How To Write a Eulogy


Being asked to deliver a eulogy is an incredible honor, but it can also be incredibly stressful. You’ve only got a short time to prepare a poignant speech that you’ll have to recite in front of an audience of mourners—all while dealing with your own grief. Remember, though, that no one is expecting you to be a flawless orator or to compose a great work of literature. Instead, a eulogy is simply meant to be an authentic portrait of the deceased, and a heartfelt expression of your—and others’—love for them. Here, a few tips for preparing a speech that’s effective and emotionally resonant:

Write it ahead of time

You may be tempted to improvise, especially if you’re pressed for time. After all, there are typically just a few days between the person’s death and their funeral or memorial service. Don’t. Drafting your speech beforehand can help you organize your thoughts, and will help you stay focused during those emotionally difficult moments. It’s also nice to offer a copy to family members who may wish to remember your words.

Practice, practice, practice

There’s absolutely no need to memorize your speech—even professional speakers typically have notecards or a teleprompter as a backup. But practicing your delivery, especially if you’re nervous about getting up in front of a crowd, can boost your confidence and help eliminate those awkward pauses or gestures. Try saying it to yourself in front of the mirror or reciting it to select friends or family members, who may be able to offer helpful feedback.

Start with the basics

Introduce yourself—not everyone in the room may know who you are, or how you knew the deceased. Acknowledge the immediate family. Thank the attendees for coming.

Keep it concise

A eulogy is not meant to be a complete timeline of every detail of the deceased’s life. Instead, it’s meant to honor it. Think of two or three main points that you want to make—he was a generous community volunteer, she was a decorated military veteran, he was a devoted father and grandfather—and build your eulogy around them. When you practice delivering the speech, time yourself. If the clock ticks past your allotted time frame, start editing.

Incorporate meaningful details

We all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Personal stories and anecdotes will paint a truer picture of the deceased than simply listing their good qualities or the important events in their life. Reach out to other loved ones and ask them to recount special memories of the deceased or experiences that they shared together. Then use those details—as well as your own memories—to illustrate the points that you make in your speech.

Don’t make it all about you

Another reason it’s good to include others’ stories is that it takes the focus solely off of you. Remember that while the eulogy is written from your point of view, it should capture the deceased as a full person—not just your own relationship with them.

Focus on the positive

No one is perfect, but it’s best not to dwell on the person’s faults or the difficult periods in their life. Assume that if your audience knew them well, it won’t come as a surprise that the deceased could be overly critical or was terrible with money. Instead, think of your speech as a tribute to their best moments as a person and their most redeeming qualities.

Avoid fussy language

You may feel that delivering a eulogy is a serious task that calls for a serious tone. But overly formal speech is often not only harder to write—and say out loud—it also feels less personal. Instead, treat your eulogy like a heartfelt conversation that you’re having with the audience. Address them directly and make eye contact when you can. It’s even okay to make a joke, so long as it isn’t at the expense of the deceased or their family

Take your time

If you’re feeling anxious or extremely emotional, it’s easy to find yourself rushing through your speech—just to get it over with. To help you slow down, consider making a “note to self” at the end of each paragraph to pause and look around the room. If you’re having trouble holding it together, don’t be embarrassed. Simply take a deep breath and give yourself a few extra moments to collect yourself.

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