How to Write a Eulogy
The thought of public speaking throws many people into a panic.
Add to that fear the common discomfort of discussing death, and
it's easy to understand why the idea of delivering a eulogy can be
disconcerting. If you've been asked to write a eulogy, take heart.
This article will help you put your fears in perspective so you can
deliver a loving eulogy.
You were probably asked to deliver a eulogy because of your close
relationship to the deceased, and because the family trusts you to
honor his or her memory on behalf of family and friends. The family
doesn't want to make you feel uncomfortable, foolish or as though
your grief is on display. It's an honor they've bestowed upon you.
Helping others say goodbye may turn out to be a rewarding
experience. Don't worry about making mistakes. A eulogy comes from
the heart of the deliverer. I can't see how a mistake could be made
as long as it is honest and true.
"I can't write."
Don't let the thought of writing intimidate you. You don't have to
be a novelist to move people. Everyone has a story to tell and
that's your job as a eulogist. Tell people your story.
In the book "A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy," author
Garry Schaeffer says a eulogy should convey the feelings and
experiences of the person giving the eulogy, and should be written
in an informal, conversational tone. Schaeffer dispels the
misconceptions that a eulogy should objectively summarize the
person's life or speak for all present. Sit down and write from the
Eulogists often write about the person's attributes, memories
and common times that were shared together. Sometimes they include
the deceased's favorite poems, book passages, scripture verses,
quotes, expressions, lines from songs or items that were written by
the deceased. Whatever is selected, it generally reflects the loved
These questions should get you thinking:
- How did you and the deceased become close?
- Is there a humorous or touching event that represents the
essence of your passed loved one?
- What did you and others love and admire about the
- What will you miss most about him or her?
Some of the simplest thoughts are deeply touching and easy for
those congregated to identify with. For example, "I'll miss her
smile," or "I'll never forget the way he crinkled his nose when he
laughed," are just as good as "I admired her selflessness."
"I can't speak in front of people."
It may not be easy, but you can do it. A funeral is one time you'll
surely have a kind and empathetic audience. They feel for you and
are on your side. You'll only have to speak for five to ten
minutes, but your gift will live in the hearts of the deceased's
If you're worried about choking up or breaking down in the
middle of your eulogy, you can take a moment to compose yourself,
then carry on, as Schaeffer recommends, or you can have a back up
person ready to step in. Give a copy of your eulogy to the minister
or funeral director so that person can finish the eulogy if you're
unable to continue.
- Be honest and focus on the person's positive qualities.
- Humor is acceptable if it fits the personality of the
- "If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your
expectations and just do what you can given the short time-frame
and your emotional state," writes Schaeffer in "Labor of
- Keep it brief. Five to ten minutes is the norm, but it's a good
idea to verify that with the minister or funeral director.
- Leo Saguin recommends interviewing family and friends in his
book "How to Write and Deliver a Loving Eulogy."
- Put the eulogy on paper - at least in outline form.
Eulogy or Sharing Time?
If you're planning the funeral, you might want to consider "sharing
time" as an alternative to a eulogy. In sharing time, the people
congregated pass a microphone or take turns standing up to share
their thoughts. It's like a lot of mini eulogies and is more
Books Offering Help, Examples and
- "A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy" by Garry
- "The Book of Eulogies: A Collection of Memorial Tributes,
Poetry, Essays, and Letters of Condolence" by Phyllis Theroux
- "How to Write and Deliver a Loving Eulogy" by Leo Seguin
- "Final Celebrations: A Guide for Personal and Family Funeral
Planning" by Kathleen Sublette and Martin Flagg
- "In Memoriam: A Practical Guide to Planning a Memorial Service"
by Amanda Bennett and Terence B. Foley
- "My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence
Notes and Conversations, Plus a Guide to Eulogies" by Florence
- "Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life and Mourning
Death" by Sarah York
- "Readings for Remembrance: A Collection for Funerals and
Memorial Services" by Eleanor C. Munro (introduction)
- "Remembrances and Celebrations: A Book of Eulogies, Elegies,
Letters, and Epitaphs" by Jill Werman Harris (editor)