WHAT EXACTLY IS A EULOGY?
A eulogy is simply a speech given at a memorial or funeral. It’s usually delivered by a family member or close friend and it celebrates the life of the deceased.
There are no strict rules but there is a traditional structure and a few expectations about the areas you will cover.
WHERE TO START
At Speechy we’re known for our wedding speech advice and writing service. However, irrespective of the occasion, planning is one of the most important parts of any speech.
Firstly, the basics. A bit of fact-checking to ensure you can chronicle all your loved one’s major life events, from birth to school, first job to marriage, career to death. Although it’s unlikely you will reference all these key dates, it will help you structure your speech.
Next, time for some personal reflection. Sit down with a pen and pad and note down all the stories that mean a lot to you. And remember – these can be funny! Finding the moments when your loved one brought a smile to your face and laughter to your life, is key to writing your eulogy.
Of course, be sensitive to everyone’s feelings. If you think anyone might be embarrassed by a story, even the deceased, please avoid it. If in doubt, remain tactful.
Once you have a list of your own stories, gather your friends & family and find out more about their stories.
Sometimes, it’s nice to email your loved one’s old friends and colleagues so they can contribute to areas of their life that you may not be familiar with. Not only will this give you even more material for a perfect eulogy it can also be comforting to discover other people’s memories and find out more about your dearest’s life.
WRITING A EULOGY
Now for the tough bit. Putting together all those heart-warming stories, those surprising facts, all those little details that helped make your loved one a truly unique and special person.
Here’s what to include
- The basic biographic detail (when & where they were born, summary of their childhood, significant achievements in life & career, detail of their family – spouse, children and grandchildren if relevant)
- Happy memories
- Anecdotes that reflect their personality
- Your personal reflections on what they meant to you
- Offer words of comfort to those gathered, and a personal goodbye to the deceased
Of course, every eulogy is deeply personal. All deaths are sad but some are truly tragic. There is no generic advice on how to write a eulogy for a child or a young adult. Equally, if the deceased has died through tragic circumstances, such as suicide, alcoholism, or abuse, than a more bespoke approach is required.
For these more tragic circumstances, we recommend that you seek the advice of professional charities, the folk who will be leading the service (such as the priest), or obviously, please give us a call to discuss how we can possibly help.
STRUCTURE OF A EULOGY
You can either follow a conventional structure (as outlined above) or consider adopting a theme for your eulogy.
A theme looks at the deceased’s life through a lens. For example, it may be you use your eulogy to look at what your loved one contributed to everyone else’s life – from breeding a passion for West Brom FC in his grandsons to teaching his children how to bounce back from life’s struggles.
Or a theme may be looking at your loved one’s loves. What were their passions throughout life? From the ceilidh dancing days to a life-long devotion to their career in medicine – this can prove to be both heart-warming and revealing.
Another theme may be, simply, how others viewed the deceased. The five words, maybe that the truly important people in their life used to describe them when asked.
There are so many potential themes to consider, but equally, don’t dismiss the convention structure. Don’t make this more stressful than it needs to be.
HOW TO START A EULOGY
Start by introducing yourself and the occasion.
‘Hello, I am Jenny’s daughter and I’m delighted so many people, her beloved friends and family, are here today to help us celebrate her life.’
If you’re a family member, thank attendees, especially those who have travelled. If you’re not a family member, simply offer your condolences.
Depending on the circumstances and character of the deceased, it may be appropriate to start with a bit of humour…
‘If dad was looking down on us now, he’d be wondering what all the fuss was about, and probably heckling me to cut straight to the bit when we can all raise a glass to him.’
HOW TO END THE EULOGY
Don’t think you need to be overly profound. No one is expecting you to be a poet or a philosopher. Please don’t think you don’t need to ‘make sense’ of the death. You can’t.
It’s OK to admit you’re hurting, that all that you can say is you’re going to blooming miss them. Being authentic is more important than Googling platitudes and eulogy clichés. It will mean more.
Having said that, it’s absolutely fine to utilise the sentiment of others, and a quote can sum up exactly what you’re trying to say, in an eloquent way. In fact, Speechy has curated a selection of quotes to use in eulogies that we think have the potential to help.
YOUR FINAL THOUGHT
Don’t overthink this. Feel free to address either the audience or the deceased themselves. Talk about what they meant to you, how their memory will live on, and say your final goodbye.
Depending on the circumstances and the character of your loved one, you can even try to leave people with a smile on their face.
‘Of course (loved one) would have loved to have been part of the party today. In fact, knowing his sense of humour, I’m half expecting him to pop up and tell us this was all a big joke.
Sadly, we know it isn’t, but what I do know, is (loved one’s) naughty sense of humour is ingrained in all of us here today – either with a memory or our DNA. And for that, we thank you (loved one). Keep being naughty up there big man. We’ll be seeing you soon for a whisky’
Ending on a humorous note will also be helpful when it comes to your delivery. It also sets th tone for the rest of the service so really worth considering.
LENGTH OF THE EULOGY
Once you’ve done your research, thought of all your favourite stories, and got input from others, you may find you have far too much. A eulogy should be between 1,000 to 1,500 words, though again, no strict rules.
Our advice, however, is the same as every speech we work on. Less is more. Please don’t feel your eulogy has to cover all aspects of your loved one’s life, mention all their friends and family, and include all their major achievements. It can’t do that.
A eulogy shouldn’t feel like a list, a chronological outline of their life. It just needs to just give a little insight into why your loved one was loved and how they lived their life.
Preparing to Deliver The Eulogy
Writing the speech isn’t the only hard part. Of course, you have to deliver it. But before you get there, there are things you can do to make it easier.
If time allows, we advise getting together with close family in advance of the funeral and delivering the eulogy to them. You don’t need to worry about ‘ruining the surprise’. This is a chance for you to deliver the eulogy with the tears flowing down your face and your family will appreciate this more intimate delivery, where they can contribute and you can all support each other.
Make an evening of it if you can. It will make delivering the eulogy on the day much less overwhelming.
DELIVERING THE EULOGY
Obviously, use notes. You don’t get extra points for your presentation skills and your words are the important bit, not your ability to memorise them.
Of course, it makes sense to ensure you are familiar with the flow of your text in advance of delivering it. No magic formula to this, just practice as often as you can, saying it out loud and noticing the points that you stumble and may need to edit.
HANDLING YOUR EMOTIONS
Don’t put pressure on yourself. It’s fine to cry.
Even if you think you ‘have it under control’, it’s very difficult to account for emotions on the day of a funeral. Grief is surprising.
However you feel, the normal rules to delivering a speech apply. Take your time, breathe, and speak slower and louder than you may think is necessary.
If you feel you are going to cry, take a sip of water and look upwards. It’s said to be harder to cry if you do.
HOW SPEECHY CAN HELP YOU
If writing the eulogy is proving difficult for you, we can help.
This is a stressful time and it’s no surprise if you find this hard. With our assistance, we can write the send-off your loved one deserves.
Find out more about our Eulogy Writing Service. We can explain how it works and you can decide whether it’s right for you. No pressure.
We also offer an Edit Speech Writing Service which may suit you better.