Tips for delivering a meaningful eulogy

Delivering a eulogy is a huge honour and a great way to participate in remembering the legacy and life of the deceased. Writing a eulogy is understandably quite a daunting task as there is often so much to say that the task of condensing somebody’s life into five minutes seems impossible. However, by taking these steps you can prepare a heartfelt tribute that helps to ease the grief of those left behind.

Consider who will be Present

The first step that will help you to select the numerous anecdotes and memories of the deceased is considering who will be at the funeral and what tone is best for your eulogy. What you are trying to do is convey the personality and endearing qualities of the deceased. With family and loved ones in mind, try to avoid any comments that would be puzzling to the majority of people or anything that would shock or offend those in attendance. One of the things that people find comforting at funerals is finding out something new about the deceased. For example, are you delivering your eulogy as a close friend, work colleague, brother or sister, husband or wife? Will you be able to give a unique insight into the character of the deceased that attendees of the funeral will be able to take away?

Points to Include

Briefly introduce yourself at the start of your eulogy. This will reinforce who you are to all of the people present and make them aware of the relationship you had to the deceased. Using a line such as ‘for those who don’t know me’ is a good way to address the gathering so that everyone present knows exactly who you are and avoids any potential confusion.

A good way to introduce the eulogy is to state some basic information about the deceased. A brief timeline structure can be a good way to do this. For example, this can help cover aspects such as educational and career achievements and any other notable events. You could also briefly explain their hobbies and interests and any other aspects of life that the deceased enjoyed. However, try to keep this section fairly brief so you have a chance to share anecdotes as opposed to just facts. 

 Give examples when describing the deceased’s qualities and characteristics. These examples will bring their characteristics to life for the attendees. For example, if generosity was one of their characteristics, illustrate this with a descriptive anecdote. Whether their caring nature can be portrayed through the time that they gave up to volunteer at the local soup kitchen or the kind words that they would share with strangers each day, sharing these memories can help the living to begin their healing process. If there is a particular poem or reading from a book or famous speech that you feel really helps to convey what the deceased was like or the values they held, then this would also be appropriate to include.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to mention close relations and loved ones in your eulogy. Saying something specific about the relationship they had to their family or partner will be something that is comforting to the family of the deceased.

Structure

When delivering a eulogy, it’s very easy to let your thoughts run away with you and stray away from the main points you are trying to get across. The best way to ensure your eulogy is concise and to the point is to put a solid structure in place. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the structure or the content of your eulogy, but the outline below covers the most common things to include.

Introduction

Introduce who you are and the relationship you had to the deceased.

Main Body

  1. Brief timeline of the life of the deceased, noting achievements and milestones
  2. Examination of qualities with anecdote examples
  3. Poem or reading

Conclusion

State the main theme of the body of your eulogy along with any closing remarks.

Practice

It’s always advisable that you practice before giving any sort of speech and this is no different with a eulogy. First of all, read your piece aloud to another person because often a second opinion can highlight mistakes or areas to tweak. Once you have your final draft prepared, practicing will help you prepare yourself emotionally for delivering the eulogy. When you rehearse your eulogy, speak slowly and clearly so you don’t rush through it. It’s also best to use a conversational tone to connect with those present and a large degree of formality generally isn’t expected at these occasions. 

Have a Standby

Funerals are tough for all involved and sometimes the sadness around the event can make delivering a eulogy too difficult. It’s important to remember that nobody will think less of you if you find that emotions get the better of you when you speak. One way to mitigate against this possibility is to arrange for a close friend or family member to be on standby to deliver the eulogy should you be unable.

Remember that delivering a eulogy is a privilege and that if you find yourself unable to deliver the eulogy, people will still appreciate and respect the thought you put into it. Generally, a funeral gathering is one of the most sympathetic audiences you will ever have to speak in front of.

With this in mind, prepare your eulogy, keep it structured, practise and most importantly relax and be confident that you will do a job that the deceased will be proud of.