Being asked to write and deliver a eulogy for a friend or loved one is truly an honor; however it can be a difficult task because sometimes the thought of public speaking can throw people into a panic. If you have been asked to speak at the services of a loved one, have no fear. You were probably asked because of your close relationship to the deceased and helping others say goodbye can be a rewarding experience. Don’t worry about making mistakes. A eulogy that comes from the heart can never be wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself when getting started.
- 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 deceased?
- What will you miss most about him or her?
Answering these questions will give you some good ideas about what kinds of things to touch on during your eulogy.
A eulogy doesn’t have to follow the formal rules of speechmaking. It need not be concise or particularly eloquent, and in fact, striving to achieve these qualities can actually take away from creating a good eulogy. When writing a eulogy, it is good to outline what you want to talk about and then fill in the outline. Here are some thoughts when filling in your outline.
- Good Stories that illustrate some of the best qualities or even finest moments of the deceased. How did you first meet the deceased? What was the funniest thing that ever happened between you? What was the best or strongest thing the deceased ever said or did?
- Pick three or four standout qualities of the deceased, then fully illustrate with examples or short anecdotes. What will you miss the most about him or her? What things did other people tell you about the deceased that resonated with you?
- It’s okay to very briefly mention some of the negative qualities of the deceased. In some eulogies this will add levity to the funeral proceedings and will make the good points more plausible. If possible, you can even use the deceased’s own words, such as regrets they had or things they admitted they could have improved on. The idea is to provide a true account of who the deceased is, and why you loved him or her. There is no need to assign sainthood.
- Try to end the eulogy with a main point, thought, or focus that people can take to heart. Some eulogies end on an awkward silence when the speaker just stops talking. It can be distracting when the speaker has many good things to say but the audience is just kind of left hanging at the conclusion. Try to wrap up your eulogy with a firm ending.
Many people recommend that the speaker writes how they talk. Don’t get bogged down by the formalities of writing. Your audience will want to feel like you are talking to them, not reading from a script. Keep in mind that some of the best eulogies are more conversational than formal. However, it is recommended and many find it helpful to put together a written outline or speech to read or work from. You can also read a funeral poem as part of your message.
People will not expect a eulogy to be perfectly delivered or well read. They’ll certainly understand if your voice cracks or if you cry. You might also stray from the speech you initially wrote if you feel moved by the moment. There’s no wrong way to deliver a heartfelt, honest memorial for someone you love and who was loved by those who are listening.