Writing a eulogy for someone close to you can be an emotional and intimidating task. That’s why, here at Eterneva, we’d like to help. We’ll show you how to create a structure and theme for your eulogy and offer advice about what to include, what to avoid, and how to finish strong. With a few tips and a little practice, you’ll be able to create and recite a eulogy that properly recognizes, reveres, and pays tribute to the unique and remarkable person that was a part of your life.
What is a eulogy?
A eulogy is a speech made at a funeral meant to honor and pay tribute to the life and memory of the individual who has passed on. It is not the same as an obituary, which is primarily designed to announce a person’s passing, offer a few details about their life, and provide logistical information regarding funeral services and memorials. A eulogy is much more than that. It is delivered at a funeral to those closest to the deceased. A good eulogy should sum up and reiterate a person’s character, achievements, and impact on the world. It should also shed light on some of the lesser-known aspects of their life and personality and provide a sense of shared connection and commemoration for those in attendance.
It’s considered an honor to be asked to deliver a eulogy at the funeral of a family member or loved one. It means that you’ve played an important part in the person’s life and knew them well enough to be able to express and encompass their unique journey on the earth. But no matter how well you know someone, writing and delivering a eulogy can be a daunting endeavor. The responsibility and gravity of the speech, a fear of public speaking, or simply not knowing where to start can make anyone feel anxious about the task. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.
At Eterneva, we’ve curated a step-by-step guide to help you write and deliver a heartfelt eulogy that appropriately commemorates your loved one. We’ll show you a few easy steps to get you started on your eulogy, as well as some useful tips to ensure you feel confident and comfortable capturing the structure, tone, content, and emotion that will make your speech a success.
As with any type of speech writing, knowing where to start can be the hardest part. Attempting to sum up an entire lifetime in a single speech may seem complicated, but once you ask yourself a few questions about who the person was and what you want to say, you can break it down into manageable segments, and it won’t seem as intimidating. There are no specific rules to writing a eulogy, but here are a few starting points that can help you get your thoughts together and begin creating an outline for your eulogy.
- Timelines. Creating a chronological timeline of significant events in a person’s life can provide an easy structure for an audience to follow. Map out major events like graduations, marriages, the birth of children, career milestones, and other significant experiences.
- Word Clouds. Formulating a list of words or phrases that describe the person can help you highlight their characteristics and personality and remember stories or anecdotes that reflect what you want to convey about them.
- Mood boards. Compile a collage of pictures, words, milestones, and significant locations throughout the person’s life. Having a visual representation of these important life markers may help you find themes and messages that will dictate the themes and organization of your speech.
Creating tone and structure
Eulogies can encompass a wide variety of moods and feelings, depending on the type of person and the setting of the memorial service. They can be somber, graceful, celebratory, reflective, hilarious, or some combination thereof. Every human being is unique. Think about the person you are eulogizing and try to create a tone in your speech that reflects how they would want to be remembered. If the person was highly driven and determined, be sure to highlight their accomplishments, courage, and dedication. If they were someone who always found humor in life, tell a couple of funny stories to reflect that.
While funerals can be sad, a eulogy is not meant to be purely a reflection on a person’s death, but rather a celebration of their remarkable life. You want to present your loved one’s life positively and show the people in attendance why that person is so loved, celebrated, and remembered. When structuring the eulogy, consider dividing up elements and themes into a cohesive beginning, middle, and end. Grouping specific stories, memories, and milestones together into different parts of the eulogy can help you create a flow that makes the speech easy to follow and accentuates its overall impact.
What to include in your eulogy
You want to connect with your audience and provide context for who you are and what you’re doing, so to start, introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased. While the structure of your speech may vary, you should try to include certain information that will help paint a picture of who the person is and provide jumping-off points for important anecdotes, funny stories, shared jokes, and favorite memories. These include:
- Ancestral heritage, family members, spouses, and progeny
- Nicknames or personal identifiers
- How they met their spouse (if applicable)
- Military service, schooling, career accomplishments
- Favorites: music, food, books, sports teams, etc
- Clubs, teams, or memberships of which they were a part
- Favorite quotes, poems, mantras, or philosophies by which they lived
- Community connections and contributions
Avoid bringing up the cause of death, a person’s faults or negative attributes, overly embarrassing stories, unresolved conflicts, or unhealthy habits. Remember that everyone is grieving, and you want your eulogy to be accessible and provide comfort and solace to all those attending the funeral, from the nuclear family to close friends and co-workers that may be there. You don’t want to alienate or make anyone uncomfortable.
Preparation and practice
One of the most difficult aspects of creating a eulogy is getting up and delivering it in front of others, particularly on a day that can be charged with so many overwhelming emotions. Public speaking is a challenging and stressful task under the best of circumstances, so it’s even more important to compose yourself both mentally and emotionally to deliver a eulogy. Making sure you prepare for your speech and practice your delivery is just as important as the writing process.
Don’t make up your eulogy on the spot. Even if you’re a confident public speaker with a wealth of stories about the person you’re eulogizing, the day of the funeral will undoubtedly be full of intense emotions and activity that can make it hard to articulate your speech the way you want. If you prepare thoroughly and practice out loud, you’ll feel more confident delivering your message when the time comes. You can also ask someone you trust, preferably someone who knew the deceased well, to read or listen to your speech beforehand. This will help you hone your ideas, select the best stories to tell, and avoid missing any meaningful details.
A typical eulogy will be comprised of about 500–1,000 words and should take around three to eight minutes to deliver. Be sure to contact the funeral director or whoever is running the memorial service to find out exactly how long you have and craft your speech to fit the allotted time frame. Again, practicing out loud is critical to get a feel for the pace and length. Work on speaking clearly and naturally, making eye contact around the room, and not fidgeting.
When finishing your eulogy, it can be effective to end with an expression of gratitude for the deceased. Thanking them for all they’ve accomplished in their life and saying goodbye on behalf of yourself and those whose lives have been touched by this remarkable person is a great way to end your speech with dignity and respect.
The ending of a eulogy should be positive. It should send an uplifting message to those in attendance as well as remind them to learn from the example set by the person. Community bonds and shared remembrance will keep their memory alive. Ultimately, your eulogy should invoke a sense of hopefulness and endearment in the audience and convey appreciation for the person who has passed on.
Putting it all together
Writing, while often therapeutic, can be a challenging endeavor even without the wave of emotions that come with a loved one's passing. At Eterneva, we understand that when it comes to writing a eulogy, a little inspiration might be helpful to spark creativity and get you thinking about how you want to honor your loved one. Eterneva customer, Dianthe, delivered this beautiful speech at her mother, Joanne's, memorial service.
12.13.38 - A Life Well Lived - 8.15.21
12.13.38 - 8.15.21 That was my mother’s lifespan. But the “dash” between birth and death was her life. And what a life it was.
My mom was the daughter of a strong (understatement of the year) woman. She was the sister of an adventurer. She was the aunt of too many nieces and nephews to count. She was the cousin to even more. But she was the entire world, and a mother, only to me.
Mom was always on the side of the underdog. She always put others first and fought for those who could not fight for themselves.
She gifted me with a childhood filled with wonder, magic, and opportunities that not many had. Our home was always warm and filled with love. It was us against the world. She was my first and fiercest protector, my first best friend, my first confidante, and my biggest cheerleader.
She showed me that it was okay to take a risk and follow your calling. Even if it meant leaving everything you’ve ever known behind and moving across the country with 4 generations in a car (0 stars…would not recommend).
I watched her work hard to attain her goals. I learned that your dreams are worth the time, effort, and sacrifices required. And I tucked those lessons away in my heart for the future.
As I grew our relationship evolved. We became true friends on a deeply personal level. She stood by me even when my decisions weren’t aligned with what she wanted. She celebrated my wins, she consoled me in my losses. She wiped tears, applied bandaids to wounds both physical and emotional, and was always there for me. She was the first person who taught me about unconditional love. She was both my rock and my soft place to land.
For more context, check out Dianthe's Love Letter to My Loved One, where she shares more about her mom and the incredible Eterneva Diamond she created from her ashes.
A final note
Remember: writing a eulogy is an honor. It's your moment to share with everyone just how remarkable your loved one was and all the ways in which they made a positive impact on your life, as well as the lives of others. Don't worry if you've never thought of yourself as a strong writer. Just take your time, take a deep breath, and begin. The right words will come to you.