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Apr 20, 2021

Lost for words – how to write a eulogy


“Do not shed tears when I have gone but smile instead because I have lived”.

So you’ve been asked to give a eulogy. You probably feel honored, but also very nervous. You may not have delivered a eulogy before and perhaps not even spoken in front of a crowd. It can seem daunting to be charged with saying a final farewell, especially when you’re dealing with your own grief. Speaking from the heart and sharing what made the person special to you are the most important parts of writing a eulogy but there are some things you can do to make it easier to write.

“There’s so much to say, where do I start”?

Like any story you would write, you’ll need a beginning, a middle and an end. It might be a good idea to think about the people that will be listening to your speech as well as the person you’re speaking about. Your audience will want to feel you have captured the essence of the person – what makes them special and what they meant to you. Before you begin writing, decide on the tone of your speech. Will it be light-hearted or serious? Whichever way you choose to go, think about how that will be received by your audience.

You should start by introducing yourself as there may be family and friends that don’t know you. If you’re related to the deceased explain how and if you’re a friend, talk about where and when you met.This gives your speech context and lets people know where you fit into the life of the deceased.

“What does everyone want to hear”?

Write your eulogy just as you would say it. Use your normal conversational vocabulary and tone, and avoid fancy or unfamiliar language. Don’t feel compelled to turn your tribute into a poem. What is important is clearly expressing your thoughts.

A good eulogy doesn’t just tell the audience about the person – in a sense it brings the person to life in their imagination and gives them something by which to remember them. You can do this by telling stories about the person: the happy things, the funny things, the sad things, the unusual things that happened, which sum up their life. Talking about these and the enduring qualities which describe what they were really like as a person, will help you build a picture for the audience with your words.

“How much do they want to hear?”

The average eulogy is about 3-5 minutes long. That should be enough for you to give a meaningful speech about the deceased. Remember that less is more; you don’t want to try the patience of the audience during such a sad occasion.

If you intend to play a piece of music or give a reading after your eulogy, you can end by explaining why you’ve chosen it. If not, then a good way could be to end with a short sentence of farewell, maybe the very last thing you said to them – or wanted to say to them – before they died.

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