Although a time of mourning, funerals are also a place to bring friends and family together with a common purpose - celebrating the life of someone you all held dear. On the day, there is little that is more comforting than a well-written speech that helps everyone remember and celebrate the good times in someone’s life. This speech is often known as a eulogy.
Being asked to write and deliver a eulogy is a great honour. But it can be tricky to know what to say.
This guide will give you some advice on how to get started and find the right words to give your loved one the send-off they deserve.
Let’s take it back to basics.
A eulogy is a speech given during a memorial or funeral service. To really understand the purpose of a eulogy, you don’t need to look much further than the definition of the word - it’s a speech or piece of writing containing great praise.
A eulogy at a funeral is a way, to sum up someone’s life, reflect on what they were like as a person and ultimately, say goodbye. It’s a way to acknowledge and celebrate a life well-lived and remind everyone in the room of the legacy they leave behind.
Eulogies as a form of storytelling are common in Christian, Jewish and Buddhist funerals and memorials. Different cultures and religions across the world have different ways of honouring their dead during funeral proceedings, but in the UK it’s common to have a few spoken words to say thank you and farewell.
In most cases, anyone can deliver a eulogy. It’s not uncommon that someone will have made their wishes known before their death and asked a friend or family member to do the job. A priest, celebrant or religious leader can also give the eulogy.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for what should be included in a eulogy. The most important thing is that the eulogy comes from the heart and is personal to the life that has been lost.
This means there are a few different ways to approach a eulogy:
If you’re not sure what your loved one would’ve preferred, speak to family or close friends of the deceased to decide on what is most fitting together.
Writing a eulogy can be an emotional process. If you’re at a loss of what to say in the eulogy, start by making notes of special moments you shared with the person who has passed.
Think about places you’ve been and stories you’ve told or heard. Some people find scanning old photographs helpful for bringing back good memories. Getting together with other family or friends and sharing stories or fond memories can be a great way of both finding things to say in your eulogy, and also bringing comfort and closure to all of your lives.
Here are some questions to ask yourself or others to get the eulogy writing process started:
If you’re trying to develop a timeline of their life to share in the funeral service, think about:
Before you start writing a eulogy, there are a few big picture things to consider.
Would your loved one prefer something formal? How would they feel about poetry, readings or prayers? Thinking about these factors will help you decide on the tone of the eulogy. Remember that although a funeral is a time for mourning, it’s also one for celebration of a life of someone you all loved.
Tip: If you’re going for a light-hearted tone, you don’t need to shy away from a funny story or anecdote.
Focus on the positives. Even if the person lived through hardships, a eulogy isn’t the place to bring them up and potentially cause more pain for those in mourning. Sharing stories or things the person loved can be a good way to get across positive feelings.
Tip: Think about what the audience wants to hear and remember.
Start by introducing yourself. Then, think of the eulogy of having three parts - a beginning, middle and end. You can cover their life chronologically and start with their childhood and work through to the present day, or do it in reverse. Either way, ending with a small personal note can help tie the eulogy together and end on a touching note.
Tip: Some people chose to end the eulogy with a poem, quote, song lyrics or playing a song that was special to the deceased.
Five minutes is pretty common. While a eulogy shouldn’t be rushed, bear in mind that there is likely to be an order of service to the funeral. This means there may be a limited amount of time for the eulogy. If you’re worried about this or any other part of writing or delivering a eulogy, speak to your funeral director.
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