How to Write a Eulogy

Writing and giving a eulogy at your loved one’s funeral

Last updated: 16 March 2017

A eulogy is a speech given at funerals to commemorate the life of someone who has passed away. If you have been asked to write a eulogy it can feel daunting at first. However, it is a great honour and an important way of saying goodbye to your loved one.

Research

Once you have been asked to give a eulogy and have accepted, it is advisable that you speak to family members and close friends about the loved one who has passed away.

They may wish to share anecdotes or stories about your loved one. These stories may provide inspiration when you sit down to write the eulogy, and will help clarify in your mind the characteristics and qualities of that person that you wish to capture. You might even choose to include these stories in your eulogy, but it may be best to seek permission from the person you heard it from.

It is also a good time to reflect on your time with your loved one and remember key moments that illustrate their personality. It might be the first time you met, your favourite memory, or a time when they helped you.

You could also look through photo albums for some inspiration and to learn more about their lives. Bereaved family members are usually receptive to requests to look through photos.

Brainstorming

Once you have gathered enough information, you may want to make notes about key information to include in your eulogy. These notes could take many forms to help you organise your thoughts and feelings:

  • Mood board: this is a type of collage that can include pictures, text and materials arranged in any order you feel is appropriate. There’s no limit to what you can include on a mood board. Try adding a photo of your loved one; post-it notes with sayings or phrases written on them; key dates such as marriages or births; maps with important locations marked. This physical interpretation of everything associated with your loved one may help you to visualise exactly what you want to say.
  • Timeline: although there’s no requirement for eulogies to be chronological or precisely dated, constructing a timeline of the person’s life could help you better understand what to include in your speech.
  • Key words: make a list of words to describe the person. Think of as many words as you can and then highlight which words you think are most fitting. This list can act as a helpful prompt if you become stuck while writing a eulogy.

Styles

There are a few different ways of writing a eulogy, depending on what you think is most suitable.

You may want to keep it mostly fact-based, written in chronological order with a small personal note at the end.

Alternatively, you could base it on personal anecdotes and stories that capture the personality of your loved one. These can be more light-hearted anecdotes, which often helps the assembly feel more at ease. Some people even choose to include jokes in their eulogies, though you should consider the preferences of your loved one and the bereaved in this regard.

You must judge the audience of the funeral and decide which type of eulogy would be best for them. In the end, writing a good eulogy depends on writing from the heart. If you aim to describe what made your loved one special and important to you, this will show through in your writing.

There is no set rule for how long a eulogy should be, though people usually speak for around five to ten minutes. If you are concerned about timings, you may be able to ask the funeral director about the order of service.

Content

The final decision of what to include will always come down to you. However, you may wish to include some (if not all) of the following:

  • When and where they were born
  • The names of their close family
  • Nicknames
  • If they were married
  • Any military service
  • Education
  • Favourite poems, songs or quotes
  • Acknowledgement of the guests (especially those who have travelled a long distance)
  • Sporting achievements
  • Anything they have contributed to the community
  • Clubs and society memberships

Delivery

Once you have determined what you want to say, it’s a good idea to practise giving your eulogy. Most people struggle with public speaking, so you are not alone. Read it through out loud, either on your own or in front of a trusted friend or family member.

When giving a eulogy remember to:

  • Speak slowly. Everyone wants to hear the words you have prepared.
  • Pause. There may be certain points in the eulogy that deserve a moment of silence for contemplation, or if a particular story makes the audience laugh.
  • Give eye contact. This may be difficult, but if you mention a close family member by name you may want to scan the first row to make them feel included.
  • Try to stand still; tapping fingers or feet can distract from what you are saying.