Tips for Writing and Giving an Eulogy
When faced with writing or giving a eulogy for a loved one, most people find it difficult to know where to start. A eulogy is an oral memorial given in memory of someone who has died. For those asked to take on this task, it is common to be overcome by fears of breaking down in front of everyone or not being able to express in words how you feel about the person who has just died. You may even be an experienced public speaker but the special circumstances of a funeral can make speaking difficult because of the responsibility of getting 'it' right and dealing with your own grief.
The most important thing to realise is that there is no right or wrong way to deliver a eulogy. Eulogies should be as unique as the person who has just died. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are subjective and written from the heart. Here are some tips to helping you create a sincere and fitting tribute to your loved one.
1. Gather your material.
- Details of your own relationship with the person who has died. How did you meet? What did you most admire about them? What will you miss the most? Do you have a specific memory you'd like to share?
- Biographical facts: age, marriage dates, places lived, children, hobbies etc
2. Organise the material
- look for patterns or common themes. These could be serious or light-hearted reflections on the person's life or personality.
3. Draft your speech
Writing a eulogy is an opportunity to help you deal with your loss. Writing helps you revisit emotions that are important to the healing process, so get your feelings down on paper. There are no hard and fast rules for what to say or how to structure a eulogy. The focus should be on the person's life, not on his or her death. Think of the person. A good eulogy doesn't just tell the audience about the person, it brings the person to life in the audience's imagination and gives them something by which to remember them by.
The structure will be determined by what you have decided to say. Your choices are:
- Chronological - the life story approach
- Reverse chronological - begin with the present and work backwards
- three point plan - decide three key things to say and choose an order for saying them
- theme - choose a theme and give examples, anecdotes, stories to explain and illustrate it
Practice your speech so you are familiar with it and comfortable delivering it. Don't worry if you can't memorise it, print off notes or read the entire thing if you become nervous or overwhelmed. Remember that you will be surrounded by loving family and friends.
- most eulogies run between 2 - 10 minutes. Ideally you should aim to speak for only a few minutes, 3 - 5 minutes is ideal.
- get feedback from family and trusted friends and revise based on their suggestions.
Tips for delivering a Eulogy
A Eulogy may be one of the most difficult speeches you will deliver but your audience will also be one of the most supportive. Giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate, admire and remember.
- Wear clothes appropriate to the occasion, the audience, and the person who has died
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Don't rush, take your time.
- Don't worry if you loose your words or are overcome with emotion. Pause, take a few breaths and carry on.
- Have a back-up plan. Either have a written copy which you can read from or a friend who can step in and continue the eulogy if required.
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