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Published on December 14, 2020

What is a Eulogy?

A eulogy is a commentary speech or written work that seeks to praise and highlight how much a person that has passed away meant to you.


Purpose of a Eulogy

A eulogy or tribute offers others the opportunity to remember the significant aspects of the eulogized person. In essence, it should sum up a loved one's life, including the positive aspects of their personality and influence on people, and possibly shed light on the person's unique and little known qualities.

A eulogy offers you an opportunity to narrate your loved one's life, share with others your perspective about their character and life, and pay respect to them. 

Each eulogy is meant to be unique. There is no "right" or “wrong” way, as long as the aim is to upbuild others and celebrate their memory. You can, however, follow some guidelines to help you write a heartfelt and touching eulogy.

Usually, the person who reads the eulogy played a great role in the eulogized person’s life. They could mean a close friend, child, spouse, or parent. The person should be well known and close to the loved one.

If the event is too overwhelming for the person meant to give the speech, someone else may read the eulogy on their behalf.


How to Write a Eulogy Speech

You need to have a discussion with other members of the family and friends, consider what they say, and think of the person to be eulogized. From there, you can incorporate your own experiences with them and take the time to edit your speech appropriately.

As mentioned earlier, there are no specific guidelines for writing a eulogy. The person you're talking about is unique, therefore, the tribute should be unique. Think carefully about the person you're eulogizing and see how best to communicate your thoughts clearly and honestly. Do you or a friend have a favorite memory of the person eulogized? Is there a specific item that the friends and family would like you to highlight? 

Remember all the great memories you had with this special person. Consider your discussions and time together. Is there something that stands out that you can appropriately include in your speech? How do other friends and family members sum up your loved one's life? Is there a common theme in all descriptions? The answers to these questions will help you layout a great eulogy for your loved one.

Here are some suggestions to inspire you: 

“Martin was a devoted father, who was always present for his wife and kids"

“Robert touched so many lives in so many ways. He was an inspiration to all that knew him. I would like to share a few experiences that highlight what a special person he was.”

“Having so many loved ones and close friends here to pay their respect to Harvey indicates just how special he was and how much he will be remembered and missed.”

"Karen and I have been friends for over 30 years. I feel blessed to have known her and to have made so many incredible memories with her."

When reflecting on the times you spent with them, remember the defining moments that best describe their personality, and let that guide you. It may be the first time you met and realized you could be friends or fell in love. Going through your loved one's photos can bring memories and inspire your thought process regarding their life.

After gathering a few stories and themes, the next step is writing down short notes that define an introduction, body, and conclusion to your speech. This will help you organize an effective tribute. 

Here are some of the approaches you may consider when putting your ideas together. 

Mood Board – this is a type of photo presentation that consists of images, descriptive words, and illustrations organized to set the scene and mood. Here you can put a collection of photos, small graphics with phrases or quotes scribbled on them, and important dates such as a wedding or other special occasions. This can serve as a visual presentation of the different aspects you'd want to share about your loved one and help your thought process for the eulogy.

Timeline – you don't have to follow a particular order to describe your loved one's life story, but it would help to use the person's timeline of events to decide on what's best to say in your tribute.

Main Descriptions – write a list of things that best describe their character traits. Craft as many descriptions as you can and then narrow down to the most befitting description. Three or four are sufficient. Use more if desired. These words will help you best convey stories based on those traits and stick to a theme. 

You may decide to keep the eulogy simple with a special message of remembrance to close the speech, or you could make the tribute more personalized with stories and accounts that reveal an in-depth character of your loved one. The latter option should put those present more at ease and enhance a positive mood for the memorial or funeral.

Depending on your relationship with the person being eulogized, you could even include jokes and funny experiences. Let your best judgment inform you whether humor is an appropriate inclusion. Nothing should be said that would embarrass or insult anyone present. Nor with this be a time to expose secrets or private matters. 

You can opt to include the deceased person’s personal details such as

  • Birthday and birth location
  • Names of close loved ones and family
  • Nickname
  • Career
  • Schools attended and degrees earned
  • Favorite pastimes or places 
  • Special skills
  • Acknowledgment of special guests (especially those who came traveled distances to be with you)
  • Contributions to their community or family
  • Clubs and society where the deceased was a member


How long a Eulogy Should Be

Normally, eulogies are five and ten minutes long. If there are other people slotted to give the eulogy along with you, you should give it a maximum of three or four minutes.

Keep in mind that some venues limit how long an event should take, so it’s crucial to consult with the funeral director or person organizing the memorial.


Conclusion

Finally, remember to practice your speech. You can do this on your own in front of a mirror, or have a trusted friend listen to you. Speak deliberately. It's always good to pause for reflection or contemplation and to give those present time to react. 

Try not to appear as to though you are reading a manuscript. And don’t panic if you get choked up or lose your place. You are among friends. Just pause, collect yourself, and continue when ready. 

Maintain eye contact with the audience to the extent possible. Remember everyone struggles with public speaking. 

Above all, bear in mind that you are with loved ones who are not expecting perfection. With these thoughts in mind, your eulogy should accomplish its goal — to highlight the many reasons why your loved one will be missed and why they are so dear to you and those present. 

Published on December 14, 2020