How to Write a Eulogy

It’s impossible to capture someone’s life and impact in a single speech, which can make the task of writing a eulogy feel especially daunting. If you’re sitting down to write a eulogy and feeling at a loss for words, start with these steps:

1. Decide what you want to convey.

Every person in the room will have had a slightly different relationship and set of memories around the person you’re eulogizing. Think about what you remember most about the person that others will relate to. What do you want to highlight? It could be how much he cared about his family or how he pushed everyone to be better. It could the way she could make any scenario fun or made everyone feel important. You may choose to focus on just one trait or weave in several -- just make sure you have a good way to tie them together.

2. Think of some illustrative stories.

Brainstorm some specific examples that exemplify the qualities you want to highlight in the eulogy. If you can, pick two or three stories from various stages of his or life to tell. By focusing on specific examples, you can help bring back memories for others and make people feel more connected to your loved one.

3. Compare notes with other eulogists.

Before getting too far in the process, compare notes with other eulogists, if there are others. If multiple people are going to speak, it’s nice to try to highlight different aspects of your loved one’s life and personality. By checking in, you’ll make sure you’re both painting a full picture and not repeating stories or messages.

4. Draft an introduction and conclusion.

While your stories should be the meat of your eulogy, having a strong opener and conclusion are important. In most cases, it’s helpful to start by introducing yourself and your relationship to the deceased, then lead into the traits that you want to talk about. At the end of your speech, consider the final message that you want to send. For some people this is a message of comfort for those in the audience. Others choose to end with a final message that they would like to say to the deceased.

5. Check the length.

Most eulogies are around five minutes. As a general rule, aim for at least three minutes and no more than 10. Once you have a rough idea of what you want to say, try saying the eulogy out loud by yourself and timing it. If it feels short, consider adding another anecdote. If it’s too long, consider whether anything feels repetitive or doesn’t fully add to the narrative. If there’s nothing you want to cut, talk to the organizer to make sure you’re allotted enough time in the schedule.

6. Write it down word-for-word and rehearse.

Once you feel like you’ve landed on the content you want, write down your entire eulogy word for word, print it off, and rehearse it a few times. Given the emotions of the event, it’s generally a good idea to both practice in advance and have your speech in front of you, even if you think you know it by heart.

While this guidance will generally keep you on the right track, it’s important to note that every funeral is different and you know better than anyone how to best eulogize your loved one. Doing what feels right to you it often the most important.

February 2018