Writing a eulogy: A step-by-step guide

Whether you have been asked to write and give a eulogy or you’ve decided yourself that you’d like to speak about a loved one at a funeral, delivering a funeral speech can be met with mixed emotions.

While it is an honour to give the eulogy for a loved one, it can also be an extremely daunting prospect. If you are not an experienced public speaker or writer, it can be hard to know what to say at a funeral, where to start and how to say it.

To help calm your nerves, inspire you and most of all guide you as you honour your loved one’s memory, we have put together this guide with tips for writing a eulogy.

 

How long should a eulogy be?

The right length of time for a eulogy is between 3 - 5 minutes. You want your speech to hold the audience's attention while really being able to convey what your loved one meant to you. By keeping the eulogy simple and concise, you’ll feel less overwhelmed when writing it and more confident when delivering it.

 

Is it suitable to use humour?

Yes, but only when appropriate. This will depend on various factors including, how the loved one passed away, how old they were when they passed and the person themselves.

It would be more appropriate to include humour for a eulogy of a grandparent who lived a long and happy life, compared to a child who passed away from an illness.

Use your best judgement and if you are unsure, ask advice from friends and family members before delivering the eulogy.

 

Before you begin writing

It’s important to take the time and consider the following before you start to put words on paper.

  • Who are you writing the funeral speech for? On behalf of immediate family? Co-workers? Are you writing about your own relationship? Remember to introduce yourself in your speech and who you are in relation to the loved one who has passed. This will help give the audience context and better understand the memories that you are sharing.
  • Is there a theme that would work when remembering the deceased? Were they a big part of the community? An avid sports fan? Did their life revolve around their family? Having the eulogy centred around a theme can often help to tie together your memories, anecdotes and stories about your loved one.

Examples of these can be statements like:

  • “Grandpa was a family man. He gave the best advice, provided for his family and he loved us all greatly.”
  •  “What will the town do now without Sonya running the toy drive, her avid fundraising skills and her incredible apple pie?”

If you can’t think of a theme, don’t stress, the most important aspect of a eulogy is sharing stories and memories and coming together to remember the life of someone you have lost.

  • Are there family members and friends who could help you write the eulogy? If you feel stuck on what to say, reach out to those who also knew the loved one. Not only will talking with others help with the grieving process, but they may have stories or memories to add to the eulogy that you didn’t know yourself.
  • Reconsider mentioning any negative, religious or political opinions. When speaking at a funeral, remember that you are there to celebrate the life of the loved one, not dwell on grievances or discuss topics that could spark debate. Focus on the positive and remember the deceased fondly. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the other friends and family members who are there at the service

 

How to write a eulogy

Brainstorm Ideas

As mentioned above, speaking and brainstorming with friends and family members can be extremely helpful and will give you extra insight into the one you have lost. Not only will it give you great ideas for your funeral speech, but it can also help you while you grieve your loss. Write down all your ideas for the different stories and memories. Your friends and family can then help provide guidance on which stories or memories to shortlist for the eulogy.

Start with an introduction

This eulogy tip will help you to write the first paragraph.

For your opening statement, introduce yourself and who you were to the deceased.

For example:

  • “Hello everyone, for those of you that don’t know me, I’m Jim and I’m Flora’s oldest grandchild.”
  • “Hi everybody, as Lisa just mentioned, my name is Tracey, and Anthony was my best friend from the age of 5.”

 

Share stories and memories about your loved one

Once you have introduced yourself to the audience, the next few paragraphs should share some stories about the one you have lost. The right stories can tell the world exactly who they were and why you loved them.

Examples of stories and memories:

  • “Sally was many wonderful things, though she wasn’t a good singer. But did that stop her? Of course not! Once a month, we would go the RSL for their monthly karaoke night and I would watch my wife belt out Bohemian Rhapsody, completely out of tune but with so much gusto she always had the crowd cheering for her.”
  • “Mum’s life revolved around her family. She took pride in being a stay-at-home mum to us four kids and even more pride I would say in being a grandmother. The house was always stocked with toys, lollies, chips and ice cream for whenever the grandkids were visiting, and it was never a surprise when the kids would be crying for Grandma when they had to go home. She knew what it took to create a loving and fun home and we never felt any other way when we were with her.”

 

Talk about their childhood, education or career

Did they grew up in a different country? What did they study? Did they have different jobs or careers during their lifetime?

Examples:

  • “Dad spent his early years in England and then moved to Australia with his parents when he was 13 years old. He had a hard childhood with his parents struggling to make ends meet. After dad left school at 17, he worked hard for a couple of years so he could put himself through university. His hard work paid off and he was able to make dream a reality to become an accountant. I’ve always admired dad and his drive and determination. It’s because of dad that I pursued a career in law.”
  • “I grew up with Fred in the outskirts of Toowoomba. We became fast friends and spent most waking hours together getting up to a lot of mischief. As we got older, he pursued a career in construction while I worked in the family business. Over the years we moved to different parts of the country, but we still kept in contact. When I got married, Fred was my best man and likewise, I was Fred’s best man at his wedding to Doris. Despite time and distance, Fred was the best mate I could have ever wished for.”

 

Mention any special talets, passions and hobbies

Did they have a passion for art? Were they secretly amazingly talented at chess? It could even be that your loved one was obsessed with a particular TV show. This further shows more wonderful sides to their personality which the audience will love hearing about.

Examples:

  • “One thing that many people might not know about Billy was that he was a mad cat lover. Due to his living circumstances he was never able to formally own a cat, but boy did he have a lot of visitors visit his porch every day! Every morning he would get up and place one or two tins of tuna and bowls of milk out for his feline friends on his porch and would sit and wait for them to arrive. When he found out that cats are actually lactose intolerant, he bought the lactose free milk for them instead. He had such a wonderful relationship with those cats and I know they will all be missing him now.”
  • “Words were Gracie’s thing. Whether it was writing, reading or editing, words thrilled Gracie to no end. She didn’t like to be called a grammar purist, she thought that was too negative. However, there were so many times when she would correct her mother and I for the way we said a sentence or how we’d written something. After correcting us we always ended up in laughter as we joked about her love for good grammar. I’m sure I’ve written something wrong in this speech today and I know she’s up there sighing and rolling her eyes. But this is what Gracie special and one of the many reasons why we loved her so much.”

 

Talk about the special qualities our loved one possessed

Was your loved one funny? Easy going? Kind? Giving? This is an opportunity to mention their personal traits and characteristics to give a sense of the person and the life they lived.

Examples of special qualities to mention in the eulogy:

  • “From the day Eva was born, she brought a joy and light to the room that nobody else could match. Her infectious smile and wicked sense of humour meant that she could tell some pretty terrible jokes, all while looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.”
  • “Anyone who knew Dad would describe him as kind. All you had to do was take one look at his face and you could see the kindness radiating out of him. He always, always taught us to never judge a book by its cover. That we should stop and think about why someone might look, act or talk a certain way. I’ve lost count of the times he would stop and speak to a homeless person in the city and just ask if they were okay and if they’d like something to eat. Most other people would just walk on by, but not Dad. He was the kindest person I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.”

 

If you’d like, add a special reading or poem

This is a personal choice and does not need to be included in all eulogies but it does add an extra special touch. If your loved one had a favourite song or poem that would be fitting for the speech, add it in.

If you’d like to say a reading or poem but aren’t sure what to recite, a few examples are below:

But Not Forgotten by Dorothy Parker

I think no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head
Nor the tremulous things I said.
You will still see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You’ll hold me in your memory
And keep my image there without me,
By telling later loves about me.

 

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”
-       Rossiter Worthington Raymond

 

Finish the eulogy with a goodbye and words of comfort

For the last paragraph of your eulogy use comforting words or phrases to help say goodbye to your loved one. You could use one of the above examples or find one of your own.

If your loved one taught you a life lesson, include this in the paragraph.

Examples:

  • “Aunty Bev taught me to live life to the fullest, never take yourself too seriously and to above all do everything in life with love.”
  • “Although Glen was taken from us far too young, I have learnt that it’s never too soon to tell someone how much they mean to you and to never take a day for granted. Glen lived in the moment and really loved life and I know that’s what he wants us to do today, no matter how hard it is to do it without him.”

 

Finally, end the eulogy by saying goodbye to your loved one. This can be just from yourself or a send-off on behalf of everyone gathered at the service.

Examples are:

  • “Goodbye my sweet, sweet boy. I know you’re now in a better place and are spending your days playing with Nanny and Poppy who would have been waiting for you with open arms. I know I will see you again. I love you now, forever and always.”
  • “And so now as we say farewell to Mary, we will remember her for outgoing personality, the ability to see the best in people and the best hugger we will ever know. Until we meet again Mary.”   

 

You're ready to deliver your eulogy

By following our guideline and using the tips here, you should now be more confident in writing a funeral speech.

Make sure to practice a few times before you deliver the eulogy at the service. A good way to get over your nerves is to say it out loud not only on your own, but in front of a good friend or family member. This will also help you in picking up any mistakes made in the speech.

Have someone who knew the loved one go over your eulogy as well to make sure that all the details are correct.

Remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect as long as it is heartfelt and personal. The fact that you are standing up in front of an audience to honour the memory of your loved one will mean so much to everyone there as you bid farewell to the one you have lost.

Further tips are available to help you deliver a eulogy.

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