Advice on writing a eulogy

08 October 2021

Writing a funeral eulogy might seem like a daunting responsibility, but once you’ve overcome any nerves, it’s a fantastic opportunity to pay tribute to someone close to your heart.

Whether you’re a natural or novice at public speaking, our tips for writing a good eulogy may give you some ideas to help you deliver a fitting eulogy for a family member or close friend.

What are eulogies for?

A eulogy is a funeral speech that honours the memory of the deceased and paints a picture of their life. The tone can be solemn, honest, and even funny – a great eulogy can bring a smile to people’s faces and a tear to their eyes.

 

Who should write a funeral eulogy?

 Eulogies are usually written and delivered by a family member such as a spouse or adult child, or a close friend. Religious leaders or celebrants can also write eulogies inspired by memories and anecdotes shared by friends and family. 

What to include in a funeral eulogy

Every eulogy is unique and personal to the deceased, however, there are some areas and details that you may wish to include:

  • Date of birth and where they were born
  • Early life and schools/university attended
  • Names and relationships of close family
  • Any nicknames (including humorous ones)
  • Where they have worked
  • Your relationship with them
  • Their favourite hobbies / pastimes / sports / films / music etc.
  • Charitable or volunteering work they have done
  • Other achievements

While there are no strict rules for writing a funeral eulogy, they often contain anecdotes, reflections on the person’s life, and words of comfort to those listening in the audience. Your speech doesn’t need to follow any particular chronology; you can focus on the deceased’s happiest moments, personal qualities, and reflect on any memories that the audience may also share.

How to start writing a eulogy

When writing a funeral eulogy, it’s a good idea to start by talking to other people that the deceased knew well. Not only will you create an inclusive atmosphere and build a connection with your audience, but you’ll ensure that there’s a breadth to the stories you are telling about the person. Sometimes including your experience of learning new things about the person can be interesting to include in the eulogy itself.

Funeral eulogy dos and don’ts

Getting the tone right is a balancing act between honesty and compassion. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you get it right:

  • DO think carefully about how they’d like to be remembered. Would they like people to celebrate their life and not just mourn their passing?
  • DON’T sugar-coat everything; a bit of honesty about their foibles and pet peeves can help to break the ice and bring some laughter to the room.
  • DO share personal stories and memories of them, it will bring great comfort to the audience.
  • DON’T dwell on past mistakes or include any family secrets. Now is not the time.
  • DO include others and ask for help. Getting feedback will help you ward off any contentious points you may not be aware of.
  • DON’T say anything that would shock, offend or confuse the audience.
  • DO talk about the deceased’s positive qualities with examples.
  • DON’T focus on how hard writing the eulogy is for you, this speech is for your audience and the deceased.
  • DO try to see the eulogy as a conversation if it helps to overcome any nerves or writer’s block.

How to write a eulogy for dad

Writing a eulogy for dad is a way of thanking him for what they have done for you and who they were as a person, as well as being your personal goodbye. As a son or daughter of the deceased, your relationship will offer a unique perspective on the deceased, enabling you to talk about some intimate and charming moments that few people will know about.  

  • What are the memories that make you smile most?
  • What makes you proud of your dad?
  • What will you miss most about him?
  • What kind of person was he? Was he different with you to everyone else?
  • What were his ‘Dadisms’ or favourite jokes?
  • What was he passionate about?

How to write a eulogy for mum

Writing a eulogy for mum tells a story that no-one else can. You are her living legacy and as such, you can share with the audience what she was like as a teacher and guide in the world. Your eulogy should celebrate who your mother was and what she valued.

  • What do you think your mother would want you to say about her?
  • What did she teach you? Try to use examples.
  • What values did she instil in her family and friends?
  • What memories are your happiest with her?
  • What were her biggest accomplishments professionally / at home / within the community?
  • What impact did she have on those around her? What will be missed most?

How to write a eulogy for a best friend

As a close friend of the deceased, you may be asked to write a eulogy to give the audience a sense of who they were as a person most recently, as well as offering you the chance to reflect on what their friendship meant to you. Childhood and university friends are often a rich source of funny anecdotes, touching moments and shared troubles of coming of age.

Knowing your audience is important when writing a eulogy for a best friend. Get help from the family or funeral director to judge which stories are suitable to share and will fit the tone of the ceremony.

  • How and when did you meet?
  • What were your first impressions?
  • How long have you known each other?
  • What have your shared together?
  • What were the best times you spent together? Or the worst?!
  • What were your inside jokes?
  • How will you remember them?

How long should a eulogy be?

A eulogy usually lasts about 5 minutes, which gives you enough time to share your memories without losing the audience’s attention. As a rough guide, between 500 and 1000 words.

How to end a eulogy

It’s a good idea to end your speech on a high note, as this is the lasting memory your audience will take with them. You may wish to finish on a quotation which can be something the deceased used to say or a quote that is relevant to their life.

Rehearsing your eulogy

After writing a funeral eulogy, it’s really important that you take the time to rehearse. Even if you’re a confident public speaker, it’s worth practicing the speech to familiarise yourself with the cadence of the words, and to decide when to break for a pause. This gives you a chance to make any revisions and figure out whether the length of time is right. Also, it’s worth asking a trusted confidant to listen to your rehearsal, which provides a valuable opportunity for any feedback and amendments.

Of course, there is no way to replicate the nerves you might feel when it comes to making the speech itself, but your rehearsals will give you the best chance of delivering a confident, fitting eulogy on the day.

Delivering your eulogy

Before giving your funeral eulogy, spend some time at the venue to familiarise yourself with the setting. See if you can request a lectern to rest your notes on so you don’t have to rustle a piece of paper. If the room is large, you may prefer to use a microphone to project your voice.

When it comes to making your speech, don’t worry if you feel overcome with emotion – it’s perfectly natural and your audience will be feeling the same way. Take a deep breath, have some tissues ready, and remember, you don’t have to rush. It’s a good idea to speak slowly when delivering a funeral eulogy, making sure the words are crystal clear. For extra support, you could invite a family member or friend to stand beside you. Once you feel relaxed and comfortable, you will be able to speak confidently and deliver a eulogy that makes everyone proud.

Writing a funeral eulogy is no easy task, but with careful planning, rehearsals and input from others, you can overcome any nerves and do justice to the person you fondly remember.

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