When a loved one passes away, one of the biggest challenges you might be faced with is writing a eulogy. If this task has fallen to you, you might feel overwhelmed with the pressure of it all, but a eulogy can be a real opportunity to express your emotions and say a powerful final farewell to your loved one.
A eulogy is a speech remembering someone who has recently died. Eulogies are generally given during the funeral service by a family member or a close friend and can help create a closer connection between the congregation and the deceased. There are no hard and fast rules for writing a eulogy, but the following steps might make the prospect of writing a eulogy seem less daunting.
Before you start thinking about the content within the eulogy, you should first consider the basics behind writing a eulogy.
Aim to make it around five minutes long but don't be afraid to go a little longer if you feel like you have more to cover. Keep it long enough to include everything you want to whilst also making sure you don't overrun and take away from other parts of the service.
Try to focus on two or three key elements of your loved one's life, the events and stories that mean the most to you. Don't try to get everything in; focus on quality over quantity.
It is also essential that you think about your relationship with the deceased before you start writing the eulogy. It should be clear to people attending the funeral what perspective you are writing from, even if most will know who you are. Include an introduction to yourself help people understand your place in the person's life - putting yourself into context can help people connect with the eulogy and helps avoid any misunderstanding.
Tone is also very important in a eulogy, so try to keep it conversational. At the end of the day, this is your opportunity to speak from the heart about your loved one. Writing too formally may make your speech seem unnatural and impersonal.
What to do
The purpose of a eulogy is to help celebrate and remember someone's life from a more personal and detailed perspective than elsewhere in the funeral service. For this reason, you should primarily focus on anecdotes and personal stories, as this helps shift the focus on to them as an individual.
If you are struggling, do not be afraid to ask other friends or family for help. They may be able to help contribute stories or memories that can either be directly included in your eulogy or inspire some recollections of your own. Writing a eulogy can be a stressful process so never feel as though you cannot ask for help or guidance.
Another way in which you can personalise a eulogy further is by finding a special poem, quotation or passage that held significance to your loved one. There are lots of online directories and books dedicated to these readings or quotes but do not feel as though this takes away from the personal aspect of a eulogy. Especially if it is something held dear by the deceased, a quotation can add an extra dimension to your eulogy.
What not to do
It might go without saying but avoid focusing on any negative aspects of the person's life. Dwelling on particularly hard or sad moments may seem like it could grant you closure or help with your grieving but it can be distressing for some people and complicate their grieving process.
A eulogy should never be the time to discuss the low points and challenges a person faced, unless you feel they are absolutely imperative to the celebration and honouring of their life. If you cannot avoid an awkward topic or facet of the person's life, allude to them only briefly and without undue emphasis, as many of the people in attendance will likely be aware already.
Similarly, avoid discussing topics such as politics and religion, as these always have the potential to lead to uncomfortable reactions from the audience.
When you are delivering the eulogy, remember to look up and make eye contact with your audience, as this not only helps you deliver it more effectively but also can provide you with a helping hand from a family member or friend when you need it most.
Most of all, remember that writing and giving a eulogy is a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one who has died and to fix a memory of that person in the hearts and minds of the congregation.
Golden Charter has a wider network of funeral director branches than the Co-op1. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service. Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network. Request a free, no obligation information pack below or call 0808 169 4534.
1 Based on number of funeral director branches in the UK accepting Golden Charter plans at 1st September 2019 (2934), compared to total number of Co-op Funeralcare funeral homes (1049).
Sources: Golden Charter Annual Review 2018/2019 (page 11); Co-op Annual Report 2018 (page 14). You can download the Golden Charter Annual Review 2018/19 as a PDF.