Writing and delivering a eulogy is a heartfelt way to say farewell to a loved one who has died. The purpose of this type of speech is to capture the essence of the deceased by highlighting the positives of their life. Although the task often arrives suddenly and during a time of mourning, you don’t have to be a great writer or public speaker to deliver a meaningful speech.
Since a eulogy is meant to bring comfort to those who are grieving, it’s important to know your audience. When writing a eulogy, be sure to take into consideration what the deceased would have wanted, as the focus is on the life they lived.
“A great eulogy always comes from the heart,” says Ralph DiBiasio-Snyder, a staff writer with The Eulogy Writers. “It is simply words of tribute, thanks, and celebration spoken with love and sincerity.” DiBiasio-Snyder says sharing stories about the deceased that illustrate a particular talent, virtue, or characteristic of theirs can be comforting.
Because writing and delivering a eulogy can be challenging, we’ve put together eight tips to help you feel comfortable while easing the pain of those who are grieving.
1. Do your research
Before writing your eulogy, it’s important to pin down specific dates and other information that was central to the life of the person you’re eulogizing. Knowing how many years the deceased spent working for a certain company, the names of family members, the town in which they grew up, and what their favorite hobbies were could be helpful as you craft your eulogy.
2. Decide on tone and style
One way to honor the deceased is to match the tone and style of your eulogy to their spirit. Depending on the circumstances surrounding their passing and their personality, it may be appropriate to add some lighter moments to your eulogy. Sharing stories that make family and friends smile while recalling the deceased can help ease their pain.
“Remember your audience,” says Aubrey Bauer, eulogy writer and owner of Eulogies by Aubrey. “If you will be speaking to mostly elderly people and your loved one was religious and conservative, perhaps keep a reverent tone and the funny anecdotes to a minimum. If your loved one was happy-go-lucky, used swear words on the daily, and had a good time as often as possible, your audience would probably appreciate a more lighthearted, humorous speech.”
“The beauty of eulogies is that they are 100% customizable.
Eulogy writer and owner of Eulogies by Aubrey
3. Make an outline
Once you have some ideas, organize them into an outline. DiBiasio-Snyder says it’s important to begin by thanking the people in attendance for their support and for joining in a celebration of life. You should also emphasize the positive qualities of the deceased in your introduction.
To paint a picture of how your loved one lived their life, include anecdotes or share details about their daily routines in the body of your eulogy. Concluding with an uplifting message, such as “Here’s to a life spent bringing happiness and laughter to others,” may provide comfort to the assembled friends and family.
In all, Bauer says, a typical eulogy is about 1,000 words long.
4. Get feedback on what you’ve written
Once your eulogy is written, find someone you trust who also knew the deceased well and have them review it. They may have ideas you can add to make it even more heartfelt and comforting to you and your audience. Because writing a eulogy can be an emotionally taxing experience, another person may also catch a mistake you didn’t notice when you were writing it.
Most importantly, keep in mind that there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to writing a eulogy. “The beauty of eulogies is that they are 100% customizable,” Bauer says. Let the memory of your loved one and your knowledge of those who are in mourning be your guide.
5. Practice reciting your eulogy
It may feel awkward to practice a eulogy, but doing so is important as it ensures your speech will be a fitting tribute to your loved one. Practicing your eulogy in front of a mirror, family member, or friend until you get it right can help you feel comfortable and prepared. You can also record yourself on your phone and play it back to hear how you sound. A good eulogy sounds natural, and to achieve that, you must be comfortable with your speech.
6. Speak slowly
When delivering your eulogy, remember to pace yourself. Don’t think of it as a formal speech; speak as you would as if you were talking to your closest friends, from your heart.
A typical eulogy should take between six and eight minutes to read, Bauer says.
7. Make eye contact
While speaking, make sure to occasionally make eye contact with your audience. This will help your eulogy seem more like a conversation. However, if you start to get emotional while looking at others, come back to your written notes.
8. Be yourself
Instead of trying to make your eulogy sound perfect, focus on being yourself. What matters most is expressing what the deceased meant to you and what you want to remember about them.
Overall, your eulogy should be a brief overview of your loved one’s life, focusing on what made them special. Accomplishments and memorable stories should be shared, with the goal being to bring comfort to your audience.
Below are two examples of eulogies, one for a parent, the other for a friend. Keep in mind these versions are condensed, but they still contain the same themes and sentiments you would find in a full-length eulogy.
Eulogy example No. 1:
My father lived a life based on doing whatever he could to make a positive impact on others. While raising two children and working 35 years as a teacher in the Tropical Hills school district, he always put aside his own needs to help others.
Dad liked to say during moments of adversity that we should move forward fearlessly. I first remember him telling me that when I was learning to ride my bike without training wheels. I told him not to let go, worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep my balance. After his words inspired me, I discovered that I was wrong. Years later, before I left for college, he reminded me again of those wise words.
In a difficult time like this, we must take an example from my father’s bravery as we try to move forward without someone we loved so much. At the same time, we should find comfort in the many years of memories we were given through the time we spent with him, including a lifetime of laughs, smiles, and stories.
Although we all gather today to mourn my father, he’ll never truly leave us. We can still see him in the eyes of his grandchildren, in the lives he impacted while teaching, and in our hearts and memories. May we all move forward fearlessly even as we mourn the loss of a great man.
Eulogy example No. 2:
Thank you all so much for being here today. Stephanie was my best friend for 42 years. Living these past few days without her infectious personality hasn’t been easy. She was the most fearless person I knew, and I looked up to her for that. Whether she was going on one of her hiking adventures or running her business from a boat, she was always an inspiration. Although the past few months have been heartbreaking, I know her spirit lives on in all our hearts and memories.
I believe it’s best to remember Stephanie as she truly was: a fast-talking, smiling, generous soul who always made time to help others. An amazing friend who would binge on ice cream with you after a tough breakup or be there with you to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. It’s easy to dwell on the fact that Stephanie has left us too soon, but I’d prefer to remember all the wonderful times we all got to share with her while she was here.
Stephanie will be remembered not only as a terrific artist and a vibrant individual but also as a dependable mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I know it’s impossible to not feel deep grief during this time, but I think we all can also say that Stephanie would want us to pick ourselves up, find the things that inspire us, and make a real difference in the world. That’s what she did, and the best way we can honor her is to do the same.