How to write a eulogy: A step-by-step guide

Jun 21, 2021
Writing a eulogy can be an emotional and difficult task but with these tips it will be made a lot easier. Source: Getty

Being tasked with writing a eulogy can be a heavy burden to carry, especially when you’re dealing with grief and trying to navigate the complicated elements that come with planning a funeral. Knowing what to say, what tone to strike and how to deliver the eulogy can also be difficult and for those who aren’t comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, it can be stressful. To help make the process easier, we’ve gathered helpful tips to guide you through your writing and help you deliver a speech that honours your loved one and gives them the fitting sendoff they deserve.

Writing your eulogy introduction

Getting started on a eulogy is often the hardest part, especially if you aren’t sure where to start or what you’re meant to say. But there’s no need to make it complicated, just cover the basics covered in the first few paragraphs of your eulogy.

Start by acknowledging why everyone is gathered there, introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased. This is also your chance to thank everyone for coming, making any special mentions of those who have travelled far to be there to honour your loved one. Short and sweet is best for the introduction, with the rest to come in the later parts of the eulogy.

Writing your loved one’s biography

The next few paragraphs should delve a bit deeper the deceased’s life and can include where they were born, where they lived, their siblings and parents.

During this part you can make it a bit more personal by adding in special details about the family, such as if they made a move from overseas or any major events they experienced. It should be in a conversational style, more like telling a story reading an entry of a Who’s Who book.

Taking others on a journey of the deceased’s life allows you to speak about their spouse or partner, children and grandchildren, along with other family members with whom they had a close bond. Adding small but specific memories can help to create a picture of where your loved one came from and how it shaped who they were, as well as giving others a chance to think back on their own times with the deceased.

Perhaps they developed a strong relationship with their grandfather and spent time working on old cars, or maybe their aunty taught them how to cook and helped to grow a passion for baking. They may have overcome challenges to live where they did or had significant family moments that changed them as a person. It’s a good idea to speak to family and friends for this section, as they could have meaningful stories to add.

Writing your special memories

For the following three or so paragraphs, there should be lots of stories and experiences shared. This doesn’t have to be a serious section; instead, it’s a chance to add a little bit of humour and get people thinking about the fun times shared with the deceased.

Farewelling a loved one shouldn’t be all doom and gloom but more of a celebration of what their life was like and how they impacted everyone around them. Of course, you don’t want to overstep the boundaries, so be wary of what humour is being used and consider if it will be appreciated by others!

For example, joking about the circumstances surrounding how they died or things that the deceased was embarrassed about are usually a no-go – unless your late family member or friend was known for their self-deprecating style – because they may make others uncomfortable. Instead you could mention funny things your loved one used to always say, their favourite mottos or an event that everyone can remember.

From there you can go into their life achievements, such as their career, awards received, voluntary commitments or simply ways they touched the broader community. This is the time to also discuss their passions and special qualities that made them so loveable to all.

Perhaps they were a generous kind who was always helping others or the class clown who was always making everyone laugh. Remember that the best eulogies are always filled with stories and experiences, so be sure to add some in wherever possible so mourners can reflect on your loved one really was and did – that’s always more effective than grand but hollow words.

Writing your final farewell

By this point, you should have given a good overview of what the deceased was like, what they experienced and some special stories from throughout their life. In closing, you should add a final personal touch, reminiscing on what impact your loved one had on yours or others’ lives.

There are many ways you can say this. Maybe from them you learnt how to be more kind to others or to never take life too seriously or to really enjoy the moment. This piece of your eulogy doesn’t have to be long but is an opportunity to make clear that your loved one had a lasting impact.

The final few lines are then a chance to say one final goodbye to your loved one. This can be written as if you are talking to them directly or to those also at the funeral – there’s no right or wrong when it comes to honouring a special person. For example, you could say “we will miss Jack very much” or “Jack, we will miss you very much”; go with whatever feels more comfortable.

And don’t worry, a great eulogy isn’t about big words or reciting well-known quotes; it’s about allowing the people gathered to mourn your loved one remember them as the wonderful individual they were in all the little ways that truly matter to family and friends. Anyone who truly loves a person will deliver a lovely eulogy simply through the sincerity of their words, not how they say them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long should a eulogy be?
We’d recommend keeping the eulogy between five to 10 minutes long. Not sure how many words that is? As a general rule, the average person speaks at somewhere between 125 and 150 words per minute.

Q: What are some key details to include when you’re writing a eulogy? 
A:  When and where they were born, the names of their close family, specific memories, life achievements and acknowledgements of the guests (especially those who have travelled far to be there).

Q: Who gives a eulogy at a funeral? 
A: It can be delivered by a family member, close friend, priest, minister or funeral conductor.

Q: How many eulogies should be given? 
A: It’s entirely up to the family. Some families assign one speaker, while others have two or more. It really depends on how much time they’ve been allocated.

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