What is a eulogy, how to write one & advice on delivery

 

A eulogy is the speech made at a funeral or memorial service about the person who has died. Usually made by a close friend or family member, it is an uplifting tribute to the deceased in which their life is remembered and celebrated.

Although every eulogy is unique and is best when it is written and spoken from the heart, below are some guidelines and ideas that we hope may help you. 

A eulogy is the speech made at a funeral or memorial service about the person who has died. It is usually made by a close friend or family member and is an uplifting tribute to the deceased in which their life is remembered and celebrated.

There are no rules, the best speeches are those written and delivered from the heart that capture the essence of the deceased - bringing them vividly back in to the minds of family and friends. It can be very difficult to write a eulogy, but we hope the following points may help.

GATHER INFORMATION & DECIDE ON THE TONE

Firs, gather information and set out the key details and milestones of the persons life. These may include the following:

  • names of parents, siblings and children
  • close friends and colleagues
  • stories from their childhood
  • places they have lived and loved
  • education and employment history
  • favourite hobbies, books, songs or poems
  • accomplishments and achievements
  • funny stories
  • unique characteristics, behaviour and qualities

Decide on the tone for the eulogy. This will depend on the age of the deceased, the circumstances surrounding their death and the audience. If they have lived a long and happy life it may be appropriate to have a more lighthearted tone.

CONSIDER BREAKING UP THE SPEECH

It can sometimes help to break the speech into a beginning, middle and an end.

The Beginning:

Start by introducing yourself, explain your relationship to the deceased and acknowledge the honour of being asked to deliver the eulogy.

The Middle:

This will depend on the individual circumstances and the tone you choose to use, but some guidelines are:

  • celebrate the person's character, their spirit and personality, the way they lived their life, their values and the impact they had on the lives of others 
  • acknowledge them in an honest but loving way, avoiding references to controversial subjects (or put them in a positive light)
  • tell stories and share happy memories, including recollections from family and friends
  • don't be afraid to use humour - describing funny anecdotes, amusing qualities, expressions or mannerisms can lighten the atmosphere and help people to connect with, and to remember, the person they have lost
  • highlight their accomplishments, skills or achievements, or how they met a challenge with courage and dignity
  • refer to their immediate family and acknowledge what they meant to each other
  • focus on the person's life and not their death – a eulogy is an opportunity to celebrate their life and to remember the happy times

The Ending:

Try to keep the ending short and reflective, yet uplifting and positive. Maybe talk about their legacy - their children, how they have impacted on other people's lives, the lessons imparted, a project or something worthwhile. Finally, it can be comforting to close with a final thought, a favourite quotation, reading or poem.

 

PREPARATION

A eulogy only needs to be about 4 to 6 minutes long. Ask for feedback from close friends and get it proof read by a member of the deceased's family to make sure the facts are correct and to avoid upsetting anyone. Maybe check with the other speakers to avoid repetition.

PRACTISE & READ SLOWLY

Practise beforehand, reading it out loud several times. This will help you read it more comfortably at the funeral.

Read slowly - it may help to write 'pause' on the side of the speech at appropriate place.

Before you start speaking, take a deep breath and try to relax. Maybe have a glass of water nearby.

CONSIDER HAVING A BACK-UP SPEAKER

Don't worry if you become emotional, it is perfectly natural to do so and everybody is on your side. It is absolutely fine to pause while you re-compose yourself.

Some people choose to have a back-up speaker. If you wish to do so, give the appointed person a copy of your speech beforehand and agree on a signal that will indicate for them to step in.