Nine Steps to Writing a Eulogy
Being asked to prepare and deliver a eulogy or funeral speech is a privilege. However many people find the prospect entirely overwhelming. It signifies the end of a loved one’s life. And, combined with the fact public speaking is people’s number one and most frequently listed fear, it is little wonder giving a eulogy is thought to be the most difficult speech of all to prepare.
There are ways around it. You can give the eulogy you want to honor your loved one’s life. In addition, you will give a gift of immense value to the living. Your carefully chosen words will help calm, heal and soothe the pain of loss.
Follow the steps below:
1. Don’t go it alone. Enlist family and friends to help you decide on a theme. Tips to get you started: What passions or interests were life-long highlights? What difficulties were overcome? What endearing habits were uniquely theirs?
Collect up stories/songs/poems/sayings to support your theme, making sure you have names, places and dates correct. Remember the eulogy is not the place to air old grievances. If the life was difficult and full of challenges find a way to talk about them positively or not at all.
2. Keep it simple. Keep the language real by keeping it in the style of the person you’re eulogizing. If they liked a particular author or poet, find examples to fit. Let the spirit or essence of the person shine through.
3. Pick appropriate words. If you’re searching for suitable words to express emotions or thoughts around death, loss, hope or suffering, take your time to browse a collection of inspirational quotations.
4. Keep it organized. Your completed eulogy will have 3 parts: the opening, (to introduce yourself, if necessary, and your theme), the middle where you tell your stories, sing your song or recite your poem and a conclusion where you briefly summarize and finish. Write the middle first. Decide which of the material you’ve collected you will use and what order it should come in. When this is done write the conclusion and then the opening.
5. Read aloud to a family member or close friend to test for effectiveness. Determine: Does it make sense? Do the ideas follow logically? Does it fully represent the person you’re speaking about? If you’ve repeated stories illustrating one characteristic, choose the strongest and delete the remainder. When you’ve made alterations, read aloud once more to make sure it flows.
6. Read aloud to test for time. The generally accepted length is approximately 3 minutes.
7. Ensure your completed notes are readable and numbered. You do not want to lose your place under pressure. Have a glass of water and tissues handy. If you have to stop because you are temporarily emotionally overcome, do not worry. Take the time you need to wipe your eyes, blow your nose and have a sip of water before starting again. People will understand.
8. Take a friend to stand beside you to lend you support.
9. Remember you are in front of friends and family. They will love and support you through the process but more than that they will respect and admire your courage. This is your gift to them as well as a eulogy for the person you’ve all cared for.
Dugdale is a freelance writer, experienced drama and speech teacher who after all her years, is still in love with words. For suggestions on writing, rehearsing, researching, vocal variety, pace and more, visit her site write-out-loud.com