Writing and delivering a eulogy is hard. You’ve lost someone close to you and you’re dealing with the stages of grief while trying to deal with the pressures of everyday life — because the world doesn’t stop even if you feel like it has. So what do you do when you’re tasked with remembering a loved one’s life after they’re gone? Here are a few tips that may help you:
1. Start early if you can: While death is generally unexpected, if you have a loved one who is getting older and/or happens to be hospitalized, beginning to think about their life and legacy ahead of time makes sense. Most funerals are planned in a few short days, so you’ll need to make the most of your time.
2. Collaborate with others: Ask friends and family for their favorite stories involving your loved one. You may hear some stories you’ve never heard before, and this can give you fresh insight and stir your own memories. Consider recording your discussions so nothing is lost.
3. Write everything down: Write or record your thoughts or things you want to make sure that nothing is forgotten. Keep a notepad handy so you can jot down thoughts as they come to you.
4. Keep it personal: The eulogy is about the person and who they were during their time with the living, and a great eulogy helps the listener learn more about their life and what made them unique. Biographical details like where they went to school, where they spent their career, and awards and recognition are important to share, but a great eulogy goes beyond those details and shares the things that were important to them, what values they passed on to their family, the impact they made on others. Try to focus on the person they were, not just what they did.
5. Make it as positive as you can: Funerals are a sad experience to begin with, so try to keep the overall tone positive. Focus on the light and unique perspective that they brought to our world.
6. Rehearse: If you are delivering the eulogy as well as writing it, you need to practice. You’ll be talking about some very emotionally draining things. While rehearsing you’re probably going to cry, and that’s okay. You’ll have to practice pushing through these pangs of grief, to continue delivering a memorable eulogy.
7. Connect with your audience: Everyone at the funeral has some connection to the deceased, so make sure to address them while giving your speech. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact or point out those who may have shared in a particular experience when going through a particular funny or enjoyable memory.
Finally, if you know that standing up to deliver the eulogy is beyond you, don't be afraid to ask the person officiating the service, or a good friend, to read it for you. We are not all comfortable speaking in front of groups, and a time of grief is not always the best time to step outside your comfort zone.
Even with these tips, eulogy writing is no easy task. You’re working through your own grief while trying to honor your loved one’s memory. Hopefully this can give you a roadmap that’ll allow you to craft a wonderful tribute to your loved one.