How to write a eulogy

small__133816737Although many people believe that a eulogy should be a lasciviously praising speech about how wonderful the deceased was, it doesn’t have to be. In fact such schmaltzy nonsense is likely to be highly inappropriate for the majority of people, whether dead or alive.

For a list of all 12 articles in this series on how to write well to people dealing with death, bereavement and other life sadness, click here. 

My own view – and that of many others – is that a eulogy needs to be a loving, caring, humorous (where appropriate) and realistic tribute to the person concerned. And indeed, this is how many eulogies turn out to be.

However, let’s not delude ourselves: eulogies can be a) hard to write and b) hard to deliver…

What do we need to achieve?

Eulogies are different from the written type of text or article we need to concern ourselves with when a loved one passes away, because in the main they are delivered verbally – i.e. audibly – rather than in text form.

What does Google say? As you would expect, it comes up with (well, when I Googled “how to write a eulogy” just now) around 3.25million responses. So you won’t be short of some ideas on how to write a eulogy as and when you need to.

Not that I would disagree with the great Google, of course, but I do have some suggestions on this topic which you may find a bit more helpful.

First, decide who is going to give the eulogy

Before we go any further, I must apologize to people from Faiths and other disciplines where a “eulogy” is not relevant. However in mitigation, as far as I can understand it no matter what cultural way in which we say goodbye, formally, to a loved one, there is usually some sort of eulogy delivered to share the memories of the loved one amongst all present.

So, once the decision of “who” is made, the next question is “what” he or she will say. To a certain – or rather a limited – extent, this may depend on who the deliverer of the eulogy may be. But it’s essential to know this before any sensible comments can be drawn up.

The eulogy itself

Sadly, I have been to many funerals in the last few years and so have had occasion to listen to a number of eulogies.

What strikes me about them all, is that they need not only to be about the person who has passed away, but also about the people whom the “eulogist” represents and how they interacted with their loved one.

You may also find the following articles helpful:
How to write a death announcement
What to write when someone has died
How to write a letter of sympathy when someone dies
How to write an obituary

At my own parents’ funerals (I was an only child), the eulogies were given by other relatives because I was too broken up to be able to stand up and speak coherently. But in both cases I helped the relatives to put their eulogies together.

What was important to me was to share the essence of what my parents’ lives meant to their family and friends, and help everyone to remember them both for the people they were, and for the fondness they shared with everyone present.

Funerals – and eulogies – are more about the living than about the dead

That may seem a harsh thing to say when you have just been bereaved, but if you think about it, it’s absolutely true.

In helping my relatives to craft their eulogies to my parents I was insistent that they should focus on what everyone at the funeral would recall about each of them … what would make them smile … what would make them think back on good, happy times.

Even the act of talking through the content of the eulogy was a heart-warming experience, because of the good memories it all brought back.

What is essential, I believe, is to look back on your loved one’s life and pick up on the things that the living left behind will identify with and think, “yes, that’s just how I remember (your loved one.)”

Some key points you may want to include

  • When and where the deceased was born; his/her childhood, education and youth
  • His/her career, family-raising, achievements, hobbies, good causes
  • Your own earliest memories and your developing relationship with him/her
  • If appropriate, some amusing memories and anecdotes about the deceased
  • His/her later life, relationships, activities
  • A closing tribute to the person s/he was

Obviously you don’t want to dwell on anything negative and instead focus on the positive things about the deceased, and underline those to everyone at the funeral. That way, they will go home remembering your loved one as the lovely person he or she was.

With every good wish


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photo credit: kainet via photopin cc