Preparing a eulogy
Writing and delivering a eulogy is an honour. It is an opportunity for you to bring the deceased person back into the minds of those in attendance. Your words will paint a picture of the deceased through the memories, anecdotes and stories you tell. A eulogy allows those gathered to remember the person who they were, what they did and what they enjoyed about life.
A eulogy may contain…
- A condensed life history of the person who has passed away.
- Details about family, friends, work/career, interests, and achievements.
- Favourite memories of the deceased.
- Favourite poems, songs, quotes, or religious writings.
The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from the heart. A eulogy does not have to be perfect. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people gathered.
Recall your own memories
Think about the deceased and the relationship you had with them. Where you met (if you’re not family), things you did together, humorous or touching memories, and what you will miss the most might be things you decide to share.
Gather information about the deceased
Talk with family members and close friends to gather important information about the departed. Even co-workers may have valuable things to share. Some important information to include in the eulogy are:
- Persons age/date of birth.
- Family and other close relationships.
- Hobbies or special interests.
- Places the person lived.
- Special accomplishments.
- What things did they particularly enjoy?
- What message would they like to leave for the next generation.
- What made their face light up when you mentioned it.
- Did they have a nickname? Why?
- Did they have a favourite phrase or saying?
- Did they treasure something that reflected who they really were.
- Was there a cause that they felt deeply about?
- What would they say if they were here today?
- Was the world a little different because of them?
You may want to organise your notes and drafts on a laptop/tablet, plain paper or note cards. Use whatever method is most comfortable and familiar to you. Some people prefer to prepare and deliver a serious eulogy while others will want to keep the tone light. A mix of both elements, solemnity and humour, is usually best. It allows those gathered to grieve appropriately but to also share in the celebration of a life well-lived.
Don’t make it too long. It’s best to err on the short side, especially if several people will be speaking. 5 – 7 minutes is ideal. If there is more than one person speaking, ensure that you cover different aspects of the person’s life so that you do not repeat each other.
Write your speech in the same way you would normally talk. Don’t get bogged down by the formalities of writing. Keep in mind the most important thing: write from your heart.
Review and revise
The first draft you write is usually not the last. Read through it and decide what to keep and what to toss out. You may want to read it to family. When you think you are done, let it sit overnight. Review it again the next day when it will be fresh. Make any necessary revisions.
Practice reading the eulogy several times to become familiar with it. Always use notes or prompts as speaking “off the cuff” is very difficult in these circumstances.
Finalise a copy
Print in large text so it’s easy to refer to. Number the pages so you don’t get them mixed up.
Even if you are comfortable speaking to large groups of people, a eulogy can be a difficult speech to deliver. Try to speak slowly and breathe throughout. It’s easy to hold your breath when you’re nervous. If you need to pause and take a deep breath, do it. Remember that just as you wrote from the heart, deliver from the heart.
- Take a handkerchief or tissues.
- Have a glass or bottle of water handy.
- Have a back-up plan. If you can’t continue, have someone else on hand who will be prepared to deliver the speech for you.
- Give that person a copy of the eulogy before hand, just in case.
- Remember that it’s OK to show emotion. If you become emotional and start to cry, that’s perfectly normal.
- Take time to regain your composure, but if you’re unable, defer to your back-up person.
What You Need
- Memories, stories, and anecdotes.
- Special poems, stories, and/or religious writings.
- Paper and a pen, or a laptop/tablet.
- A handkerchief or tissues – just in case.