You’ve been asked to give a eulogy for a loved one.
So, where do you even begin—and how can you possibly pack a lifetime of memories into a short, three- to five-minute speech?
Being chosen to write a eulogy for a loved one is a great honor, but it can also bring about mixed emotions. It’s natural to feel nervous—you may feel pressured to deliver the perfect eulogy or overwhelmed to handle such a significant task. Remember, though: While you may be delivering the speech, its focal point is your loved one, and the time is used to highlight who they were and what they meant to you.
So how can you find the right words? As you begin writing your loved one’s eulogy, keep these tips on hand to help you write and deliver one that’s both meaningful and memorable.
1. Find out who else is giving a eulogy.
There’s no rule against having more than one person deliver a eulogy. Knowing who else is speaking is one of the most important ways to ensure your tribute is unique.
As you think about what you want to say, reflect on who your loved one was and your relationship with them. Though your relationship with your loved one may have differed from others, it’s still okay to include funny or unique anecdotes that are special to your time together. Those stories can always tie back to qualities of your loved one that everyone can relate to, such as their love for the outdoors or ability to make an entire room laugh.
2. Take time to gather memories.
For some, the experience of writing and delivering a eulogy can be emotionally overwhelming. It can be a moving and sentimental process. But by sorting through keepsakes—like photo albums or scrapbooks—you can uncover what was most important to your loved one and rekindle old memories.
This is a simple way to connect with the person who has passed and spark ideas for the writing process. Once you’ve had time to reflect, choose a few memories to focus on for the eulogy.
3. Collaborate with family and friends.
One of the most beautiful things we can do when we lose a loved one is to learn something new about that person by sharing memories with others.
As you prepare the eulogy, gather friends and family to reminisce on the good times. Having conversations will surface stories of your loved one, which can go a long way in crafting a meaningful eulogy. Incorporating responses from others will help make it more personal, allowing you to easily connect with those in attendance.
Before delivering the eulogy, have someone else read it or read it out loud to them to get their thoughts on how you’re portraying your loved one.
4. Be personable and authentic.
A eulogy doesn’t have to be a formal, stiff presentation. There’s no right way to give a eulogy, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping your speech personable and relatable. To ease your nerves, imagine the eulogy as a conversation with your loved one. Use that sense of calm and comfort to help deliver an authentic eulogy that both honors and celebrates your loved one’s life.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to show emotion. This is a difficult time for everyone in attendance, and it’s okay to be vulnerable if you’re comfortable doing so.
5. Stick to a theme.
While there are many ways to approach a eulogy, a theme will keep you focused on the direction of the story you are sharing.
If you’re unsure how you’d like to open the eulogy, consider one of the following themes to set the tone of your speech:
- Biographical themes: A biographical theme focuses on telling the story of your loved one. Think of the speech as a timeline of the person’s life, mentioning major accomplishments and milestones in the form of a story.
- Personal themes: A personal theme focuses on telling the story of the departed through the eyes of others. If your loved one was a jokester, consider incorporating humor into the eulogy. As always, keep in mind the emotions and reactions of those in attendance.
- Specialized themes: A specialized theme focuses on specific attributes and characteristics of the deceased. What was your loved one passionate about? If they loved singing and dancing, find ways to incorporate this passion into the eulogy. This is a simple way to honor the person they were—the person you remember.
6. Keep it brief.
When putting pen to paper, keep the length of your eulogy short. Generally, a eulogy lasts anywhere between three and five minutes long. If another person is giving a eulogy, as well, keep in mind the length of their speech when preparing yours—or coordinate to ensure they aren’t too long when combined.
When delivering the speech, remember to talk slowly. It’s important to convey a clear and concise message that honors your loved one.
7. Write down your speech.
Even if you’re not planning to read from a written speech, take notes and bring them to the stand or podium with you. In times of stress, it can be easy to forget what you were planning to say, lose confidence or freeze in front of an audience. Your notes can serve as a backup in case this happens and offer a sense of relief if you’re nervous.
>>>Related Resource: 5 Ways to Rebuild Your Confidence Following a Loss
8. Stay positive.
There’s no question that funerals and memorials are emotional, and some eulogies can even bring about feelings of sadness. If you can, put a positive spin on the speech to uplift the spirits of everyone in attendance.
Acknowledge the loss while focusing on how your loved one’s values impacted those present. Positivity helps bring people together to focus on the good times, rather than the bad.
9. Conclude with your main theme.
The conclusion of the eulogy is your opportunity to make a lasting impact, so be sure to tie your closing thoughts to the overall theme. You can do this by referencing a quote, poem, song lyric or even a joke that reminds you of your loved one.
By referencing these tips, you’ll be sure to deliver a meaningful and memorable eulogy for your loved one.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Final Arrangements
Following the loss of a loved one, there are upwards of 125 decisions to be made.
Some of these decisions may feel simple. But for the more difficult ones, we’ve created this funeral planning checklist to provide you with the necessary steps and answer the most common questions we hear as you embark on planning final arrangements.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.