You are staring at a blank sheet of paper or a word document on your laptop. Your loved one has just died unexpectedly and you haven’t been able to fully process the events of the last few days. So much to organise and here you are now, trying to write an awesome eulogy because they deserve it.
Where Do You Start?
There are a myriad of memories rushing around in your head and stories you would love to share with everyone, but where do you start? To calm your mind and bring yourself back to the present task, first of all, write a simple introduction on your blank page.
If you start with a simple “Welcome Everyone” looking out into the gathering it may help to settle your nerves. Then, if there are people present that you don’t know or who may not know you, simply add something like “For those who don’t know me, I am Jenny, Bob’s eldest daughter.” However, remember that the eulogy is about your loved one, not you!
What to Write Next
Do you need to tell everyone where and when they were born and their early years? This can be a bit boring but that may be up to you.
Now it gets a bit harder. You probably know the person well as you have been asked to deliver a eulogy but it doesn’t hurt to have talked to other family members, friends or colleagues so you can create a bigger picture of the person that everyone will recognise.
Once you have gathered a number of ideas and thoughts, write them all down and see if they form a theme. As there won’t be enough time to say everything you would like, building up a eulogy based on a theme is often the best way to tackle it.
Most people achieve something in their lives but these may not be profound or world-rocking. Perhaps they were the glue that held the family together; maybe they were a dedicated teacher, or avid gardener or maybe they did write a bestseller or win a Nobel Prize. Themes can be developed around these sorts of things and maybe there will be more than one.
Now will be the time to throw in a couple of anecdotes. Keep the tone of your eulogy friendly and informal just as you might be talking to one person and keep it clear and simple.
Don’t be afraid to add a little humour into the mix as this can help to relax you and release any built-up emotions in the gathering.
It is also important to acknowledge the impact the loved one had on you and others. Here is something to think about:
You may not remember what they did or what they said. What you will remember is how they made you feel.
Sharing how they made you feel (as long as it was positive) will bring depth to the eulogy.
Edit and Polish
Once you have enough written down it is time to go through and edit and polish it.
- Does it flow?
- Does it make sense?
- Is it too long?
- Or not long enough?
- Can you get a fine picture of the person?
- Do you need to add anything else, such as a poem or favourite saying that was meaningful to them?
Finally, a little hint: type it out in a larger font than you would normally use as it will be easier to read when the time comes.
Once you have edited it and are happy you could run it by someone else close to the person to check it makes sense. Then it is time to practise reading it aloud a few times and if you have the time and energy, try to memorise it. Going for a walk and thinking about it can be something good to do when you are at this stage. All this will help when you are up at the lectern full of jitters.
When the Time Comes
When the time finally arrives to deliver the eulogy, take it slow.
Stop every now and then and make eye contact with the gathering. This will also help to calm your nerves.
If you think it necessary, have a glass of water handy and a few tissues and don’t be afraid if you get tearful. That is perfectly normal. You are human. No one will expect you to be a great writer or orator.
Simply be yourself and give it your best shot!
Jenny England is a writer and illustrator living in Kiama, Australia. Over the years she has worked as a journalist and has had numerous non-fiction articles published in a wide variety of magazines. Now retired from the hustle and bustle of daily life she is writing about serious aged care and end of life matters. She also writes speculative fiction when she isn’t busy with her other hobbies: knitting, astrology and mail art.