January 2, 2021

How To Write a Eulogy

So you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy at a friend or family member’s funeral. If you’re a part of the small percentage of people who have never attended a funeral, you might not even know what a eulogy is. Usually, when you hear about a eulogy, it is in reference to a celebrity or world leader that has passed away. Many people don’t know that a eulogy isn’t only for famous people. Every day as funerals are happening around the world, a eulogy is being presented in some form. Depending on the religion it may look different than what you’re used to, but they are happening nonetheless. 

What is a Eulogy?

A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or persons or things, especially one who recently died or retired or as a term of endearment. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services.

Writing and giving a eulogy is a way of saying goodbye to someone who has died. A eulogy brings the person to life in the words that are being spoken and paints a picture for the audience to imagine. To write a eulogy, you don’t need to be an incredible writer or speaker to deliver a message meaningful and heartfelt message. For many people, being asked to speak at someone’s funeral means that the family or individual thinks highly of you and wants you to be the leader of the funeral.

Think About the Personality of the Person You’re Describing

A eulogy has no right or wrong way to be written. They are unique to the person giving it, as well as the person who is described. Eulogies can be long, short, funny, sad, and everything in between. When you’re thinking about what to say in your eulogy, take into account who the audience is and what type of personality the deceased had. If the deceased was someone who was serious and formal all the time, then a light-hearted funny eulogy may not be appropriate. It is up to the person delivering the eulogy to determine what type of feeling the eulogy should evoke. Here are some things to think about before writing your eulogy. 

Who is the audience: Who is going to be attending the funeral. Is it close friends and family only? Are people from the community invited? Depending on who is attending, some things may need to be included or left out based on the place they held within the community.

How will they be feeling: For the people closest to the deceased, a funeral is obviously a time for mourning and extreme emotions, so what type of feeling should your eulogy create in the audience? Just because the audience will be feeling sad and emotional doesn’t mean the eulogy has to follow that same feeling. It should include uplifting and lighthearted stories of the deceased. 

What do they want to hear about: At a funeral, people like to hear the good things about the person who has died. Someone doesn’t become a saint just because they died and your audience wants to feel captured by the essence of the person. It is best to be honest in your eulogy, but selective. 

How long should you be talking: This can vary depending on the type of funeral service, but a good rule of thumb is to keep it between 3-5 minutes. People are emotional and will have a hard time tuning in for long periods of time. The eulogy should be long enough to capture the individual who has died, but short enough that the audience stays engaged. 

How to Write the Eulogy

Now it is time to sit down and actually write the eulogy. If you’re not an experienced public speaker, it might be beneficial to write out the whole speech word for word so you can read it while in front of the audience. If you are comfortable speaking, you can write bullet points or stories you want to cover and speak about them on the spot. It Is up to you how developed you want the speech to be. 

Share fun stories and memories: People enjoy learning about others and experiences that they had throughout their life, so telling appropriate stories is perfect for a eulogy. 

Tie it all together with a theme: When you have a theme for your eulogy to follow, it helps tie all the stories and impressions together. Your eulogy isn’t trying to justify the death or make sense of it, you’re just trying to create an image in the audience’s head of who this individual was. 

Some theme questions you can ask include: 

  • “Who was Andrew?” A father, a spouse, a lawyer… 
  • “They will live on through…,”
  • “She taught us the importance of life”
  • “What would [town name] be without Sara?”

These are all examples of questions you could ask to develop a theme for your eulogy based on the information you have collected about the deceased. 

Put the eulogy together: You’ve collected all the information you need, you’ve talked to family members about stories they want to be included and you’ve developed your theme. If you’re writing the speech word for word, use a conversational vocabulary and tone. There is no need to add unnecessary or fancy language because that’s typically not how people talk. The most important thing to understand is that you’re trying to clearly express your thoughts in a compelling manner that can appeal to the audience. 

Your final eulogy should be kind and respectful to the family and everyone involved. You can keep things honest in spirit without going overboard on details or attacking the family. Begin your eulogy by stating a thought-provoking question based on your theme or sharing a story about the deceased. Throughout the eulogy, you will be answering your theme question by giving examples and painting a picture for the friends and family members. 

Closing Thoughts

Getting to deliver the eulogy for your friend or family member is a great honor. It can seem like a daunting task to try and express emotion and paint a picture of the deceased, but as long as you’re speaking from the heart and being honest it will end up being great! 



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