn foggy and you cannot really make up most of the important details of your story? If that happens, you can always ask your friends and family to fill out the gaps for you.
Avoid the negative stories, though, or even the stories that started out well, but their endings took different or unexpected turns.
2. Give a good summary of their accomplishments, the family details, and their legacy.
These are essential bits of the eulogy, and you should get it all right. Ask for the specific details of their story from the people the deceased was closest to.
But while at it, steer clear of laundry lists, and opt for the more memorable and impactful elements of the deceased’s life.
3. Keep the length of the eulogy reasonable.
It’s easy to end up with a 5-page eulogy with many beautiful things about the deceased, but you also need to keep the eulogy reasonably short. A reasonable length is subjective, but one or two pages will be good enough.
But then again, it all depends on the stories you’d like to share, the qualities and accomplishments of the deceased, as well as how close you were to them and your relationship.
We’ll also add that your comfort levels in public speaking will determine how long the eulogy is, and though there is no real-time limit to the eulogy, the shorter and memorable it is, the better it is for everyone. It’s recommended that the eulogy lasts an average of 6-8 minutes,
4. Get someone to go over the eulogy.
Even if you think of yourself as a great writer or an orator, it’s a good idea to have someone go over your written eulogy – preferably someone who knew the deceased better. This other person will be your extra set of eyes, making sure that your text not only holds together correctly but is also coherent and flows.
Besides fact-checking, they may also add some stories or advice you on the stories to keep and the ones to omit. Keep in mind that getting some positive feedback/ encouragement never hurts, and it may also make you more comfortable when delivering the eulogy.
5. Keep your audience in mind.
You don’t want to offend anyone by what you say or your commentary, but you may want to throw in some light-hearted jokes to lift the otherwise somber mood. You also need to find the perfect balance between what to say and what to push under the rug. So, if you are not sure about something, you shouldn’t say it – even after someone else approves them.
6. Smooth delivery
This is a hard time, but you need to make your delivery of the eulogy smooth. To do this, practice. Read the eulogy out loud, edit the text, and switch out the complex sentences and words for words that are easier to say.
7. Start your eulogy delivery with the lighter, stuffy
It’s already a heavy and emotional day, which is why you’d want the eulogy to start off with something lighthearted or funny. You don’t want to end up in years before the end of the paragraph (However, it’s okay if you do).
8. Speak slowly
This might be challenging because you don’t want to be stuck there struggling with what now looks like the longest eulogy ever written, yet, you must speak slowly.
This is important because your audience might not know about the person you are eulogizing, and for them to hold on to each word you say about them, you must speak slowly while also enunciating for all gathered to understand your words and reflect on all those memories.
9. Make and maintain eye contact.
This is yet another one of the hard things you’ll have to do during the funeral service, and you will agree with us that it is easier said than done, but you have to try to look up at the gathered occasionally.
You could also choose just one person or one spot in the audience.
Writing a Eulogy in 7 Steps
- Start with the opening remarks. Here, introduce yourself and your relationship to or with the deceased.
- If you’re an immediate family member, you should thank the attendees (there will be many who’ve traveled a long distance), and if you’re not an (immediate) family member, express your condolences.
- Next, talk about the things that made the deceased special, listing their hobbies and the things they loved the most. This must be the main focus of the eulogy. Here, include any and all personal anecdotes.
- If they were religious, you’d want to talk about their commitment to their faith.
- Give personal or general examples if the deceased was a role model
- Mention the special relationships that the deceased had with his immediate family members to be politically correct
- Finally, offer comforting words and a final farewell as you close.
7 Steps for Writing a Eulogy
1. Settle on the tone for eulogy delivery
Whether you choose between religious, serious, or slightly humorous, you need to keep the tone of the eulogy conversational.
While public speaking could be one of your biggest fears, talking about loved ones is a lot easier for most people because you are sharing a story about a loved one, and no one wants to see you fail.
But since you’ll speak in front of an audience, you might be jittery, which is why you should opt for a more conversational tone and throw in some light-hearted humor here and there to make the delivery easier.
If, however, you are worried that you will not be able to deliver the eulogy without breaking it down, then you may want to reduce the personal anecdotes and keep to one or 2 funny bits – perhaps at the beginning of the eulogy.
2. Think of the deceased and the audience
The time you settle on also depends on who you will be addressing. Ask yourself the following questions – how will your audience feel? What would they want to hear about the deceased? How long should the eulogy be?
And as you think about the deceased, consider bits of information that speak to the people you are addressing – happiest moments, closeness, how the deceased would have liked to be remembered, highlights of their life story, and don’t forget to fact-check your details and stories.
3. Introduce yourself
An introduction of who you are is important, even as an immediate member of the family.
If you’re introducing yourself as an immediate member of the family, you’d want to thank all in attendance, and especially the ones who’ve traveled long distances to be there to celebrate the life of the deceased with you.
Moreover, if you aren’t a member of the family but have been tasked with giving the eulogy, introduce yourself, express your condolences, and thank all that is gathered for being there to celebrate the life of the deceased with the rest of the family and friends.
4. Offer a biographical sketch.
Keep it brief but detailed. Don’t miss the important details from their early life, such as their date of birth, family and friends, school, married life, school, work, children, and the date of death of the deceased.
Include yours and the family’s most favorite memories
As mentioned above, this is what makes a good eulogy, and it’s the essence of eulogizing a loved one. Share fond memories of the deceased, and also give a positive outlook that is attributed to the deceased. Confirm the details of the story if your memory of them is a little hazy.
5. Organize your content
Once you’ve collected all the important information about the deceased, have the stories, tales, and list of accomplishments, and basically have a full picture of the life of the deceased, make a list of the information collected, determine what you could leave out, then come up with a theme.
You could, for example, start out by sharing some of the biggest passions of the deceased and work in some funny stories, making sure that the stories tie to the life of the deceased and that they help in tying together the life of the deceased.
When putting your ideas and details together, you could use a mood board for the photos and post-its for important notes. Also, construct a timeline, and make a shortlist of keywords that describe the deceased.
Your outline should feature about 3 or 4 important things about the life of the deceased. You could throw in some song or poem here.
After you write everything down, edit the eulogy and ask for feedback. Don’t forget to practice reading the eulogy out loud at least twice.
6. Add your gratitude
Towards the end of the eulogy, you’d want to add in and show your gratitude for all who came to the funeral. Also, thank everyone who’s supported you the past few days, including the facilities and institutions that helped out.
7. Closing & Goodbyes
At the end of the eulogy, you have to say goodbye to the deceased loved one. This marks the end of the eulogy, but it’s also the most emotional bit of the eulogy, and you’d want to be prepared for this too.
Quotes for a eulogy
“Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Rabindranath Tagore, writer, and artist
“Lives are like rivers: Eventually, they go where they must. Not where we want them to.” Richard Russo, author, and screenwriter
“Life is a song – sing it. Life is a gameplay. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.” – Sai Baba, spiritual leader, and philanthropist
“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” On Death, Khalil Gibran, artist, poet, and author
- Is the use of humor appropriate in eulogies?
Yes, and there really is no reason why you shouldn’t use humor because a little dose of humor will offer much-needed comic relief and ease the tension around the funeral service and death itself. Stick to appropriate humor, though.
- How long should the eulogy be?
Generally, eulogies average 2-10 minutes. While 10 minutes doesn’t feel like an adequate amount of time to share all the important details of the life of your loved one, the time limit allows you to respect the time of the persons in attendance. The good news is that if you do adequate research, you will have all the right details said within the allotted time frame. Also, writing the eulogy means no rambling, and all the important details will be included.
- Who should you mention in the eulogy?
Well, the family members should be mentioned in the eulogy. You could also mention the special relationship they had with the deceased.
No one is ever a fan of writing eulogies. Everyone understands that it is a daunting task and requires great mental fortitude to go through it. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a good eulogy, you can always follow these tips.