How to write a moving eulogy

Kate BucklandBlog

When you lose someone you love, writing and giving their eulogy is a huge honour, but it’s also a huge responsibility. If you have been asked to write a eulogy but you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry because we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we will talk you through how to write a moving eulogy, pitfalls to watch out for, and we will arm you with tips for getting through giving the eulogy you write on the day of your loved one’s funeral.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a eulogy?
Simply put, a eulogy is a spoken tribute to someone who has passed away, given at their funeral or memorial service. There are no hard and fast rules as to who should give the eulogy at a funeral. The eulogy can be given by a spouse, son or daughter, grandchild, sibling or even a friend. It may fall to you by default, you may be asked to give the eulogy, or you might even volunteer to step up.

What makes a good eulogy?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how to write a moving eulogy, but all eulogies have one thing in common; they are a final farewell and celebration of the life of the person who has passed away. A good eulogy will capture the essence of the deceased and bring them back to life in the minds of the audience, almost like they are in the room with you all. It is heartfelt, meaningful and honest. The average eulogy is 3 – 5 minutes long, and written with both the deceased person and the audience in mind. Keep the tone conversational – you are celebrating your loved one’s life and conversing with a room full of friends. There is no need for big words or grand statements.

How do I start writing a eulogy?

Getting started can be difficult, but it’s important not to leave writing the eulogy to the last minute. Start by considering the person you are writing about and brainstorming. Note down what kind of person they were, who their family is (spouse, sons, daughters, grandchildren, siblings etc) and who they are survived by. What was your loved one known for? Think of specific examples that characterise this. For example, if your loved one was known for their kindness, share a specific example of a time they demonstrated this. If they were known for their wicked sense of humour, think of something funny they did such as a particularly good April Fool’s prank!

Decide on the tone of the eulogy you want to deliver. Remember, a eulogy doesn’t have to be sad and mournful. Depending on the person it is celebrating, it could have elements of humour or be uplifting and inspiring as well as being sad.

Now it’s time to start writing. If the officiant does not introduce you, ensure you start by introducing yourself and explain your link to the deceased person. Remember, a eulogy does not have to follow the chronological order of your loved ones life. You might like to go straight into sharing a favourite memory of your loved one, or share a story that those in the audience would appreciate and remember.

Don’t isolate yourself during this process, and do things to jog your memory. Talk to family and friends, look through photos, letters and mementoes together, or take a walk through the deceased’s house or garden to jog your memory and get conversation flowing. Run your finished eulogy past family, ensuring you have them read it and you also read it aloud.

What should you not say in a eulogy?

When writing a eulogy, imagine the person you are celebrating is in the room with you. Go by the old saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. If you wouldn’t say something to their face, then don’t say it in their eulogy!

As a rule, avoid the following:

  • Overly emotive language – it is very easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of farewelling a loved one. Remember that you need to get through delivering the eulogy, and that some people in the audience will already be emotional and in tears.
  • Faults and shortcomings
  • Family feuds and old grudges
  • Trying to justify or minimise the loss
  • Crimes
  • Focussing on the cause of death
  • Poor life choices
  • Cliché statements, such as ‘we are gathered here today’.
  • Passing judgement – you are not there to judge the deceased or their life choices. You are there to celebrate their life, give your final farewells and to help people grieve and find closure.
  • Inappropriate religious reference – religion is a touchy subject at the best of times, and far more so when emotions are heightened.
  • Offensive humour – humour can, of course, have a place in a eulogy, but keep it respectful. Any anecdotes should be honest and complimentary, and not easily misconstrued by grieving family and friends. Regardless of how funny he or she may have been in life, it is inappropriate to serve up a roasting in their eulogy.

The bottom line is, if you’re not sure if you should say it, then you definitely shouldn’t.

How to finish a eulogy

The end of the eulogy should provide a loving conclusion to your speech. If you choose to follow with a song, explain why you have chosen this song and relate it back to the person whose life you are celebrating. You may also like to finish with a final message to your loved one. This might be the final words you said to them, or what you wish you could say to them now.

How to get through delivering the eulogy

The most important part of delivering the eulogy is to be prepared. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and this is certainly no exception. We recommend writing out the eulogy in full and reading it out loud over and over. This can help you to hold it together a little more on the day by getting some of your tears out during your practice reads, as well as helping with a more confident delivery.

If you are not sure you can make eye contact with the audience without losing your grip on your emotions, that’s okay! No-one will be judging you on your delivery. Pick a spot on the wall above the congregation to stare at, or keep your focus on your notes in front of you.

It can also be handy to have tissues and a glass of water at the ready. If you start to become overly emotional during the delivery of the eulogy, don’t stress! Pause, take a couple of deep breaths to steady yourself and have a sip of water before continuing.

Finally, have someone else on standby to read the eulogy if you find you simply can’t cope with doing it yourself on the day, and make sure they have a copy of the eulogy just in case you need them to stand in.

Be gentle on yourself!
If you find that writing or delivering the eulogy is too difficult or you just don’t want to do it, that’s okay! Don’t feel guilty, simply ask if someone else can do it as you are too overcome with grief.